Chelsea Ward looks for quirky, colour­ful, vin­tage pieces

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - SHERYL NADLER

CHELSEA WARD re­cently looked around, took a deep breath and made a div­ing leap into the un­known.

It was scary, she said, but quit­ting her job as a so­cial me­dia co-or­di­na­tor to fo­cus more time and en­ergy on her vin­tage cloth­ing Etsy shop, The Mer­maid’s Purse, was ex­actly what she needed.

“I felt like I needed to take a chance and go for some­thing I was pas­sion­ate about rather than al­ways wait­ing and won­der­ing what could have been,” says the 24-year-old Wa­ter­down res­i­dent.

“Mer­maid’s Purse” refers to the small black pouches from the bod­ies of stingrays or sharks that con­tain their fer­til­ized eggs, ex­plains Ward. As a kid in Nova Sco­tia, she used to hunt for the empty sacs that would oc­ca­sion­ally wash up on the beach, but the sight­ings were rare. Much like un­earthing ex­quis­ite pieces in her daily quests for un­usual vin­tage finds.

Her hunts take her to area thrift shops and sales daily, search­ing for items that fit with her brand, she says. She buys colour­ful, quirky pieces from the 1940s to 1970s eras, al­ways pur­chas­ing items she would wear her­self. That means no, or very lit­tle black, and lots of fun pat­terns and prints. Her look seems to res­onate most in Los An­ge­les, where she says about a quar­ter of her clients re­side.

“I refuse to be bor­ing when I get dressed in the morn­ing,” says Ward, who honed her store man­age­ment skills dur­ing her five years as an as­sis­tant man­ager at the Sal­va­tion Army in Burling­ton. “I’m drawn to crazy pieces.”

Dresses are a must. She wears them al­most ev­ery day, even though they re­quire iron­ing, steam­ing and aren’t al­ways the most prac­ti­cal choice in win­ter. Here she dons a green satin fit-and-flare dress from the ’50s with ivory cro­chet pumps from the ’80s.

She ac­ces­sorizes with lace kid gloves and a gen­uine cowhide bag, circa 1970s.

Most eye-catch­ing piece:

A pink 1960s go-go dress with feath­ered sleeves. It doesn’t even fit me but I will never sell it … it just looks so pretty in my closet.

Quirki­est wardrobe item:

Strange cloth­ing never fails to catch my at­ten­tion. If I see some­thing odd and out of the or­di­nary, I can’t pass it up. Some of my quirki­est cloth­ing: a silk pink pantsuit, a lime green minidress with a ze­bra print all over it (ac­tual ze­bras), and a sparkle night­gown in sil­ver — I wear it as a jacket. Some­times I’ll wear sleep­wear as my nor­mal cloth­ing.

Wardrobe must-have:

A good va­ri­ety of vin­tage dresses in a spread of colours. I like to colour code my closet, which I learned at the Sal­va­tion Army. I find it eas­ier to dress for oc­ca­sions like that. I like to theme my cloth­ing … that way, when you’re look­ing at it from afar, it’s all to­gether. I just find it looks more ap­peal­ing ...

I rec­om­mend a good pair of vin­tage high-waisted jeans or mom jeans. I usu­ally go for Levi’s or Lee’s. They’re re­ally easy to throw on with a cropped blouse or a vin­tage band T-shirt. And I feel like it gives you “cool girl” vibe with­out try­ing too hard.

Best pur­chase:

My favourite items to pur­chase would have to be vin­tage swim­suits. I find them hard to find. The same with vin­tage sun­glasses. So if I re­ally want to treat my­self, I’ll go or­der one on­line ...

A 1960s (one-piece) bathing suit. I have pictures wear­ing it. I got it from (a vin­tage store) in Water­loo. It just fits me per­fectly and it’s full of th­ese crazy colours … pur­ple, blue, it’s like a rain­bow, flo­ral …

Re­grets buy­ing:

Any­thing from the mall. I made a prom­ise to my­self not to buy any­thing from the mall any­more, ex­cept for un­der­wear and bras. I find that they’re all set around trends and they fall apart over time.

And I also don’t want to be wear­ing the same thing that my friend’s wear­ing.

Loves to shop at:

I’ve worked at thrift stores since I was 15. I sup­port places with good causes like the Sal­va­tion Army … I also like to sup­port lo­cal busi­nesses and artists, so a lot of my pur­chases are through Etsy or at stores in Hamilton (like) Girl on the Wing, Ne­wolds, Out of the Past, An­tique Av­enue on Ot­tawa Street, Cheapies Records.

Rid­ding her closet of:

I’m a bit of a hoarder so I try to clean out my closet reg­u­larly. It comes with thrift­ing a lot. Some­times you just take things be­cause you want them to have a home. I’m not a fan of black cloth­ing, so I’ve got­ten rid of ev­ery­thing that’s black in my wardrobe. I just find that colours are so much more ex­cit­ing.

Splurges on:

Any dress that fits in all the right places. It’s hard for me to find vin­tage dresses that fit me prop­erly some­times, so I’m will­ing to spend money on it if I find that per­fect dress.

Beauty prod­uct she can’t live with­out:

Red lip­stick. I like Mac Ruby Woo. It’s a matte lip­stick.

Chelsea Ward, 24, owner of the pop­u­lar vin­tage e-shop The Mer­maid’s Closet, wears a satin emer­ald vin­tage dress (1950s era) with ivory lace pumps (’80s era) and lace gloves. She ac­ces­sorizes with a ’70s era cowhide bag.

Ward likes to make a state­ment with colour, right down to her fin­ger­nails.

Ivory lace pumps (1980s era).

Ward’s 1970s era cowhide bag.


“I refuse to be bor­ing when I get dressed in the morn­ing,” says Ward. “I’m drawn to crazy pieces.”

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