Ohio woman’s vintage clothing become pieces of history – Zanesville Times Recorder
ELMORE – From her small home-based shop on the outskirts of Elmore, Sue Stoiber sells vintage clothing to customers around the world. Those cloth pieces of history come in the form of World War II era outfits, lace-trimmed antique wedding gowns and Roaring ’20s flapper dresses. Her collection spans the Civil War through the 1980s.
Stoiber has had her business since 1998, when she became one of the first three sellers of vintage clothing on eBay.
“I love wearing vintage, so selling it was a means to support my habit of buying,” she said. “I would go to sales and find things that were not necessarily in my size, but were such cool stuff that I couldn’t resist buying it.”
Stoiber sells the majority of her merchandise online, and 50 percent of it is sold to customers overseas.
“There’s a huge market in Europe,” she said. “I think the United States has always been behind the European fashions. They were way ahead in picking up that it’s a better value for your dollar.”
Quality and value are one of the biggest reasons Stoiber’s customers buy vintage clothing. And although many people assume that most of her clothing is sold for theater productions, that is not true. Most is sold to people who wear it for everyday use.
“They don’t understand that the fabrics were so much better, and the workmanship was so much better. Today, they are bringing back styles from the ’50s and ’60s, but the clothes have so much less quality and workmanship,” she said. “The bulk of my business is people who wear it every day, because it’s a better value.”
Still, some of her clothing is sold to the entertainment world. One of her pieces was worn on the Pan Am television show, and a 1940s piece was sold to The Walt Disney Co. for use in its New York studio.
“That woman was really interesting to talk to. It’s fascinating the connections I make,” Stoiber said.
A small percentage of her customers visit Stoiber’s home-based business to make their purchases in person, including another vintage clothing seller from Japan. Four times a year, he makes a trek from the East Coast to the West Coast to purchase from sellers across the country.
“He has a vintage clothing store in Japan,” Stoiber said. “Vintage is just huge over there.”
One of the perks of Stoiber’s business is the opportunity to visit older homes while making purchases. One of the most memorable was a Toledo home owned by a member of the Henry Ford family. She purchased a Princeton sweater and a dress suit with tales, called a morning suit, that was probably worn while attending horse races.
“Getting into older homes is fascinating in itself,” Stoiber said. “I get into homes that I would never, ever get into otherwise.”
The clothing Stoiber buys is all the more interesting when there is history attached to it. She recently sold a small 1871 wedding collection that included the bride’s bracelet, the groom’s bowtie, one cufflink, photographs and a written narrative telling how the couple met.
Stoiber sold the collection to a woman who is working on her third book about weddings.
“It was such a neat collection, but to some people it would be worthless, because it only had one cufflink,” Stoiber said. “But this woman was ecstatic that someone had saved that for 140 years.”
Stoiber’s biggest sale was a collection of clothing once owned by 1940s Toledo burlesque queen Rose La Rose. The collection consisted of about 30 pieces. Most were gowns, except for an hunting outfit from a much-publicized Alaskan bear hunt.
Stoiber purchased the collection from La Rose’s nephew and sold it to the Las Vegas Burlesque Museum.
Some of the items in Stoiber’s collection come from locals who have decided to get rid of an item they have kept for decades. She recently purchased a suitcase from a Fremont woman who needed to downsize. Inside were three vintage wedding gowns, a marriage certificate and wedding photos.
“What’s so cool about this business is you take something that’s been packed away for 50 years and give it a second life,” Stoiber said. “It becomes somebody else’s treasure, instead of a forgotten item.”
For more information on buying or selling vintage clothing to Sue Stoiber, call 419-862-7223.