Courtesy of MasCara Vintage
For Cara Samski, sewing clothing and costumes at a young age served as her inspiration for collecting well-made garments. After studying the history of fashion and costume design with a theatre company, she hasn’t worn “new” clothing since. Her Polk Street shop, MasCara Vintage stocks a gold mine of gorgeous men’s and women’s clothing and accessories from the sixties and seventies (think Jessica Lange in Sydney Pollack’s 1982 Tootsie), as well as tons of knick-knacks, vinyl records and the occasional 80s piece. Samski let 7x7 in on some secrets on finding the best vintage pieces and the sentimental values she finds in them.
What do you look for when shopping for your store?
The key is to not think too much and just grab anything that catches my eye. If I go with my gut instinct about a piece, it usually works out quite well. I have to trust my eye. As long as I’m the only one shopping for the store, I believe the merchandise will stay fresh and unique.
Where have you had the best luck when vintage shopping?
Hmmm, well that’s a closely guarded secret. But I will say that the farther away and more rural area, the better.
Last time I visited MasCara Vintage, I noticed a strong presence of owl goods (figurines, pendants, cups, etc.). Do you have an owl fixation or was it just coincidental?
Quite coincidental! Owls reached huge mainstream kitsch status in the late 1960s and throughout the 70s, so it makes sense that the trend has cycled back around. But, jeez, I didn’t realize they would be this huge! I don’t have as many in the store anymore—I just can’t get my hands on them as fast as people are buying them.
What advice would you give to a novice vintage shopper?
A lot of people who move to SF from different states come in and ask my advice when they see how big of a role vintage plays in the style and culture here. They know they need to incorporate it into their wardrobe, but where to begin? I think: begin with shirts. Buy yourself four cheap shirts with funky patterns and bright vintage colors that you might not normally wear. See what you get the most compliments on. Then, go back to the shops and buy more. They’re recycled and cheaper—you can afford it!
What is your all-time favorite vintage-buy experience?
Sometimes I’ll get to know quite a bit about the previous owners when I’m buying from estate sales. It’s very rewarding and brings me a lot of joy. I’m tempted to tell customers where the pieces have come from and who owned it, but the person is usually deceased and I don’t want to creep people out. I’m proud to be giving their belongings a new life!
MasCara Vintage 1747 Polk St., 415-674-8031
7 Minutes with: MasCara Vintage