Elizabeth Parks Kibbey
"James Dean on top, Marlene Dietrich on the bottom."
MONOGRAM: List your name, profession, and place of residence:
ELIZABETH PARKS KIBBEY. Owner at Collection. Los Angeles, CA.
MONOGRAM: When did your vintage clothing obsession begin?
ELIZABETH: My obsession probably started before I had a name for it or knew what vintage was. Like many, I can trace my vintage and sartorial obsessions to my mother, who always wore vintage, even when it was decidedly not on-trend. My mother’s own devotion to vintage came from being a vintage vendor herself, in Paris in the late ’60s and ‘70s. She sold a lot of 1930’s silk print dresses, eastern Afghani textiles, and overstock denim. Some of those precious things survived. I grew up around great suzani patterns and stories of my mom shivering through Parisian winters draped in ‘30s silk velvet.
MONOGRAM: Describe the Collection aesthetic in three words.
ELIZABETH: Liberated, ladylike, lawless.
MONOGRAM: We imagine that you have met some great characters and come across some odd locales sourcing wares for the store. What’s the weirdest encounter you’ve had when hunting for vintage pieces?
ELIZABETH: Most of the weirdest encounters are more like most awkward encounters; haggling over prices, lurking outside a makeshift dressing room at a town fair to swipe other customer’s Sonia Rykiel rejects, or trying to avoid coming to blows with someone else wearing a headlamp at five AM at a flea market. I’ve spent a lot of time in musty warehouses, garages, and the occasional twenty-foot U-Haul picking through piles of denim. You haven’t lived until you’ve bruised both legs trying to climb out of a pallet box that you’ve just emptied of denim. They’re fun war stories, but like any job, the alluring “insider” view is usually better in someone else’s imagination than IRL.
MONOGRAM: Most serious vintage shoppers have “the one that got away”. Can you tell us about yours?
ELIZABETH: I don’t have “the one that got away” as much as “the one I’ve never gotten to have”: iconic ball-heeled Yves Saint Laurent pumps. I’m tall, have big feet, and I’ve never managed to find them in my size. PSA - if you own them in a size 10, let me know!
MONOGRAM: Who’s your favorite designer of all time and why?
ELIZABETH: Calvin Klein. I can wear Calvin Klein all day, everyday, from school drop off, to work, and to the most elegant events, and feel comfortable, strong, and sexy all at once. I can’t think of another designer that functions that way for me on so many different levels. While I’m not at all a minimalist, I have a strong appreciation for minimal fashion because it allows a woman to speak for herself.
MONOGRAM: You have an incredible knack for looking at a customer and picking out a pair of jeans or dress that fits them perfectly. What’s your trick for sizing up a complete stranger?
ELIZABETH: My ability to help women find jeans comes down to knowing how the jeans fit and the fact that I’ve spent countless hours picking denim, trying it on myself, and watching others do the same. A lot of it is just sticking to a few basic rules: vintage denim always looks bigger on the hanger than it actually is, there is a huge portion of the female population who just cannot wear 501’s without getting camel toe (the answer: the 505), and a denim vendor is only as good as her (or his) ears. You have to listen to what the customer wants and strive to help them find that thing. It could be a dark indigo wash, the kick at the hem of a 517, or just the perfect fit – but first you have to listen.
MONOGRAM: Do you wear graphic t-shirts as a form of self-expression?
ELIZABETH: Absolutely. In fact, all my favorite graphic t-shirts have some sort of a message or subtext. A current not-so-subtle favorite is a shirt that says “Pioneering Women” in white writing on a blue background with outlines of women in suffragette era and 19th century costume. All around the figures swirl the names of famous feminists throughout history, everyone from Sojourner Truth to Betty Friedan to Simone de Beauvoir. I have to fight the urge to wear it everyday.
MONOGRAM: Tell us about your favorite vintage t-shirt. How and when did you acquire it?
ELIZABETH: My dad is a singer-songwriter and I have the softest gray concert tee from a show he did with an orchestra in Japan in the ‘80s. Unfortunately, the 2000-era me cut off the sleeves and neck (I know, go ahead and judge) but on the bright side the slashed neck and sleeves make an orchestra t-shirt just punk-y enough. And I’m banking on my mom having a non-slashed one stashed away somewhere in the garage for posterity.
MONOGRAM: What’s your favorite way to style a t-shirt?
ELIZABETH: I’m emerging from a deep “t-shirt under a dress in a sort of early ‘90s way” phase, but I also love layering a t-shirt under a pantsuit or tucked into high-waisted trousers, kind of like James Dean on top and Dietrich on the bottom.
MONOGRAM: Lightning round: describe yourself in terms of the following…
BEVERAGE: Sparkling water
VEHICLE: 1990 BMW 325i
RITUAL: Smelling salts
TAGLINE: I’m worth it
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jason Frank Rothenberg