Tell us a bit about yourself!
Okiedokie! My name is Frankie Sin, I hail from the land of sunshine, Los Angeles, California where I lived until last year when I swapped coasts for good ol’ fashioned love and adventure with my fella, Donny. We snuggled in teeny tiny room in Brooklyn before scooting down to our new home, the wildly inspiring and ever intoxicating, New Orleans!
I’m 32 and went to school for theatrical costuming and fashion history, but couldn’t ignore my heart’s true calling, making a living on the other side of the velvet curtain as a full time burlesque and sideshow performer.
My career has taken me across the U.S., internationally, and even on tv. There’s nothing quite like dancing alone on a stage in front of a thousand people, baring your soul, and other bits as well! I am so very lucky. A huge part of what I do stems from my love of vintage costuming, movies and Hollywood history.
Down time is usually spent working on new acts for Donny and I’s traveling show Strange for Hire, sewing costumes, or oggling over visual inspiration, and dancing, nearly every day. I live for getting my nature fix, camping, hiking, beekeeping, road trips, and snuggling up with old Hollywood biographies.
For those of us who don’t know, what type of clothing qualifies as ‘vintage’?
Technically vintage is anything 20 years and older, though this feels super silly to say considering things from my childhood can be considered vintage now, haha! Personally I think 30+ years makes a better benchmark. I’ve sold vintage clothing and baubles for 15 years, and have always tried to keep everything I peddle pre 1970’s.
Goodies nowadays that are made to look vintage are coined as ‘retro’ or ‘repro’. They often adapt similar silhouettes, but are made in modern fabrics that provide a bit more wiggle room, contain a broader range of sizes, and freedom from the foundation garments of yesteryear. One of my favorite repro companies is Trashy Diva, they have a cult like following, and rightfully so, their garments are made impeccably.
I also love making my own vintage repro clothes, this summer has found me on a jumper sewing binge! Seersucker is a must in the south, it feels like you’re wearing a little cotton cloud.
How old were you when you became interested in vintage clothing?
I grew up watching technicolor musicals, and old classic tv reruns. I even dressed up as Barbara Eden in I Dream of Jeanie for Halloween when I was 7! The moment that truly settled it for me was the first time I saw Marilyn Monroe on screen, those crimson lips and platinum halo!
That image of glamour embedded itself into my heart instantly and has lasted a lifetime. I wanted so badly to be both Marilyn Monroe and Gene Kelly when I grew up! Oh, and Elvira, she was the coolest!
Is there a particular period that appeals to you?
I adore the late 1940’s-mid 1950’s the most! History nerd out moment here, Dior’s New Look era was the post-war answer to WWII rationing of fabrics and the then necessary minimalism.
When Dior introduced this look it was pure, streamlined excess. He ushered in a completely new silhouette that we still adapt in fashion today, nipped in waist, full skirts, with special little details that let the eye wander. I love this look, it’s classic and looks great on everyone!
Where do you find your clothing?
It’s kind of like a big treasure hunt, I find my clothing in all sorts of places, from flea markets to estate sales. It often involves shopping with a flashlight in one hand, super strong coffee in the other, and watching the sun rise as you dig through dusty boxes. I love it, I’m a true blue picker at heart.
I’ve managed to build a wardrobe with a ramen budget, most of the time I pick up dresses for between $3-12. My favorite west coast shopping spot for all things vintage is the Rose Bowl Flea market in Pasadena, CA.
How deep does your love of vintage run?
Pretty deep! Though my life now has me focussing on quality over quantity. (I once had an entire room as a closet, with enough vintage dresses that I could wear a different one every day of the year!) Our little shotgun apartment and life on the road doesn’t allow for much other than props and costumes, which I kind of love in a way.
We live in what is rumored to be the building Tennessee Williams based “Streetcar Named Desire” on, the house itself is nearly 200 years old, it’s incredible. The inside of our home looks a bit like the remains of an old circus from the 40’s, sequined showgirl costumes hanging on the walls, along side juggling knives, vintage animal traps (used on us in our show, not little critters!), swords, and sideshow banners, plus we store everything in vintage suitcases since there aren’t any closets.
Our bedding is a patchwork quilt my great-great grandma made in the 30‘s from old swatches of torn dresses. There’s always old music floating through the air, like Sinatra or Billie Holiday, and I sew everything on my vintage 1950’s sewing machine “Betty”, it’s built like a Buick and can stitch through anything!
I have a beautiful collection of vintage slips from the 20‘s-50‘s that I sleep in every night. My cosmetics are all modern, but still very classic in the way I like to wear them. Black cat-eye liner and ruby red lips every day. My love of history and vintage kind of seems to permeate every bit of life in one way or another.
What do you wear when you’re doing active, get-your-hands-dirty things?
I don’t change how I dress for getting grubby! I’ll throw an apron on, and I have a few dresses that are my ‘run around and grease um’ up’ duds. Wearing vintage goodies doesn’t prevent me from getting my hands dirty in any way, I look the same, just add piles of paint, oil, or mud depending on the day!
I hike, camp and climb trees and love the challenge when someone thinks I’m too frilly to put in some elbow grease.
Do you ever wear ‘normal’ clothing these days?
Not really! That’s just not me. Though I do have the obligatory super comfy, worn and torn old-band-logo-boyfriend t-shirt that Donny gave me. I sleep in it every once in a while when he’s on the road and I miss him!
How do people react to your style?
A lot of staring, a ton of smiles, and taking photos with strangers about sums it up. It’s super fun, I love that the way I dress can make someone smile, that’s pretty darn nifty. Fashion can often be dismissed as fluff and indulgent, which it certainly is in a way, but what a fantastic avenue to be creative!
Everyone has to wear clothes, so why not just have fun with it?! I’d much rather have something that’s a part of daily life make me happy. Kinda makes me feel like a superhero of glamour, just trade the spandex for a silk dress!
What advice would you give to anyone who’s interested in introducing a bit more vintage to their wardrobe?
Get ready to have fun and possibly have a new addiction, the thrill of he hunt is a blast! When shopping for vintage at a flea market or estate sale carry a soft cloth tape measure on you and know your personal measurements, (bust, waist, hips). Modern sizing and vintage sizing are quite different!
A perfect example is the misunderstanding that Marilyn Monroe was a size 12. She was, but a size 12 in the U.S. during the 1950’s was a 35” bust and a 25” waist. Shopping for vintage based on tag sizes without that knowledge can accidentally lead to a heap of sewing projects or things to send to the tailor, which most of us won’t follow through with.
For vintage hunting, if it fits and you love it scoop it up, you most likely won’t ever see that piece again! Vintage prices can range from just a few bucks at a flea market to around $150 on the higher end in a shop. It’s a wonderful investment, and so long as you care for it, it will only gain value while it’s in your closet.
You can wear something for a while and sell it later, I’ve turned a pretty hefty profit on my wardrobe over the years. I have dresses that are over 100 years old and still going strong! I feel lucky to be their caretaker for a while, it’s amazing to think about how many lifetimes and memories they’ve seen, and knowing I get to be a small part of that, preserving a little piece of history one dress at a time.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Frankie! Are any of you guys devout vintage lovers? Do you have any questions for Frankie?