Even though trends come and go, vintage jewelry is always in style, according to Veronica Staudt, founder of Vintage Meet Modern. Veronica believes vintage jewelry is one of the best fashion investments you can make because it always fits, and you can always find modern ways to style it. She joined the Jewelry Journey podcast to share her tips for sourcing vintage jewelry, pairing it with what’s already in your closet and feeling your best every day. Read the transcript below.
Sharon: Hello everyone, welcome to the Jewelry Journey podcast. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Veronica Staudt, founder of Vintage Meet Modern. Veronica has more than 20 years of experience in the jewelry and accessories industry. She is part of the “vintage meet modern” movement, which is devoted to helping women look and feel their best by wearing jewelry and accessories. She has worked with modern fashion brands such as J. Crew and Ann Taylor, local boutiques and more, showing her clients how easy it is to wear vintage jewelry with modern styles. Veronica, welcome to the podcast.
Veronica: Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
Sharon: Delighted to have you. Can you tell us about your jewelry journey?
Veronica: My jewelry journey goes back all the way to when I was a wee, little girl who was four years old. I enjoyed endless hours of entertainment playing in my grandmother’s jewelry box. I have been lucky to be around jewelry my whole life, and I got to see from a very early age, the power that a piece of jewelry had, that could change a woman’s look so easily. I got very lucky.
I’d like to share a quick personal story. I grew up in a big family where there were lots of little children running around. My grandmother would let me play in her jewelry box. Later on, in life, when I was a teenager, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and to watch somebody who faded away was difficult. But something very special that I learned was that my grandfather always put my grandmother’s pearls on her every day, up until the end. For six years, she didn’t really know herself, but her mood improved and so did her outlook when she wore her pearls; every day looking and feeling her best, even when she had a hospital gown on.
Of course, that was the grandmother that let me play in her jewelry box. So, I had this very emotional attachment to seeing her in her pearls. They were the one thing that, when she passed away, I asked if I could have. I wore them on my eighth-grade graduation, my high school graduation, my college graduation, my first job interview. I learned that it was like an anchor that I would put on, and I would feel so good about it. As I ventured out into my own career, into my own life, I would connect with people about how almost everybody has a sentimental piece of jewelry, even if they don’t wear it all the time, or they’re attracted to something they feel comforted by. Maybe they didn’t have a sentimental story of it, but they loved when somebody paid them a compliment over a great pair of earrings they were wearing. That’s how I fell in love with jewelry, and it became such a natural part of who I was. Later on, in life, I did take a job at Neiman Marcus in Chicago and I started in the jewelry department. That began my more formal career into my jewelry journey, but my personal story started from a very young age of seeing its ability to transform people as well as connect people.
Sharon: Wow! That’s a great story about your grandmother’s pearls. What was the catalyst for creating Vintage Meet Modern?
Veronica: In 2009, I found myself in a situation where I was going back to work and I also found myself in a situation where I was gifted something. I came from a very large family and I also came from a family where people often would say to each other, “Can you help me out with some things?” Someone gave me a big, gigantic box of costume vintage jewelry. They thought I would naturally know what to do with it because I had worked in the jewelry department and the accessories department at Neiman’s for five years. I was the top salesperson there, specializing in jewelry, but there was a unique twist to that, too. I started in the jewelry department, but I eventually became a personal shopper and personal stylist. But they knew I’d know what to do with it, because I knew the brands were inside the box. I also had two daughters who were two and four, and I think they thought, “Well, worst case scenario, you can let them play dress up with it.” I was literally told, “You can donate it. You can toss it. You can do what you want with it, but you have to be responsible for it.” So, I took home this big box of stuff, and the sentimental person in me looked in it and immediately saw my grandmother staring back at me. I saw all the pieces that I remembered growing up around.
