Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pumps & Pleats: Make a beeline for these retro-cool hemlines

By Michèle De Meglio

I love the idea of vintage clothes – handsewn buttons, embellished designs and worn-in Levis. What I don’t like are old pit stains and ripped fabrics.

So on a recent windy Sunday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to waltz into City Casuals, 223 Seventh Avenue, and discover a charming selection of brand new retro and vintage style dresses.

Since I often envision myself playing dress-up in ladylike 50s fashion complete with T-strap heels, loose curls and cherry red lipstick, my heart skipped a beat when I spotted an absolutely adorable navy A-line dress complete with a delicate ivory collar and buttons. As my fingers fumbled with the $160 price tag, I had thoughts of parading into an old-fashioned formal on the muscular arm of the gorgeous star quarterback.

Well, since my high school days are long gone, toss out that quarterback idea.

But this knee-length dress would be unbelievably darling for a Friday night date with one of the many cute eco-friendly fellas roaming around Park Slope.

If you can get past the sticker shock at City Casuals (dress prices range between $100 and $200), you’ll be swept into a fantasyland of colorful garments perfect for ladies who lunch and dressing for dinner in the Catskills à la my grandmother five decades ago.

There’s chiffon floral numbers (with ruffles!) and soft maxi dresses in bright prints totally designed for a luxury vacation in the Bahamas.

Oh! Don’t forget the glamorous hot pink Pucci-esque maxi dress that would slink dramatically over an hourglass shape.

Once you have that perfect frock, check out City Casuals’ shoe collection.

In the back of the cozy store is a respectable collection of vintage-inspired footwear. While a pair of black patent flats with a silver buckle was shiny and appealing, I just had to have the teal Perlina pumps with cutouts.

For the more daring gal, there’s the trend of the moment – a strange fusion of a sandal and ankle boot. Would be great if I were a cast member on “The Hills.”

City Casuals has a modest collection of dainty gemstone jewelry, Hobo International leather wallets and purses.

Two very different handbag styles caught my eye during my visit. When I entered the shop, I immediately spotted a $45 sling bag made of spun layers of multicolored yarn that created a cool rainbow effect. This would be perfect to tote everyday necessities, as well as last-minute salad fixings picked up from the corner grocer on my way home from work.

By the shoes hung a series of textured rubber-like messenger bags with a distinctly modern feel – and totally something Batman would rock!

There’s plenty of friendly salespeople on hand to answer customers’ questions. Even the owner was there on this particular Sunday offering to pull extra sizes from the back room inventory and making small talk with customers about City Casuals’ impressive 37-year run on Seventh Avenue.

As I headed out of the shop and passed racks of linen tops and loose skirts, I took one last longing look at the so-pretty-I-might-die 50s-style dress and sighed. Had to pass. It just wouldn’t mesh with my serious journalist bravado.

For store hours, contact City Casuals at 718-499-5581.


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