Mention the word Ottawa, and a few things always come to mind: Parliament Hill, Alanis Morissette, trophy wife Marlen Cowpland. “Clothing capital” isn’t usually near the top of the list. While the vintage clothing scene in Ottawa is smaller than it’s counterparts in cities like Toronto, it’s been steadily growing the past few years, thankyouverymuch. A good part of this is due to vintage aficionados, including Maryann Harris of Reclectica.
On Sunday, March 1st, Maryann temporarily transformed her mother’s home into a makeshift clothing shop –- racks of fifties party dresses filled the living room, bedrooms became communal dressing rooms, with beaded clutches and brightly coloured fedoras displayed on the back porch. This was the second time in recent months that Harris had such a sale (the last one occurred in January during the Ottawa bus strike, so this one took place for the people who couldn’t make it the first time). Maryann used to have a booth in Ottawa’s Antique Market, but is now mostly only involved in shows, like The Capital Clothing Show.
With a full time job outside of Reclectica, Maryann emphasises that those who get involved in the business do it not for money, but for a love of clothing.
“It’s important to understand that for every dress sold, about twenty five need to be bought,” she explains. “When selling vintage clothing, your stock is limited so it’s really a matter of the right person coming in at the right time looking for the right style in the right size.”
There are only a few opportunities every year for Ottawa vintage sellers to showcase their stuff, which is part of the reason why Maryann believes it is crucial to continue supporting the city’s vintage scene –- support received not only from her regular customers (whom she describes as being the backbone of her business), but from other dealers as well.
“The people that are in this business do it because of a passion for clothing,” says Maryann, who continues to describe them as her peers rather than competitors, calling them out by name. “These are all creative people: Mika from Young Janes, Sylvie from Orange, Jaime of Aunt Olives, the Victoire girls, Ragtime‘s John and Shirley – these are all people who are passionate about what they do, and when you support them, you are supporting Ottawa’s creativity. It’s win-win.”