I really did not do very much with it, but I had worked in personal shopping and styling for a long time, and while I was transitioning back into working—my specialty had always been helping women look and feel their best, but I also had these clients that—they were very solid in what they liked to wear every day. They were busy. They knew they needed to be comfortable. Some of them had children. Some of them traveled for work. So, they were very rooted in their clothing, but they craved having something that would set them apart from the rest. I said to them, “That’s fine. Let’s meet at our usual places. Let’s meet at Neiman’s. Let’s meet at Bloomingdales, but when we go to lunch, I have this tray of stuff that I think we should look through to help you accessorize your suit.” In the very beginning, it was like, “Well, why wouldn’t we just go down to the jewelry counter?” or “Why wouldn’t we just go over the fine jewelry section?” and I said, “Because we go there, and then you say everything looks the same. I have a little secret. I have stuff you can’t find at all the places, after we’ve picked your suit or your favorite pair of jeans and a white shirt.” This concept of bringing vintage jewelry to mix with their modern clothes was born just like that, on a dining room table. I had this wonderful experience watching these clients light up, being like, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s the golden ticket! That’s the piece that, when I go to speak on stage, when I lecture as a professor, I’m going to wear to set me apart from the rest. That’s the piece I’m going to wear to the black-tie gala because nobody else is going to have anything else like it.” Suddenly, I ran into this wonderful problem to have, which was that the clients were excited about what they already had hanging in their closets. Now they wanted access to more pieces that were unique. That is how Vintage Meet Modern was born.
Sharon: That’s a great story and I can see how women’s eyes would light up having something that’s different. How do you define vintage in terms of a time period, and how old do you think something has to be to be considered vintage?
Veronica: We consider vintage at Vintage Meet Modern a piece that is 20 years or older and out of production. We do work with some new clients or some jewelry companies that have been in business for a very long time, like Kenneth J. Lane, Miriam Haskell, even David Yurman’s pushing over 20 years. I’ve been in the business long enough and some of the designers we work with now have been in business for a long time, but a majority of the pieces we pick and that we take into our collections to define as vintage are 20 years old and out of production.
Sharon: That’s great because it’s so hard to define. You’ve talked a little bit about why women should consider wearing vintage jewelry. What other thoughts do you have about why women should consider wearing vintage when they’re wearing jeans and a white blouse, like you mentioned, or going to the grocery store?
Veronica: First, not just working with my clients, but talking with women in general, we’ve all that had moment where we’re standing in our closets going, “I have nothing to wear.” Whether you have a husband or a significant other or your personal shopper, they’re all rolling their eyes going, “It’s not possible for you to say you have nothing to wear.” I thought to myself, “For the number of times that I stood in front of my own closet, feeling that I had nothing to wear, why do we stand in front of the closet agonizing over this?” We all must get dressed to join the day, but we also all live in a world where we’re constantly being flooded by images of what we should look like and what’s in style. I love to encourage women to gravitate towards their jewelry box or towards vintage in general whenever they feel like, “I have nothing to wear.” I always say that for three reasons. A fantastic jewelry piece or a fantastic accessory can instantly change your mood. They joke about it when you’re watching makeover shows or even when you’re flipping through a magazine, you know the five-minute makeover—you can go from feeling really basic to outstandingly beautiful by putting on an incredible pair of earrings, and you never even needed to go into a dressing room.
Second, I love to use that meme that goes around and jokes, “I don’t mean to brag, but my earrings from high school still fit me.” Our body changes. It fluctuates. We have children. We go through periods of our life where maybe we’re not getting to the gym as much. Maybe we have something else that happens where we lose a lot of weight, for whatever reason. That’s another fantastic thing about using jewelry as the special part to elevate your look and make you look more distinctive. It always fits. The earrings you have from 20 years ago, when you take care of them, will still fit you 20 years from now. True, there are other things you might feel more comfortable wearing, but in general, for most people, the jewelry always fits. You don’t have to have a basic wardrobe; I’m not telling you to go out and just buy five white T-shirts, although there’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to wear the same black suit every single day, but you can feel good about the quality of the clothes you’re investing in and not get bored with your look. You deserve to look and feel your best every single day. So, set yourself apart by investing in quality jewelry that you love because you can use it as an investment, a statement piece. I work with clients that are complete and total introverts and they’ll tell me, “I would have never worn a statement like this, but I was less nervous to speak on stage about my paper,” or “I wore that necklace and everybody complimented me before I got up to give my presentation, and I felt like a million bucks when I gave it.” That is the best compliment a stylist can have. I want you to look and feel your best every day.
