Vintage Fashion. Shopper Beware: Do We Need a Vice Squad for Vintage Clothing? Annie Korzen’s Vintage Scare

May 4, 2007 • Fashion

Alison Seiffer

It didn’t make the NYT Style section yesterday but it should have: Annie Korzen’s article “The Vintage Shirt Off her Back.” Korzen tells the tale of her obsession with stylish garmets of yesteryear, her dream to profit from the fame and fortune that surrounds them, and how she fell for a con artist that fed on her dreams of making it big in Tinseltown and who gave her story filled with tons of drama (just not the kind of cinematic sort she had in mind)…

Full for the full story see below..
–Joanne Molina for Second City Style

The (Vintage) Shirt Off Her Back

MY name is Annie, and I’m a shopaholic. I love coming home with bags full of clothing, jewelry, vintage collectibles, whatever. The only problem is, I highly disapprove of my own shallow materialism. When most people in the world don’t own a book or a toilet, it seems just a wee bit selfish to buy a wait-listed designer handbag for some astromaniacal sum. So to balance my moral high-mindedness with my base lust for goods, I spend my life scouring thrift shops, estate sales and flea markets; that way I can feel virtuous.

But as with any addiction, the pleasure turned to pain. The house was overflowing with unused clothes and collectibles. I live in sweatpants and rarely entertain. Give a dinner party? Please, I’m much too busy buying vintage tablecloths.

So I decided to turn my compulsion into a business. I started selling my goodies. I enjoyed having a little cottage industry, but like all entrepreneurs, I dreamed of the Big Score: the costume person from a film studio who would appreciate my exquisite taste and become My Main Buyer. I would sit in the audience and think, Julia Roberts is wearing my Escada blazer!

And so it came to pass.

Twice a year my husband and I have a huge yard sale at rock-bottom prices to unload the surplus goods. At my last sale, a young woman named Laura showed up and announced that she was doing wardrobe for a DreamWorks movie.

Just as in my fantasy, Laura gushed over my fabulous taste and phoned her assistant to check the sizes of various actors. She bought Anna Sui and Vivienne Tam and Armani. She bought a Coach bag and some vintage jewelry.

She was in a hurry to get back to the set, so I took a check for $300. She promised to come over every month to check out my inventory. My dream had come true: Steven Spielberg was going to pay me to shop!

The check bounced. It wasn’t just an oversight: the account had been closed for several months.

I called DreamWorks and asked for Laura. No such person. “Are you sure? She’s doing wardrobe on ‘Santa Clause 3.’ ” No, that film was not DreamWorks, it was Disney. I called Disney and learned that the movie had wrapped three months ago.

Laura Film Wardrobe was a total fraud. The assistant she talked to was probably a dial tone. She played on my greed, my vanity and my pathetic eagerness to be a professional shopper for the movies.

My miracle had turned into a “be careful what you wish for” fable. It served me right, because as an unreligious, unsuperstitious, un-New-Age secular cynic, I ought to know that miracles do not happen, just random events that usually end badly.

I was, of course, furious, but I was also fascinated by the psychopathology at work.

If you’re a skilled con artist, why steal used goods from middle-aged yentas at yard sales? Whatever happened to professional standards? Even criminals should aim high. This one’s mother should have taught her to use her dark talents more profitably.

I started leaving phone messages for Laura, sometimes several in one day. No reply, of course. We drove to the address on the check. No such person, of course.

For many months to come, I was obsessed with revenge fantasies. I thought of all the things I would say and do to Laura if I ever ran into her. How I would make a loud scene in public and force her to pay me back.

And so it came to pass.

I walked into a lingerie shop not far from home, and there, writing out a phony check on the same phony checkbook, was phony Laura. Now, what are the odds of running into the evil person you dream of running into? How many of us have fantasized the brilliant payback encounter with the philandering ex-boyfriend or the humiliating college teacher, knowing that the dream of satisfaction was a futile one?

Just as I had imagined, I yelled to the owner: “Don’t take that check! She’s a con artist!”

Laura looked up, just as sweet as could be. “Oh, I’m so glad I found you!” she said. “I’ve been looking all over for you! I owe you money!” Yeah, right.

My script called for my husband and me to escort her to a nearby A.T.M., which we did. She handed me the cash. “I know you don’t believe me, but I’m really not a bad person,” she said.

“Laura, everything you told me was a lie,” I replied.

“No, I’m exactly what I said — I’m a film producer.” Poor dear: if she had only put her mind to it, she probably could have been. And I guess I was wrong: once in a very great while, miracles do happen!

Being the victim of a scam did not dampen my enthusiasm for the treasure hunt. Like all addicts, I live for the next big high. I just scored a St. John evening suit for $38, which I sold on eBay for over $200. I’m hoping to top that with some signed Weiss bracelets. In a few weeks we’re having another garage sale.

Cash only.

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2 Responses to Vintage Fashion. Shopper Beware: Do We Need a Vice Squad for Vintage Clothing? Annie Korzen’s Vintage Scare

  1. Sandra says:

    Oooh. Ouch! But thank the vintage goddesses that you got your money for your treasures. Your religion is vintage!

  2. Sandra says:

    Oooh. Ouch! But thank the vintage goddesses that you got your money for your treasures. Your religion is vintage!

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