- LIVING THE DREAM: Alex Flanders has made vintage clothing a full-time business.
On the south wall of Alex Flanders' Capitol View workspace, there's a tintype portrait of Flanders' grandfather "lookin' very stoic," she told me. "He had a really quick wit, and he was also just weird as hell," she added. He's responsible for the name of Flanders' vintage clothing shop, a shortened version of the cryptic (and admittedly meaningless) saying "The weasel cries at midnight." Flanders has the phrase tattooed on her arm.
"The first time I heard him say that was when I was in eighth, maybe ninth grade. He'd wake me up every day for school, and I'd be like, 'Hey, papa, wake me up at five o'clock, or wake me up at six," and it'd change every day, so he'd write the time down on a piece of paper. And one day, he didn't have any paper, so he wrote it down on my banana that he was packing for my lunch. I got to school and was like, 'What is this? What are these markings on my banana?' I showed all my friends, thinking it was like, some metaphysical thing."
"Like the face of Mother Mary in the toast?" I asked. "Yeah! And so I told him about it, and the next day, on my banana, he'd written, 'The weasel cries at midnight.' " Her grandpa eschewed explanation, but the phrase stuck around.
When I talked with Flanders, she was preparing to take the Crying Weasel show on the road for pop-up events in Nashville, Tenn., and Asheville, N.C., in her SUV. "I need to figure out how I can reasonably fit all these clothes in my car, plus the racks, plus this table, plus a shelving unit of some sort and an overnight bag. So, we'll see." Crying Weasel has been an act of daring for Flanders, who quit her full-time job with the state to do what she'd dreamed of for years: to go full throttle with an Etsy shop for vintage clothing. Before, she'd sold vintage clothes only intermittently. In February, Flanders began accruing pieces from estate sales and thrift shops, cleaning them meticulously, modifying them, photographing models wearing them and shipping them out the door.
On the shop's website, a black blouse sequined in a floral pattern — a la "Designing Women" — gets new life by styling it with cutoff denim shorts. A bolo tie with a 1921 silver dollar as its centerpiece wraps around the neck of a frilly, button-up top. There's diversity to the items themselves, but also to the bodies wearing them. "Some shops — some really successful shops on Etsy — will have one model, usually someone really skinny, modeling something that's not her size. It'll say something like 'oversized jacket' or whatever. And it's like, that's not oversized to someone who is that size. I want to represent the clothes for who they're intended for."
Flanders picked up one of her more recent finds, a lacy embroidered tank. "So, this is a little gold floral shell top from probably the '60s. I assess when I think it's from and look for any flaws. I'll probably handwash this because I don't know how old it is." Flanders swears by a 20-minute soak in water and Borax, with the occasional splash of white vinegar for "stinky pieces, like mothballs or cigarettes." She turned the tank top partially inside out. "See how it's kind of dingy right here on this zipper? That's probably gonna lift out. Then, if it's something that I think can go in the washing machine, I'll do that." She's planning to add a slit in a lime green shirtdress, to remove some shoulder pads from a long-sleeved dress. The vibe of the shop changes, she said. "Right now, I'm really into the rugged style and earth tones, but then I have this soft spot for glittery things and wild prints. I try to steer away from the costume-y stuff, and make it to where it looks like you could buy these things at Madewell or Gap, but with a little flair."
The shop's mission statement, Flanders notes on her website, is to "color the world with orangey-reds and mustardy yellows again, just like our forefathers and mothers of the 1970s would have wanted." If that sounds like a plan to you, you can "favorite" the shop on Etsy, follow Crying Weasel Vintage on Instagram to see new pieces and find out where the shop will pop up next, or flip through Flanders' mini-collection, which changes weekly at Moxy Modern Mercantile at 1419 Main St.