Sharon: That’s great! Those are great reasons. I can’t remember if I told the story before, but I bought a pair of the shrimp earrings in the 80s and they still fit, yes. I still have them. I wore them to a store—this is probably in the last year—and when I walked in, this woman, who was least 30 years younger that I am, said to me, “Oh, those are so great. They’re so vintage,” and I thought, “Oh, my god! O.K., yes, they are.”
Give us some examples of the work you do and why your clients come to you and give us one example that you think stands out.
Veronica: We most notably work with women who are very busy and, like I said, they are very comfortable in what they wear. They do not mind investing in quality pieces, so they might treat themselves to a nicer pair of jeans. They might invest in a couple of great jackets, but they’re also busy enough that they want to change their look frequently and easily, and they don’t want to look like everyone. That’s where the vintage jewelry and the statement pieces come in. It’s such an easy way to make themselves look and feel their best, set themselves apart from the rest, and really, be stylish everywhere they go. I find that our clients are people who want to do their best in the world, so they take their appearance seriously. It’s not about vanity. It is about looking and feeling your best every day. We work with a lot of clients that shop at all the places you and I do, and then they want that distinctive accessory they can’t find anywhere else.
Sharon: When I think about the black suit or black pants and a black top, it’s the canvas. They can change their vintage every day and have something that people really focus on, and not, “Oh, she’s in the same black suit.”
Sharon: Is there an example you have where a woman was resistant and then overjoyed—like, “Oh, I can’t wear that?”
Veronica: I have two good examples of that. The first of which is that I do work with a lot of women who have very busy lives, which include having children. I have three of my own and one of the most transformative things was working with a woman who was pregnant four times in the amount of time I’ve worked with her on a regular basis. Not only was she busy leading a very busy career life, but she was also busy growing her family, and pregnancy is hard. I’m not going to deny that. Your body changes and you don’t always look and feel your best, and it’s a huge pain as you are a growing a child. You constantly want to change your wardrobe. I remember feeling her frustration as she was getting ready to present something. She had a black dress, but she stood in front of the mirror and the shoes didn’t fit. She was uncomfortable. She didn’t want anything she couldn’t easily put on and take off herself, because getting into the fitting room to even try on something was difficult. But we found these three outstanding vintage statement necklaces, and every single one of them made her feel amazing. Again, to watch somebody light up and feel like, “I know that my body is making me feel uncomfortable, but I feel like myself in my own skin right now,” it’s an extremely powerful transformation.
Another example is someone who was transitioning from working every day and was used to wearing structured jackets and brooches. She had this gorgeous collection of pieces, and she thought to herself, “I don’t wear suits every day. What am I going to do now? I have all of these beautiful brooches.” We spent a day figuring out different ways for her to wear them. We found out that, with her lifestyle now, wearing ponchos and cashmeres and those types of things was a perfect solution to still get that glamour and sparkle and the things she loved. This was an example of doing the opposite. We were going into her jewelry box and saying, “O.K., maybe we’re not going to wear this structured pantsuit every day, we’re not going to wear this blazer every day, but let’s think of different ways we can incorporate these pieces so you can still enjoy them.” I love that, because that goes along with the whole “the jewelry always fits” idea. It goes along with the philosophy that you can invest in quality pieces to enjoy your entire lifetime. There are different ways to make jewelry work with anything you have. Whether you’re wearing a diamond necklace and you’re going shopping at the grocery store, or you’re going into court every day, or you’re attending your daughter’s or your son’s wedding, let’s find a way to wear that memorable piece, the same way I wore those pearls.
Sharon: That makes a lot of sense, especially when you mention the diamond necklace and the grocery store. We’re in Los Angeles and nobody dresses up. You go out in the evening; nobody looks twice if you’re in jeans and a T-shirt. If you have that stuff, you must wear it. You can’t wait for the special occasion. Maybe there’s a wedding or something, but you may have to wait a long time to wear something.
