Vintage Togs are Her Cause
Lisa Marie Smith turns heads wherever she goes. There's just something about her outfits that catches the eye.
Smith sums up that "something" in a single word: vintage.
She loves beautiful fashions, especially classic styles from the '50s and jewelry from the '30s and '40s. Contemporary clothes and shoes are the foundation of her wardrobe, "but I always mix in something vintage. It's my statement of personal style," says Smith, 41.
Ever since she opened her Orlando Vintage store 11 years ago, Smith has been promoting the idea of blending modern and vintage styles. Now, thanks to a new TV talk show being broadcast live from Universal Orlando, she will have a chance to reach a national audience.
The show is iVillage Live, a TV version of NBC's iVillage women's forum on the Internet. It debuted Monday on NBC's Bravo cable TV network, and airs on weekdays from noon to 1 p.m.
Smith's vintage segment was taped a week before the show's premiere. Titled "Plain Jane to Vintage Vogue," it is an "evergreen" -- a segment that can be aired any time there is a glitch in the live broadcast, such as when a guest is a no-show, or a hurricane disrupts production.
Smith was in her store and up to her ears in disco suits, hippie dresses and other Halloween-costume favorites when she first was contacted by NBC.
"A producer e-mailed me, asking if I'd be interested in doing a segment on vintage for a new TV talk show," she says. "Halloween is my busiest time of year, but I wasn't going to say no."
Clothing and accessories from the 1930s through '80s are her specialty, she told them during succeeding phone calls. She has appeared on local TV talk shows. And this summer, she supplied vintage clothing for American Gangster, a Vietnam War-era movie starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
Two days before Thanksgiving, the producer invited Smith to attend a brainstorming session at Universal Orlando. She suggested doing a piece about incorporating vintage into a modern wardrobe, and using models to illustrate "before" and "after" looks. "They loved it," she says.
She was given one week to put together "a ton" of outfits, select accessories, book models, hold fittings and research her talking points.
Ignoring her out-of-town guests, and putting her husband in charge of their turkey-day preparations, Smith rounded up four models. She photographed them wearing everyday basics: pants, T-shirts, sneakers. Then she chose vintage pieces to mix in with the basics or replace them entirely.
"Everything was fine until the day before the show," she says. "Then one model calls to say that after eating a six-course Thanksgiving meal, she can't fit into her vintage Chanel suit."
Smith was scrambling to find a replacement when the producer called: Instead of four models, there would only be time to showcase three.
Smith tried not to sound too relieved.
The old is new again
It's showtime. Smith sits in a director's chair alongside host Naamua Delaney, one of five on iVillage Live.
As befits a vintage-store owner, Smith's eclectic outfit includes a hand-painted Mexican skirt from the 1950s, a peplum jacket from the '40s and bakelite jewelry from the '30s.
Prompted by the host, she explains her concept: No matter what your age, occupation or lifestyle, you can work vintage into your everyday wardrobe.
If you're afraid of looking too "costumey" in vintage attire, add just one strong piece to an outfit, she suggests. Carry a vintage handbag with your trendy jeans, for example, or add vintage costume jewelry to a modern jacket.
Smith's first brush with vintage fashion happened in her mother's closet.
"I was a nosy kid," she says. "I'd go through my mother's clothes. I'd go into her jewelry box. I was always trying on her things."
Later, as a journalism student at Southern Illinois University, she discovered vintage fashion in thrift shops and started collecting interesting pieces.
A seven-year sales and marketing career started near Chicago and ended at WDIZ radio in Orlando. Then she worked in a consignment shop for a year, before opening her own vintage store.
Personally, Smith prefers mixing several vintage garments in with her newer fashions, along with multiple antique accessories. But for the less bold, a single outstanding vintage piece is all it takes to transform "cookie-cutter mall clothes" into a unique style statement, she says.
As she chats with Delaney, model Rachel Lietzke sashays onto the iVillage Live stage and down a runway. She wears an embroidered minidress from the 1960s, a tooled leather belt and lace-up boots from the '70s and smoky topaz earrings from the '40s.
"It's fun, it's bright, and minis are back in fashion," comments Smith. She also notes that any of the pieces could be teamed with the jeans, T-shirt and flip-flops the model wears in her "before" picture, which is beamed onto three TV monitors above the stage.
Next up is Jeff Carr. In his "before" shot, he wears khakis, a polo shirt and sneakers. But on stage, his contemporary flat-front pants are jazzed up with a sleeveless Union Jack T-shirt from the 1960s, and a black velvet Sassoon jacket and two-tone patent-leather shoes from the 1970s.
The vintage pieces change his look from "blah" to "stylish young man-about-town," says Smith.
Finally, Francine Asuncion enters in a 1950s Joan Miller sundress with gingham appliques. Her accessories include multiple olive and gold bakelite bangles from the 1930s, and a "super collectible" 1960s bird-print purse by Margaret Smith, a renowned designer from Gardiner, Maine.
The outfit is fresh and flirty -- and much more interesting than the cargo pants and T-shirt the model wears in her "before" picture.
But imagine, says Smith, if she started with the cargo-pants outfit, then added the collectible purse and bangles. That would instantly transform the plain-Jane outfit into "vintage vogue."