Meet Shannon Hoey, the Queen of Vintage Couture

It’s Vintage Week at Yahoo Style! In honor of our favorite environmentally-friendly way to make sure you’re never wearing the same outfit as anyone else, we’re bringing you insider intel on the best vintage — what to look for, where to find it, and how to make the most money when selling yours. Stay tuned all week for more.


The rental archive floor at New York Vintage.

Fashion insider, like fashionista, is one of those terms that gets bandied about all too often, rarely meaning much more than ‘once quaffed Champagne next to so-and-so.’

With Shannon Hoey, the force behind the museum-quality clothing collection known as New York Vintage, the term actually fits.

Pieces from her collection have made appearances in films like The Great Gatsby or A Winter’s Tale and on television shows like Boardwalk Empire and she’s dressed everyone from Beyonce to Miley and Lupita.

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Hoey, whose business is located in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, looks unassuming in her casual uniform of jeans and a cashmere sweater, but when she talks about seaming and craftsmanship, it’s immediately clear she knows her fashion history inside and out. She can tell “100%” the difference between a masterfully-made 1920s gown, and a present-day knockoff, she says. “Women used to go blind in the 1920s sewing beads onto dresses. And you’ll see, every now and then, a bead will be a different color. That’s how you know it’s hand-finished, and not machine-finished.”


1920s dresses by unknown designers.

Hoey came into fashion through a side door, after studying art history and working with her husband—who was raised in the antiques business—sorting through vast estate sales. “We were on an estate and I discovered this trunk full of the most pristine 1940s hats. And to me they were works of art, these beautiful, architectural pieces. So I began collecting, and eventually decided to jump in with both feet, opening a retail store.” She opened her shop in 2001.

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While some might choose to double down on selling popular Pucci dresses, Hoey developed a passion for the rare birds—like a 1958 Christian Dior gown designed by Yves Saint Laurent—that were investment pieces, things you just couldn’t sell. (If you did, says Hoey, the gown appraises at $8000-10,000.) And so a business was born. Hoey now rents out everything from 1880s whale-boned corsets to Edwardian top hats, flapper-style gowns and statement costume jewelry from the 1980s. Price? Expensive. The cost of collectible couture has soared to new heights lately. “These are truly works of art,” she notes. Viewings, naturally, are by appointment only— and you might have to wear white gloves as you peruse since the oil from hands can ruin the more delicate pieces.


Claude Montana Dress, Dior Capelet, Dior Dress

There are indeed other ‘prop houses’ in Manhattan, where a film’s wardrobe team might borrow ‘1970s garb in bulk. The difference between those businesses and New York Vintage is that Hoey has curated a top of the line collection that’s as fitting on the red carpet as it is in a film close up or an editorial in a fashion magazine. It’s even good enough for Michelle Obama, who borrowed a 1950s Norman Norelli gown for the annual Christmas in Washington concert in 2010.

Related: Michelle Obama Wears Michael Kors to the SOTU; Channels ‘The Good Wife’


F. Pinet Shoe, Veil Hat by Unknown Designer

“You can be sitting in a taxi reading an editorial with a New York Vintage piece in it, when a bus pulls up to you with some big campaign—Estee Lauder or L’Oreal—with some of our jewelry, larger than life, and then you go to the movies and the lead is wearing one of our dresses,” Hoey laughs, marveling at the reach of her family-run business. Her office is adjacent to the second floor loft that houses the collection, and next door to that is a nursery for her three children, seven and under.

“Early on,” says Hoey, “I’d take my children on these buying trips to Europe. Which takes passion, and fortitude, and probably a little bit of craziness. I’d have one of them in the carrier, and one holding my hand and I’d be saying ‘How much for the tiara?’” When Galliano stopped by the store, “I was like, I’m sorry, the baby has to eat! Go about your business!”


Thierry Muggler Dress, Paco Rabanne Necklace, Versace Dress

What Hoey and her team offer (along with her husband, she currently has 7 employees) is ultimately an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history.

Need an ostrich capelet or a chain-mail dress by Paco Rabane, stat? If price is no object, New York Vintage has you covered —and you just might bump into Rihanna in the dressing room.


Shannon Hoey, owner of New York Vintage.