One of the best vintage shops I’ve run across is Montana Vintage in downtown Billings. Not only are the prices great and the selection vast (they have children’s and maternity!), but the merchandise is also impeccably clean and well cared for.
“We launder everything, so it’s either been washed or dry cleaned before it hits the floor,” says owner Sherry Daly, who opened shop in 1998. “If it’s not in good shape, I don’t put it out.”
Daly gets most of her merchandise from within a 300-mile radius. “From northern Wyoming all the way up to Medicine Hat,” she says. “I just never know what’s going to come through door. I just love being able to recycle items that are truly keepsakes.”
The bright store is an eye-popping kaleidoscope of textures and colors. Everything—from 1890’s tea dresses and petticoats to frothy 50’s party dresses and 1980’s bubble dresses—is organized by decade and measurements, not sizes. “There’s no standard sizing,” explains Daly, “So our tags list measurements. We end up with happier customers because things fit right,” she says, adding, “There are clothes for every shape in here.”
Weather a body is hourglass and better suited for the wasp-waist styles of the 1950’s or more straight-up-and-down—where 60’s mod cuts that de-emphasize the waistline are more flattering—there’s generally a decade that works. “And you don’t have to be going to a costume party to wear vintage,” says Daly. “I wear it all the time and get complements. The secret is mixing it, not wearing head-to-toe from one decade. I may wear a 40’s suit jacket with a pair of jeans. The best looks are eclectic.”
Daly has quite a following of customers who don’t have pierced ears. “So I have clips-ons galore,” she says of her extensive jewelry selection. She’s also got a rainbow of gloves—from wrist-length up to evening gown—and purses from hand-tooled to patent leather. Shoes can be found throughout the store ranging from metallic gold sandals to cowboy boots. Hats? “A lot of 40’s and 50’s”, says Daly. “Wide-brimmed, small-brimmed, pillbox. I’ve got lots of flowers out right now, but come winter you’ll see more wool with ribbon.”
Daly has lots of fun with high school boys when prom rolls around. “They come in to get a ‘tux’, which to them usually means pairing a plaid jacket with hounds tooth pants,” she says. “It’s a stitch!”
She says she gets really excited when something like a pair of men’s platform shoes comes in. “Men’s clothing is harder to find. They usually have fewer items in their wardrobes, and a lot of men’s clothing is wool and gets moth-eaten so there’s just not as much of it out there.”
She’s got ties from every era (bow ties, hand-painted ties, skinny ones, fat ones), great suits and real tuxedos (I especially like the 1970’s section). Racks brim with vintage t-shirts, western snap-button shirts, 50’s bowling shirts and hats that would make any L.A. stylist drool.
The children’s section is perhaps my favorite. Stuffed with polka dots, plaids and ginghams, there are petticoats and 70’s psychedelic. There’s even a sweet toddler apron with bunnies and chicks!
To top it off, Montana Vintage has maternity wear—we’re talking Peter Pan collars and bows. “It just reminds me of what Lucille Ball would have worn,” laughs Daly.
Items are displayed seasonally. “Virtually, the whole store changes overnight in the fall,” says Daly. “The wool coats come out an the spaghetti straps go away.”
She clearly enjoys her job. “I have a passion for vintage clothing, and I love sharing what knowledge I have and seeing new life come to old clothes,” says Daly. “It’s so fun to see other people like them as much as I do.”
NUTS & BOLTS
110 North 29th Street
Billings, MT 59101
Open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday
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