Fifteen years ago, Candice Gwinn moved to New Orleans from Atlanta with $5,000 to open a small vintage boutique. Inspired by the style of classic Hollywood starlets, she called the store Trashy Diva (829 Chartres St., 581-4555; 2048 Magazine St., 299-8777; www.trashydiva.com), and stocked it with items for a customer who might describe herself as an "irreverent beauty — the girl who doesn't always follow the rules."
After three years of selling vintage clothing, Gwinn says prices for such items soared. "I was unable to find and sell (clothing from) the vintage eras that I liked at reasonable prices," she says. "It actually became more cost-effective to manufacture my own vintage-inspired styles." She also needed something to wear that would flatter her body type. The Trashy Diva line was born.
Gwinn's original designs incorporate elements from antique and vintage clothing. "People call the look pin-up or retro, but some styles are more fashion forward," she says of the line, which comes in sizes 0-18. "I wanted young and fun clothing that fit a woman's figure. ... The clothing is always feminine and fits a variety of body shapes."
Trashy Diva is known for its signature prints and dress patterns. Currently, there are about 75 different styles in the line, which also includes blouses, skirts and jackets. "Our print styles range each season from vintage reproduction fabrics to original print designs," Gwinn says. "All of our printed fabric is created exclusively for our brand." The line is made from designer-quality natural fabrics like silk and cotton. Each season brings new styles.
In addition to the two main clothing boutiques, there's also Trashy Diva Shoe Boutique (839 Chartres St., 522-8200; 2050 Magazine St., 265-0973), Trashy Diva Corset and Lingerie Boutique (831 Chartres St., 522-8861) and Truck Stop Clothing (2209 Magazine St., 302-1895; www.truckstopnola.com) which offers vintage clothing, Western wear, boots and denim for men, kids and women. All locations sell vintage-inspired jewelry and accessories.
Gwinn wants her customers to feel empowered to take more fashion risks and to have fun with their clothing. The staff wears the Trashy Diva line and offers customers the attentive service of a personal shopper. Whether the customer needs to be "fitted for a bra, measured for a corset, dressed for [a] wedding or have shoes matched to [an] office suit," the staff is ready to personalize the experience, Gwinn says.
Trashy Diva's care and attention to detail is evident in the elegant shop decor: Hollywood Regency meets French New Orleans style, as Gwinn describes it. All employees also contribute to a blog about events and fashion. Local and international customers shop on the Trashy Diva website, and Gwinn says the store's reach has exceeded her expectations.
"I never imagined in 1996 at the age of 21 that a tiny vintage clothing store would evolve into six New Orleans locations and a thriving wholesale and Internet business," Gwinn says.