About Jane Clarke
When I was a little girl, as a special treat, my mom would take me into Neiman-Marcus to shop for school clothes. We rarely bought anything so mom used it as a lesson in recognizing quality. She would turn the clothes inside out, showing me how “better” garments were constructed. Mom was a major clothes horse. I wish I still owned all the years of Vogue and Bazaar that got delivered every month as long as I lived at home.
She was also a dedicated fan and great source of info on the actors and films of her youth. As a kid, she and I spent lots of time together enjoying the classic black and white films that ran for a new generation of fans on our black and white TV. Thanks to her, I became a fan, too. Barbara Stanwyck, Carole Lombard, Rosalind Russell, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis…were there ever any sassier gals? or cooler wardrobes? Doubtful.
We moved away from Texas at the beginning of my high-school years. It was the late ‘6os, and the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix were showing up on stage in Victorian ruffled shirts, and all manner of outrageousness; as an artist, why would I want to look like everybody else in my very conservative high-school? Nope, not this girl…I was raised going to garage and estate sales, junking through small towns and watching my mom score finds that filled our home with beautiful things. When my after-school job earnings started buying my wardrobe, I discovered Kansas thrift stores were still hanging anything that was wearable, regardless of age, on their racks. For a very small amount of cash, I could put together an outfit that would have made Claudette Colbert proud.
High School gave me the start, and College gave me the necessity; I had far more time than money. Thrift stores, garage and estate sales became both entertainment and the resource for what most folks bought new at Wal-Mart or Neiman-Marcus. I started finding things that I could give to friends that admired my look, and I began to make it a habit to pick up anything of a high quality or style that crossed my path. Double bonus! I gave a cool piece of fashion history another chance to get worn and look cool, and I got to see it…you can’t really see what you are wearing yourself, right?
The eye-opener that my personal treasure hunt might have another reward happened on a visit to Austin to hang with my cousin, Janna. When campus shut down for Christmas or spring break, I made a bee-line for Austin’s warmer climate! Janna, older than me by three years, was in my opinion the arbiter of all that was cool; visits to Austin always included sneaking under-age me into clubs to hear bands…anyone remember “The Incredible Flying Circus”? ever hear of The 13th Floor Elevators”? Janna wore vintage and was super influential in helping me develop my own style. Every time I came to Austin, I brought her a bag of finds that I thought she would like, and had been quite successful at it. One time, however, nothing seemed to work, and it appeared that I would be driving back with my goodie bag intact.
“Oh, no”, she said,”you can sell that. There are folks that will buy this stuff.”
“Yeah, where do you think I get all my stuff? We’ll go tomorrow.”
Wow! What a revelation! Even in 1970, Austin had several respectably stocked Vintage stores…I remember only the name “Rose Arthurs’ Attic”, which I think it was just west of the drag, near Oat Willies’, and the first Whole Earth Provisions Co. I made a tidy sum that day, and it became my source of funding for my trips to Austin.
Selling vintage was how I paid for Grad school, and somewhere along the way my degrees in Design became not about making a living as a jeweler, but about learning to identify and expand my appreciation of the things I already loved.
Once you find “your place”, the place that makes you say, “I’m Home”, you know you will find a way to live there, or die trying. It took me 15 years to escape the time-warp that is Kansas and make it to Austin, but when I did, I came with the stock that opened the first Amelia’s.