Inhabiting the Fifties

W.Va. couple embraces an earlier era

W.Va. couple embraces an earlier era

June 29, 2008

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Since the Moores wear 1950s clothes every day, it's not clear whether their wedding could classify as themed.

When the Big Day came, the groom, David Moore, 48, had his signature "greaser" hair slicked back with pomade, and wore a white coat, black pants and two-toned shoes a la Elvis.

The bride, Kiersten Moore, 34, wore a gold lam cocktail dress that was, as she put it, "so tacky, but so wonderful."

One thing was clear: More had occurred at that wedding than a union of two lovebirds. It was the union of two equally strong passions for all things vintage.


"I guess I would have to say, yes, I am stuck in the '50s," said Kiersten, as she sat on a vintage chair in the vintage living room of her 1949 ranch-style house in Berkeley Springs.

Passion might be an understatement. They consider themselves recyclers.

"Back then, everything was ... reusable," David said. "We're not there anymore. We're a disposable society. We just throw things away."

Retro active

A feeling that things were just better made back in the day was a big reason David and Kiersten chose to immerse themselves in vintage.

For the past year, the Moores have been selling vintage clothes and household goods at their store Retrodini Vintage Clothing & Oddities - an outgrowth of their overabundant personal collections. They sell vintage items that date to the 1970s or earlier.

When house shopping, David looked painstakingly for a 50-year-old home that had not been updated. "Realtors looked at me like I was crazy," he said.

They've spent the past eight years restoring their current, 51-year-old home to something close to its original splendor. At the time of the interview, the only thing modern in the kitchen was the metal sink, which the Moores planned to replace with a vintage porcelain one from the 1940s. The refrigerator and the stove are vintage, as are the appliances.

David, who owns and drives daily an array of vintage cars, said he has yet to renovate the bathroom.

There's only one push-button phone among the rotaries, just in case they encounter an automated answering service and have to dial 0 for the operator.

There's also a television and VCR-DVD player in the living room, but a fully functional 1950s TV set stands in the dining room not far from a fully functional jukebox.

Their 3-year-old daughter Lucy, who also dresses in vintage, likes the jukebox and can recite verses from the old-school rockabilly tunes it plays - much to her parents' delight.

"We've been bathing her in a lot of these things so she'll have an appreciation for it," David said.

Kiersten's clothes must be at least four decades old. On the day of the interview, she wore a vintage plaid, feed-sack dress with an A-line skirt. Her deep auburn hair was swept back, with straight bangs just above her brows, as though she were headed to the soda counter for a malt or was about to offer her newspaper visitors a highball or martini.

Family values

Kiersten said her affinity for vintage started when she was a kid growing up in Ohio.

"I went through this serious Beach Boys phase, which is kind of embarrassing to say out loud," she said.

When she was 12, she started a Beach Boys fan club, which amounted to a few of her after-school friends giggling over their favorite Beach Boys records.

She started collecting vintage goods when she was in high school. By the time she was in college, she was managing a Salvation Army, where she scored clothes and other goods.

"I can't remember the segue that made this whole-hog," she said, "but I remember in college, thinking that I might as well start wearing vintage clothes at the time."

So she did.

Kiersten has some favorites - anything 1950s Ann Taylor, a designer of classic dresses that she said could be worn anywhere. Her most prized frock is a 1958, numbered, couture dress by Christian Dior that she bought at a closeout sale for $1. Today, she said, that dress would sell for at least $250 - more if it was made for someone famous.

His roots are showing

David, a native of Clear Spring, said living vintage was an extension of how he grew up. His father was a fiddler in the 1930s. As a kid, David was fed a healthy diet of old-fashioned, country gospel and what he called "hillbilly" music.

Now, he has a recording studio and a record label, Wild Hare Records, where he makes original, rockabilly-style music distributed on vinyl and on CD. He has recorded with Joe Penny Pennington, Hank Williams' guitarist.

The Moores said sometimes they get double takes on the street, but generally, people are accepting of the way they live. David, a maintenance engineer for Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said he's known as "that '50s guy" at work.

"I don't care. It's what I am. It's who I am," he said.

Kiersten said her parents view her lifestyle as an extension of her personality.

"I know they think it's cool, but they weren't into '50s music like I would have liked them to be," she said.

Her mother was only allowed to listen to Bill Haley, because he made "clean" rock 'n' roll.

The end of an era

It's getting harder and harder to keep up an out-of-date persona.

The Moores said vintage goods are becoming scarce, as the people who used them when they were popular grow older and more items make their way to thrift stores for public consumption - or worse, to the trash.

The vintage Enid Collins handbags Kiersten likes to carry used to cost $10 or less. Today, if she can find one, they could go for between $40 and $50.

Also, cyclical trends in fashion and furniture design have boosted demand for some vintage goods. Foot traffic at their store has increased, particularly among college students who are looking for frocks from the 1960s mod era, which is back in style.

"I'm a little nervous about the future of it, whether we'll be able to find this stuff," Kiersten said. "Maybe then we'll have to move into the '60s."

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