Do you see the trend and interest in vintage continuing, or do you think this is part of a cycle, where it’s going to cycle out and go back into people wanting new?
Veronica: No, I’m very excited for the role that vintage jewelry plays in today’s fashion, especially with the kind of retail market we’re seeing today, for a lot of different reasons. First, I feel like people want to be a part of something that triggers their memories and nostalgia, regardless of whether they are of a younger generation or an older generation, because I believe there are brands that are rooted in the legacy movement. They’re trying to work with millennials who are saying they want experiences, and that’s the thing. Jewelry is an experience. Unlike other retail, jewelry is still very much an experience, even for a younger generation. It’s a way to connect to something that’s related to an experience.
As we think about older generations, again, I think you get to an age where you crave something that’s part of your past but is not necessarily in your face. We’re seeing a lot of brands that are proud of saying, “This is a revival; this is a throwback to our most popular 1970s DVF wrap dress.” So, we’re seeing people who are saying, “Well, if we’re seeing a revival with new things, why can’t I have the original and authentic?” That’s why we’re seeing this parallel where people are saying yes to authentic. We have to invest in working with what we have. We can’t be afraid to go out and search for the authentic, and we’re also seeing this parallel of, “How we can mix it all together?” That is the true “vintage meet modern” experience. I don’t think vintage jewelry is going to go away, especially when there are so many things people love like Downton Abbey and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or even a few years ago when Mad Men was still popular. You might not dress period every day, but jewelry gives you the ability to have a little bit of glamour in your life every day, without, for lack of a better way of putting it, starving yourself and trying to have a size 28 waist, like those teeny, tiny little mid-century modern dresses. It’s nice to have a little bit of past and a little bit of glamour every day, and still be able to wear what you want. I think vintage jewelry is going to be even more on the rise.
Sharon: That makes sense. You work with clients personally and you also have your website, where you have some interesting, beautiful vintage pieces that people can look at. Do you have people call you and say, “I see this piece and I’m thinking about wearing it with a blue suit, but I don’t know,” and then you talk with them about it? How does that work? Do people just order? They’re one of a kind, and I presume everything on the site is vintage, so when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Veronica: We found that, for us, we did well in person. We would go and meet with brands and retailers, and we’d basically do style seminars. We’d have women come up to us afterwards and go, “O.K., I know I have to buy the brooch and the earrings today because they’re one of a kind, but how do I find you online or in the future? Where are you going to pop up again? I feel really awesome about this sweater I got, but I know I’m going to want more brooches.” So, I said, “You know what? We have the website.” We became very well known for connecting on social media and by way of Facebook Live. When people had the same questions, they were asking me in person, I could answer them online. So, what you said is a perfect example.
We have people who will email us, and we actually do an episode of something called “Wear This With That,” where we talk about whatever our latest collection is that we’re putting together. We’ll say, “In our personal opinion,” or “In all my years of style expertise, I will tell you that these brooches will go perfectly with a classic black blazer, white shirt and a pair of jeans, and these are all perfect statement earrings to wear with the latest dresses you see in Anthropologie.” It really is “Wear This With That.” Every week, we have a large online community that tunes in to see what we’re telling them, to pair this with that. It’s a great opportunity for people to talk with me personally. You can schedule a style session and we can do it virtually or in person if you’re in the Chicagoland area, or you can always tune into our shows and find out what we’re suggesting you put with the pieces we’re curating, all the things you’re seeing at the stores you love.
Sharon: That sounds great for when people are shopping to find the latest things and then they’re saying, “What am I going to do to really make it unique?” Veronica, thank you so much for being here. To everybody listening, we’ll have Veronica’s contact information in the show notes at TheJewelryJourney.com as well as a link to her site and everything she’s mentioned.
That wraps up another episode of the Jewelry Journey. If you like what you heard and you’d like to hear more, you can subscribe on iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts, and please review us. We’ll be back next time with another thought-provoking guest giving us their professional take on the world of jewelry. Thank you so much for listening.
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