With her encyclopaedic knowledge of vintage eras and clothes, it's no wonder Wilma Mae Basta's got her own enviable and eclectic collection, from the Victorian mink-lined ice skating jacket she scored at a bargain price to her super-rare 1940s Lilli Ann designer pieces. Jen Barton gets a vintage history lesson from the owner of luxury Notting Hill vintage boutique, The Gathering Goddess...
Wilma Mae Basta is a self-described "very determined, sassy and focused woman." This comes across in her vintage style, which is part beautifully tailored and classic, part whimsical and wild (sequins, fur and lots of colour!)
The owner of Notting Hill's The Gathering Goddess boutique, which dresses the likes of Thandie Newton, Penelope Cruz and Florence Welch, Wilma's impressive vintage collection began with one bid on eBay, which turned into hundreds. Her growing collection prompted her to start selling off pieces before opening a series of pop-ups and eventually setting up her shop.
From her amazing tips on caring for vintage to her ability to sniff out a gem (like the 1955 dress worn by Ava Gardner), Wilma's vintage style isn't about recreating a look from a particular era. Instead, she combines unique pieces that have stood the test of time with contemporary finds to create her own personal style. Take a peek below...
What got you interested in vintage fashion?
I was always interested in fashion from a young age and during my teenage years I got a job and started to buy Norma Kamali and Kenzo and collected every glossy magazine - I had a wall full of fashion mags!
My mother would also give me her old clothes from the 1940s and 1950s and my family would give me clothes from when they were younger - for me, it was another way to create my own style. I only started buying vintage in the late 1980s in New York, and would make secondhand pieces into something cool and funky.
What are your favourite vintage eras and style icons?
I'm not really era-loyal - I find beauty in all the different eras. All eras have beautiful clothes and also ugly clothes! The most intriguing for me is to find the most timeless pieces from each era.
When it comes to style icons, it's not just how they dress but who they were and are as people. I love Cher: before Madonna and Lady Gaga, she was pushing boundaries with the way she dressed and on top of that, she is super-talented. To me, she's amazing – she was not afraid of fashion or of upsetting people. I also think Josephine Baker is an amazing and phenomenal woman and a great trailblazer.
What are your top vintage-scouring tips? What do you need to watch out for when buying vintage?
1. Make sure that you trust your vintage dealer.
2. My best tip is to freeze garments for three days at least (put them in a plastic bag in the freezer to kill off any bacteria or moth eggs).
3. When buying vintage, make sure it's really vintage – it's worth it to authenticate what you're buying
4. When you buy vintage, underarm stains are a common issue. A good way to treat yellowing is to make a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water, pack it onto the underarm area overnight and let it dry. If there are still some stains left, do it again and then hand wash the garment.
Top tips for styling vintage outfits?
If you buy something with a pattern, then pair it with something plain and simple like jeans or a plain jacket. Let the vintage piece talk for itself. I like to team a sequinned jacket with a black camisole and heels.
It's always best to try vintage on so if you're buying online, measure yourself. The biggest gripe that vintage dealers have is people buying stuff and it not fitting. If you know your measurements, then a vintage dealer can find the best thing for you.
Love vintage cinema as much as you love vintage clothes? The Gathering Goddess is hosting its next Vintage Screenings event on Wednesday, 4 June at The Mayfair Hotel in London with the film Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn. The night will be hosted by actress Gemma Chan.
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