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Shoppe Pioneer Brings Upscale Vintage to Providence

Saturday, September 03, 2011


It’s been three weeks since Natalie Morello opened Shoppe Pioneer, a woman’s clothing store that mixes vintage pieces with boutique designers. On South Main Street on the East Side, Shoppe Pioneer is in a row of small lunch places, and is nearly impossible to walk by without peeking in. In 40 minutes on a drizzly Thursday, six women walked by the store, and four snapped their heads about and came in to browse.

Mixing it up

The most appealing factor is this mix of old and new clothes—the vintage pieces have a beautifully edited feel, and the designers at Shoppe Pioneer are so unique they look like they are from a different era as well.

“I know fabric and time periods, but I look for things that will fit into someone’s wardrobe, things that can reincarnate,” she says. “These are meant to be mixed in to your wardrobe.”  The tone of Shoppe Pioneer is comfortable, fashionable, girlish and feminine, without being immature. It’s bold, but not seeking too much attention.

“This is part of who I am mixing old and new,” says Morello. She has been prepping for it on both ends—collecting pieces since she was twelve and has worked for small fashion designers for seven years in New York, selling their clothing to boutiques. “Now, I’m my own client,” she says, smiling.

She wanted to make sure that designers she picked weren’t carried by any other places in Providence, saying, “I’m all about diversity”—with new designers and vintage pieces.

The game of new and old

The game is figuring out which is which; a client points to a long multi-colored dress in the window—certainly the cut,

fabric, color had to be vintage, but Morello shakes her head. It’s a new designer. Meanwhile, some women have been using brightly colored vintage slips from the sixties as regular skirts.

This mix of vintage and contemporary is a part of a larger trend; quite a few places using mix of old and new together, imitating what many are pulling into their wardrobes. Consider: NAVA (New and Vintage Apparel) on Thayer, Paloma on Wickenden, and Lola Fashion Boutique on North Main.

Like these stores, Morello says, “Pioneer is not meant to be like a vintage store. There are old things, with unique character, and I choose designers that complement it.

Vintage pieces allow you to find something truly unique, as there will usually only be one of them being sold at a time. However, this can mean that a piece you fall in love with might not come in your size. Pairing vintage with new designers that design with a vintage eye brings in the best of both worlds.

Everything for everyone

If you love the vibe of the store as much as the clothes, you’re in luck. “That’s another thing about Shoppe Pioneer,” says Morello, straightening some clutches. “Everything here is for sale—” from the polished wood farm tables that now hold up a myriad of blouses, a vintage trunk, a small Victorian settee, small teacups, stitched pillows.

In addition to everything for sale, Morello hopes that her store will please nearly everyone. “What my store offers is different from other stores. It’s not only mix of old and new, but it’s for a variety of clients. The college girl and her mom—I have designers for that range and variety of women.” 


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