Photograph by Rachel McGinn
Meet Stuart Mesires, a collector and curator of vintage costume jewelry, clothing, and accessories. Stuart is the founder and owner of Ladybug Vintage, recently named “the best source for high-end vintage” by Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP.
To get a sense of what Ladybug Vintage is all about, think Country Club Chic and Debutante-Allure, with a dose of 60’s/70’s Rock & Soul thrown in for good measure. Lee Radziwell, Grace Kelly, Bianca Jagger, Jane Birkin, and maybe a little Aretha or Velvet Underground. Stuart’s collection is always changing, yet she maintains a beautiful, studied focus and intentionality. We talked to Stuart about her passion for vintage and how we can incorporate this into our lives.
Vintage is not only in the eye of the beholder--it can transform a look and define a style. That said, are there any rules of thumb to follow? For example, do bracelets call for bare wrists? Do rings look better standing alone or stacked with others?
I like to think that there are no rules. That anything goes. Some days it’s fun to wear a bracelet stack or have a ring on every finger, and then other days it’s fun to wear a ring or bracelet on its own. That being said, the one rule that I do have is to not wear head-to-toe vintage. When I’m wearing vintage, I want to evoke an era. I don’t want it to look as though I’m wearing a costume. I really love to mix vintage pieces with new ones. I don’t want it to necessarily be obvious that I am wearing something vintage - just that I am wearing something unique and special. I love the mix of wearing vintage with new pieces so much that I have created a hashtag that I use all of the time for my Instagram posts - #mixofvintageandnew.
What is your favorite way to make a statement with vintage pieces?
If I want to make a statement with a vintage piece of jewelry, I wear the piece with clothing that has a simple silhouette and color. For instance, wearing a large statement necklace with a black dress that has a simple silhouette creates an outfit in and of itself and highlights the necklace. The look can be finished with a small simple pair of earrings that won’t detract. If you want to highlight a pair of statement earrings, wear them without a necklace and only a simple cuff bracelet.
Do you have a favorite designer you gravitate towards? Kenneth Jay Lane, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Hermes, Givenchy, Trifari?
Tough question because I am always finding amazing pieces - even ones that are unmarked or have an unfamiliar designer name on them. But, if I have to choose, I’d say the pieces that I tend to gravitate towards the most are 1960’s and 1970’s Kenneth Jay Lane pieces, 1970’s and 1980’s Yves Saint Laurent pieces, and 1970’s Trifari pieces.
The “Helen” of Helen Jon is Gwyn Prentice’s, Helen Jon’s founder, beloved great aunt. And, notably, Helen was married to Leo Trifari. As you can see, the love of fashion runs deep in our company. Do you have a favorite Trifari piece?
Wow! That is so cool. I would LOVE to see Gwyn’s Great Aunt’s jewelry collection! I’m sure she has some amazing pieces. I love Trifari. They have made so many wonderful and varied pieces throughout the decades. My favorite Trifari necklace is one that I wear over and over again. It is a large, modernist, silver-toned pendant necklace from the 1970s. I find that it goes amazingly well with my style of dressing and works with both my casual and more dressed up looks. It is my go-to and has been for years!
How did your time working for Lilly Pulitzer and Tommy Hilfiger prepare you for your own venture?
Lilly Pulitzer and Tommy Hilfiger both have such distinctive styles. They are masters at creating a brand. If you see a piece from either line, you most likely know right away where it came from. Working at these companies really imparted the importance of having a brand identity or message that is carried throughout the line. Even though I am selling vintage, I try to keep a certain consistent look throughout the pieces that I curate for the collection.
Your collection features many animals, flowers, insects, things of that sort. Do you find that women often gravitate to a specific “thing” that might ultimately symbolize their style? And is that why your collection is called “Ladybug?”
The collection features those pieces because that is what I am personally drawn to. I only curate pieces for Ladybug Vintage that I love. My collection is called ‘Ladybug’ for several reasons. First, I have always been drawn to ladybugs; secondly, the image of ladybugs was used prolifically in the 1960’s and 1970’s - my favorite eras for vintage fashion; and lastly the ladybug is a symbol of reincarnation or rebirth, and I like the idea that wearing vintage pieces gives them a second life or rebirth.
The Chinese Year of the Pig is right around the bend. Do you anticipate some fun jewelry to ring this in? Do you like to give a nod to things like this, say a Zodiac sign, a specific holiday, or some such occasion, when choosing pieces and a look?
I do! I love jewelry that has a personal meaning to the wearer, such as Zodiac or Chinese Zodiac symbols. The 1960’s and 1970’s were huge eras for zodiac signs, so I am always finding fun, amazing zodiac pieces. You can just imagine someone walking into a party in the era of “What’s your sign?” with their zodiac sign on full display!
When you see a piece that you love, do you imagine the life it had and wonder about how it will be worn in its new incarnation?
I do! It’s fun to imagine who has worn a particular piece, how it was worn, and where it has been before. And going forward, it’s fun to imagine the life that it has ahead of it, not just with the new Ladybug Vintage customer but beyond that. Perhaps the customer will pass the pieces on to her children - who knows.
What do you think in today’s couture or jewelry-world will be most coveted as “vintage” forty or so years from now?
I think that both Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana make amazing and innovative costume jewelry pieces that will be very collectible for years to come.
Vintage pieces can make wonderful gifts. What is your favorite thing to give?
One of my favorite things to give is a vintage zodiac pendant. It’s fun and personal to give a friend a pendant with their birth sign on it or to give them pendants with the signs of their children. All of the pendants can all be worn together on one chain which makes a fun and personal statement piece.
With the holidays just behind us and thank-you note season upon us, it got us thinking: the handwritten note complements a vintage-inspired life. We loved how the author of The Preppy Handbook, so many years ago, inscribed her books, “Collars Up!” How do you sign your thank-you notes and personal letters?
I now need to come up with a clever inscription! I usually just sign off with ‘oxo Stuart’ but I’m thinking that something much more creative is needed. I think that in this age of constant movement, stress, and electronic communication, a handwritten note is so special. It is tactile and touched by the sender and is really so much more personal than sending an email or text. I send handwritten notes whenever possible on Ladybug stationery!
Thank you, Stuart! This has been such a treat, getting to know you better and learning more about Ladybug Vintage. We hope our readers choose to add to or begin collecting pieces that inspire and resonate from them. And we encourage everyone to make their first-stop with you at Ladybug.