Monday, July 26, 2010

Question: Why is Vintage Underground Fun??

Answer: Because it should be!

Vintage Underground opened just about two years ago when we quietly sprouted out from the lower level of 1834 West North Avenue. Even before Carlos and I (Ellen) opened the doors for the first time, we knew that we wanted to have fun with our passion for vintage and create an atmosphere of fun and discovery for YOU, dear reader.
Because we have a somewhat hidden location and did not have a store window (all the windows were glass block), our first challenge was how to entice people to come downstairs and check it out. I scrawled the reassuring words "Come Down...It's Fun" on one of our posters outside. I was happily ignorant that it would be months until we had a "real" sign. Anyway, steadily increasing numbers of brave souls did venture down the vintage stairs and many of them often commented that "Yes, you're right, it is fun!" So the slogan stuck and remains even truer today.

As more of you came down, we began to knock down walls (I mean Carlos began to knock down walls), expanding our collection and filling up our 3,500 square feet with pure vintage fun. Our visitors can peruse the mind-boggling selection and have a great treasure hunt. While digging through Vintage Underground's trove, there is a wonderful feeling of expectation, discovery and reward. Lots of you feel overwhelmed too! But don't worry, thats a very normal feeling, especially for first-timers. Also, you know we have great tour-guides to hold your hand if needed. But, for sure, being overwhelmed can be fun too...especially when you are simultaneously being entertained by Carlos. What more can be said?

Well, one more thing can be said: Aside from the fun atmosphere that we create along with our staff and customers, Carlos and I want you to know that we take vintage collecting very seriously.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Confessions of a Retrophiliac

I like the word "retro".  I throw it around sometimes, as do many others. Hanging out in Vintage Underground gives me pause to contemplate the word: RETRO. Often people talk about the definition of "vintage" or "antique", but I never have gotten into a discussion of what "retro" means. I had a sense of the word,  but never really defined it. So I looked up the dictionary definition: of or designating the style of an earlier time: retro clothes. Boring definition, don't you think?

But I enjoyed reading what Wikipedia had to say -- here's an excerpt:
... most commonly, “retro” is used to describe objects and attitudes from the recent past that no longer seem “modern.” ... Different from more traditional forms of revivalism, “retro” suggests a half ironic, half longing consideration of the recent past...Today it is often used in a positive sense, referring to quirky or attractive products that are no longer available... A love of retro objects (things from the past) is called retrophilia.

I didn't even know that retrophilia was a word. After reading that, I had a light-bulb moment. I came to the realization that I have to admit that I am a retrophiliac! I believe this is a chronic condition and that there is no cure. Anyway, I don't want to be cured.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Old School

Back in my "wonder years" everyone in my junior high had to take typing class. After all, we would be headed to high school next and would surely be required to type several papers every semester. That was back in 1969, but I can still remember Miss Sandor (we didn't have the term "Ms." yet) and her blond bee-hive commanding the 300 fingers in the class. We had special typing books designed to stand up on a desk where the pages turned vertically over the spine. The daily practice started off as simple exercises to acquaint our 13-year old brains with the key layout--there was no such thing as "keyboarding" back then and most of the students had never typed at all before the class. The sound of thirty kids hitting the keys on thirty typewriters filled the room. It started out with stupid stuff like: ddd kkk fff jjj ggg hhh and go on and on and on with gradual progressions. I don't even think we typed a complete sentence until after days of familiarizing ourselves with key locations, shifts, tabs, margins etc. Remember there was no DELETE!  And in typing class we were not allowed to use the coveted "Korect-o-type". That was a powdery white sheet of paper that you place over your error. You backed up your typewriter, positioned the correcting paper, and re-typed your error, forcing the white powder precisely over the black ink. Then you had to back up again and type the correction over the mess. You couldn't really ever hide a mistake very well. That's why we had to practice so much!

We did all these mundane exercises ad nauseum. Once in while we had a fun little surprise. It didn't take that much to make us happy in '69 when life was simpler and everything took a long time and nobody even realized that it was a long time...but I digress...back to the surprise....We would get to a page in our book with kind of a secret code...(ooooh, cool) The directions would say something like "Line 1: type x 32 times, type y 3 times, type space bar 8 spaces....etc etc. Gradually a picture would appear on the paper, made from the shapes of the letters. One day we all typed a portrait of John F. Kennedy. Wow! That was a good day in typing class.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

1960's Jewelry Advertisements

Costume jewelry advertisements from the past are beautiful to look at and can also be a valuable tool in helping to authenticate and date vintage jewelry pieces. At Vintage Underground we continually search out, collect, and examine each piece of jewelry before displaying it in our store. Pieces are evaluated for age and quality by many ways including types of materials used, findings (clasps, closures etc.), and style.

A fun way to substantiate vintage jewelry is to review advertisements from the time the jewelry was created.
This Monet ad pictured here is from 1964, and the Trifari ad is from 1968. Both of these companies have designed jewelry for many decades so the ads help to pinpoint the style of jewelry they made at the time. Other designers of the era would also certainly be producing similar styles which would appeal to the fashion sense of the day. The colors, make-up on the models, and clothing are also great to look and and really give you a feel of the era. It is especially important to see the style of an era when looking at something like clear rhinestone jewelry which has been around for so many years. In this Trifari ad from the late sixties you can notice a more modern, fluid style than many older rhinestone pieces. Also, each piece has some very subtle evocation of the paisley...a quintessentially 1960's emblem.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


   Finally its time for biking in Chicago. Don't have wheels? Well, walk in to Vintage Underground and you can ride away on a great vintage bike. We have a sweet selection including Raleigh, Windsor, and Schwinn. Our current choices start at only 75 bucks. Yes, for real: $75.00!! 
     You know that Vintage Underground is known for unusual finds of all kinds...and one very notable find is a motorized 1950's cruiser. It's a beauty. Come and see it, visit with Carlos and Ellen and check out the bikes!


Sunday, April 11, 2010


We have a great new selection of vintage cameras. In addition to movie cameras, still cameras,and movie projectors we have old photos, slides, and movies. The cameras run the range from simple instamatics & polaroids to large format models.
Collectors, artists, amateurs and pros will love our choices. Many cameras are in the original boxes with accessories and/or instruction manuals. Create your own "Kodak moment"! 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010



Thursday, April 1, 2010

Come Down It's Fun!

That's our motto at Vintage Underground: Come Down It's Fun! We have fun amidst our 3000+ square feet of vintage jewelry-filled showcases, racks of vintage clothing, shelves of cameras, electronics, and all kinds of unusual finds awaiting your discovery...and you will have fun too. Join us Wednesdays through Sundays (occasional Tuesdays, too) to visit our ever changing selection of vintage, vintage, and more vintage.

Since this is the first blog for Vintage Underground we'll keep it short and sweet...
We want to keep you in the know--you'll find out whats new with the old stuff. We can share input from our customers, photo submissions of you wearing our jewels and/or clothes, and any happenings that may be happening.

And remember, you can always follow us on Twitter:
and find us on Yelp:
More links will follow. Thanks for reading this.

Have Fun!--

Carlos and Ellen