Beth Messerly has always loved vintage items—the colors, patterns and textiles that tell a visual story of each decade. “I think my parents were always collecting really cool things, so that gave an appreciation for things that were older,” says Messerly.
In college, she attended auctions and bought items that struck her fancy. And when she got older and started traveling to Europe and beyond, she brought back suitcases full of vintage items to wear and to decorate her home: brightly colored Scandinavian pieces, floral and pretty items from France, sweaters from Ireland. She once took a dugout boat to an island in Panama to retrieve a coal boat oar and hauled a “large amazing Queen Elizabeth embroidery piece” from London. She scoured estate sales and secondhand shops. And, of course, living in the area, Messerly has amassed a fine collection of vintage White Bear Lake sports items and apparel.
But when her home started getting a little too cramped with all the pieces she was bringing in, Messerly knew action was required. “I had too much and I just kept thinking that some day I would open a shop so other people could enjoy the items as much as I did,” says Messerly. “So that’s what I did.”
Wanting to control her hours so she could easily travel to Texas to see her daughter in college at Baylor (she also has two other children) and to continue her nonprofit work in Central America, Haiti and Morocco, she opted for an Etsy shop, an e-commerce website that allows sellers to post items in a virtual storefront. Her first sale was to Brazil. Now, not quite one year later, Messerly says most of her sales are to the East and West coasts of the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia.
Although her fashion pieces represent about 25 percent of her overall inventory, they’re something Messerly is very passionate about. She wears vintage pieces most of the time. “I love mixing the old and the new,” she says. On the day I visited her, she was wearing a vintage Ralph Lauren jumper with a shirt from Target, and a favorite pair of ’80s boots she bought in a vintage shop in St. Moritz, Switzerland while traveling with her son’s college hockey team. “I love the patina on them,” she says. “And they’re so comfortable.”
“Etsy combines all of my passions,” says Messerly. “I love dealing with people, I love other countries and their beautiful vintage pieces, and I love the marketing of my shop. It’s been perfect for me.”
Britta Messerly Menk
Rustic, 100-percent-wool Irish fisherman knit sweater, circa 1970s. $99. Scottish Royal Stewart tartan plaid cashmere and wool blend scarf, circa 1950s-60s. $49. Suede ice skates, circa 1990s. $119.
Leggings, boots and leg warmers from Mainstream Boutique.
Southwest flared blanket-pattern linen skirt by Ralph Lauren, circa 1990s. $79. Hand-tooled and handmade leather handbag from Texas, circa 1940s-50s. $149. Turquoise, coral and sterling silver necklace. $799.
Leggings, top and booties from Mainstream Boutique.
Cherry red coat with attached scarf and satin lining, circa 1960s. $299. Black faux fur and knit hat, circa early 1990s. $69. Circular silver pin, circa 1980s. $39.
Gloves and booties from Mainstream Boutique.
What’s Hot in Beth’s Shop:
- Capes and shawls
- Irish fisherman sweaters
- Southwest-inspired prints
- Norwegian sweaters
- Fringe and Western wear
- Mexican purses
Tips to Create Great Vintage Looks
- If you’re hesitant to get started, try incorporating one vintage accessory: statement earrings, inspired handbag, spectacular boots or perhaps a great scarf. “Have fun with these pieces,” says Messerly.
- Have one vintage piece as a focal point and add modern, basic pieces to pull together a complete look.
- Look for quality pieces in good condition that fit well.
- Be mindful of sizes; Messerly adds measurements to numbered sizes when she lists her items online.
- If you’re wearing more than one vintage item, mix items from different decades so you don’t look like you’re wearing a costume from a specific era.