Xtabay, Our Vintage Safe Haven
We have a history with Xtabay Vintage. Jade heard about this cute shop in Southeast Portland around five years ago and told me that I must take her to it. Being the wonderful boyfriend that I was, I was more than happy to indulge her curiosities for new fashion havens. To my surprise when we arrived at the Xtabay’s shop front, I absolutely adored everything they had in the window. It was chic, it was stylish, and best of all it was all vintage. Before I met Jade I didn’t go out of my way to know more than the average guy knows about fashion, but I knew that this was the kind of stuff that was aesthetically pleasing to me. I love the styles of the first half of the twentieth century and I still believe to this day that I was born in the wrong era. It didn’t matter that all of the clothing and accessories in the store was for women, I still loved them and loved to see Jade try them on. Yes I was one of those little boys who at every chance I had would go over to the neighbor girls house to play with her barbies. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Jade has been my life size barbie and I love to see her dress up in new and fantastic vintage styles. I even get to sometime photograph her in those outfits, which makes my days worth living.
Since discovering the shop, we developed a relationship with the owner, Liz. She is an absolutely lovely lady with a great sense of humor and a incredibly savvy business women on top of it all. After our visiting her shop became frequent she ended up asking Jade if she would model for her in some shows, something which Jade jumped at the chance to do. Wear fantastic, chic vintage styles and get to be a part of a fashion show? Um, heck yeah! We had the opportunity to style, model, and shoot some of Xtabay Bridal Salon’s pieces earlier this year. Jade even wore a vintage Xtabay dress for our wedding. Suffice to say, we’ve had a bit of a love affair with this vintage shop.
Xtabay is one of those places in Portland that you either absolutely love and visit all of the time or have heard of but haven’t had the opportunity to go. We came into the shop to meet with Liz and talk a little bit more about where she has come from and where she is going. After playing with new resident dog, Guy (pronounced Ghe), we refocused our attention to Liz. Liz Gross has been the proprietress of the quaint little shop off of Southeast 28th and Clinton street for over a decade. She actually just celebrated the twelfth anniversary of Xtabay last month. Liz has been in the vintage clothes business for going on two decades, having worked at the Big Bang in downtown Portland when it was still around and had a brief stint as a co-owner of Lady Luck Vintage. But I had no idea that Xtabay had been around for that long so I was determined to get down to the bottom of the history of the place.
It turns out that Xtabay originally started as a vintage, rock ‘n roll clothing shop for both men and women. They even had nude velvet paintings on the walls. Oh man, how I wish I could have it like that. Though they had an extensive women’s side, Liz admitted that the men’s side was a little weird and funky. The average customer for the masculine side of the store was kind of strange and creepy, which didn’t really mesh well with the rest of fresh rock n’ roll vintage vibe she was going for. The business needed to change or it wasn’t going to last. There was only one thing to do… and that definitely wasn’t throw in the towel.
She was at a bridal boutique with her sister in law when she had a lightbulb moment… this was the type of style and look she enjoyed, why couldn’t she accomplish it herself? So she closed the shop for a short time, got rid of the men’s side (sorry fellows), and turned the whole place into a chic, upscale vintage women’s boutique. Reinvented, re-branded, revamped, and revitalized, the new Xtabay Vintage was born. The business has grown with Liz’s own taste over the years and things have only been on the up and up since 2008. In 2011 she opened Xtabay’s bridal salon to rave reviews and recently the shop was even featured in Elle Magazine’s Fashion Spotlight as one of the top 20 vintage stores in the country. Natalie Portman even came into the shop recently while she was in town and Liz got to help her try on a few vintage frocks. Definitely one of those surreal moments in life when you’ve become so successful famous people begin to visit.
I was curious as to how she acquires such beautiful pieces that adorn her shops walls and displays. She gave subtle hints to manifesting powers and a bit of alchemy, but in the end she is just thoroughly practiced at her trade and knows how and when to pounce on the right opportunities. She is able to find large collections from estates whom are looking to repurpose their vintage clothes, like the Betty collection that she came upon last year. Remember the incredible fur coat Jade wore in last year’s Holiday Fashion Show? Yes, that was Betty’s and yes, Jade and Betty where apparently the same exact size. She has even been known to make house calls if the time is right and the iron is hot. So what’s for the future of Liz Gross and Xtabay? Well, you didn’t hear it from us but she may have some pretty big news to share in the near future… so make sure you keep and eye on her blog.
One of the best things about Xtabay is the diversity in the selection of vintage styles. There is everything from Red Lily Pad Print Dresses of the 1960’s era to Green Felted Robin Hood Toppers from the 1940’s. There are ‘new’ pieces that come in every week and it’s always a delight to go in and browse the racks. Be sure to keep an eye on the Xtabay Blog for their latest happenings. And if you aren’t in Portland, don’t fret! You can shop Xtabay on Etsy.
Jade is totally channeling Lucille Ball in that last photo, no?