I remember the moment I discovered the existence of dead stock or pieces of clothing that have been tucked away for years and then resurface with their original packing, boxes or tags. I learned of this vintage hunter’s dream at a garage sale on a very mossy street in Pacific Grove where I saw this sweet lilac flower printed dress with a high waist and lace-up back sitting in perfect condition in a basket full of old t-shirts. It was as if untouched, probably because my California hometown is uncharacteristically cold, and in fact the original tag was still attached! The tag was from the iconic Holman’s local department store pictured below and when I brought it home I did not even know what to think of it. I was so excited and naturally started to inspect it. I barely wanted to take the tag off, it was so detailed and dated, and I may have this timeless relic tucked away somewhere still. The original packaging gave me all kinds of insight about inflation and merchandising in the 70’s and even encouraged stories retold of Holman’s local department store that my small hometown trusted for the most special of occasions, like my mamma’s wedding dress! I remember getting rid of this perfect summer dress because I could never get a bra under it without it being seen…not like I needed one. Argh a self conscious teenager should never be able to make decisions when it comes to vintage! I dream of having that dress still in my grips and rocking it on a scorching summer day in Italy, still no bra necessary. Nonetheless this marked a milestone in my treasure hunting life. It was like finding an old book with its original cover, shoes with their original box, pieces that gave you insight on the story behind the vintage.
I find dead stock in Italy much more frequently that I ever had in California. It always lurks in the back of old-school shops, or comes out once a year at the end of the season sales that take place in January or August, liquidation sales, closing sales, and more. In the city of La Spezia I stumbled across a shoe store that had just moved from its previous location down the street. It seems in the move they uncovered a myriad of shoes that were sprinkled across past generations.
A common hurdle that all thrifters have to deal with are limited sizes. The prices are always ridiculously low. The owner was quite excited about my enthusiasm for his ‘junk’ and he offered me bulk deals to get this stuff off his hands. I racked my brain for friends and family members sizes upcoming birthdays, but just ended up with something for myself, something great! He wanted to trash the box and I did not let him of course. As I said before the great part about dead stock is the packaging!
A couple years ago, I stumbled across a plethora of dead stock children’s shoes in an inconspicuous back room dedicated to marked down merchandise. The shoe store predominantly sold cheap shoes. I do not know why I went in, rain boots maybe, but I gravitated to the back where I saw the linear display of shoes colors and sizes break into a hodge-podge of one-of-a-kind footwear. There I discovered quality Italian brands from the 80’s that even my good friends remember taking their first steps in. Brands like Pe’Pe‘ named for the word babies say “scarpe” or shoes with their although more eloquent than ours limited Italian speech.
And the packaging! Ah, the children’s shoes were packaged in boxes that unfolded and became a board game. Some came with quality certifications and they were more than “Made in Italy” they were “Interamente prodotto in Italia” meaning “Entirely produced in Italy“. I am kicking myself for not documenting this! But many a gift came from this treasure trove. I did find a picture of my niece decked out in a dead stock coat I found in a modern boutique in Monterosso from the 60’s whose price tag was still in Lira, along with her knee high leather boots from the shop explained above. I myself at the same shop found these very Ligurian clog sandals from Coin, an Italian department store. No brand , but definitely Made in Italy.
So if you are in Italy or are coming here and would like to go home with some local vintage, my favorite souvenir, it is not always found in Vintage shops. The older the store front and the older the shopkeepers the more likely you will find perfectly preserved dead stock and some great stories. Hoping I discover another goldmine soon!