By  on March 30, 1994

NEW YORK -- Stacey Winnick is a resource for retro.

The owner of Vintage by Stacey Lee, White Plains, N.Y., she sells pre-1950s vintage clothing, shoes and accessories to designers who then use the pieces for inspiration, to copy outright or to keep in their own archives.

In business for four years, Winnick claims a client list of about 30 firms, but says she can only name one -- Liz Claiborne. Others wouldn't give her permission to say she does business with them.

She started out as a collector of vintage clothing and sold pieces here and there, until she was contacted by a designer at Liz Claiborne and realized she could go professional.

Using contacts around the country, including those involved with estate sales, Winnick is constantly purchasing vintage trend pieces. She does not buy from regular estate sales because the merchandise is too expensive, she said. Rather, she often buys directly from the owners.

Winnick brings the looks -- often six or seven garment bags-worth -- directly to the designers, seeing some clients once a week, others once every few weeks and a few whenever she feels she has something that's right for them.

Specializing in merchandise from the 1800s through the 1940s, Winnick said she has built a client list by only selling merchandise -- never renting it -- and not allowing clients to photograph a piece that she sells to another designer.

Liz Claiborne bought a 1940s ski sweater with tie-lacing at the chest that Winnick saw copied in the firm's line this winter. Another company, which she declined to name, bought a beaded, T-back, bias-cut dress, updated it in terms of shape and put it in an ad.

Winnick has been selling bias-cut dresses from the 1930s for a while, but says interest in that look is fading now. Military items are always popular, she said, especially pre-World War II pieces, which have great detail work.

"Vests are in demand now, especially unusual ones, like a cut velvet satin style from the 1880s," she said. "I'm also seeing interest in anything beaded, particularly from the 1920s, which was quite ornate, as well as Victorian, which was more subtle."She said men's pajamas with drawstring bottoms from the 1940s are hot right now, as are jackets with unusual shapes -- either boxy or fitted -- and interesting details -- beading or special buttons, for example.

Other looks that interest designers are men's work wear from the 1930s and hunting jackets from the same period. Canvas sneakers -- including PF Flyers from the 1940s -- are also strong sellers.

"The sneaker people really look at the fabrics and the shoe closures for research," she said.

Winnick prices each garment according to how much she paid for it, how unusual it is and whether she had it cleaned or repaired. Her clients pay only for the garments they buy. A long brown cut velvet double-breasted coat from the late 1800s is $400; a long brown wool coat with a full flare skirt from the 1940s is $250; an olive green wool World War I jacket and cap are $165, and a 1940s beaded wool jacket in midnight blue is $295.

She also has a collection of old sewing books, knitting books and shoe catalogs that firms can use for research.

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