South Florida’s Vintage Community — it’s About More Than Collecting, it’s About Preserving History

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December 26, 2021

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(OAKLAND PARK, Fla.) – Those who are a part of the vintage community say that it’s more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle, and Carol Moran, a frequent shopper at Vintage Diversity in South Florida couldn’t agree more.

“I think it’s fun,” says Moran. “It’s a way of life and people buy into it.”

With items ranging from clothes, costumes, and props that date all the way back to the  1920s through the 1980s, nestled in Oakland Park, Florida, Vintage Diversity is the go-to spot for those who love the vintage lifestyle. 

That ‘fun’ that Moran speaks of is one that owner Melanie Garbo has created. Stepping into the store is like a time capsule. She designed the store to become a site for  ‘old souls’ within the vintage community in South Florida where they could show appreciation for items of the past and the preservation of history.

The Journey to Creating a Vintage Meeting Ground

Just like any origin story, the journey to creating Vintage Diversity took time.

Garbo always had a talent for putting things together and working with her hands. Inside Vintage Diversity, Garbo dedicates a specific spot to her Naples High School class of 77.  Like anyone’s time in high school, when new fashion styles roll in, clothing that was once considered ‘in style,’ quickly become old news.

But for Garbo, she saw an opportunity with one dress. She took some of the fabric she had from a peasant maxi dress of hers and made a matching purse. This special drawstring bag is on display and is one of the many reminders of the love and appreciation that Garbo has for vintage. 

Image courtesy of Melanie Garbo

Garbo founded Vintage Diversity’s infancy after deciding to leave her corporate job in 1996 and pursue her creative interests part-time while raising her daughter. She originally set up her boutique in an antique mall in Boca Raton. 

But six months after setting up shop, the building was sold and everyone there had to leave and find a new space. Most of the people who had set up their shops at the old antique mall moved to a new one in Delray. But for Garbo, she had to find a new place that would accept items past the 60s. 

So, what did Garbo do? 

“I found a little 500 square foot place in Wilton Manners,” said Garbo. “I didn’t know anything about retail, I didn’t know anything about business, but I had a talent of putting things together since I was a little kid.”

In 2005, Garbo was able to move into a bigger space, purchasing a 3000 square foot store. Vintage Diversity has become a place where people can not only shop and rent vintage pieces but also get help from Garbo herself in putting together a costume for a special event.

Putting together outfits comes naturally to Garbo, and with that gift, she can easily tell you the history behind each clothing piece she has curated over the years.

Photo credit: Samantha Soria

“She knows where everything is in that place,” said Moran.

For the past 20-some years, Moran, who owns restaurant Apt. 9F in Wilton Manors has turned to Vintage Diversity and Garbo for every event, fundraiser, etc., and knows that she can count on Garbo to put an outfit together.

For Nicole Alvy, the first time she walked into Vintage Diversity, she felt just how special the store was, but also, how incredibly unique the community was as well.

“That very first time I walked in there, that special, nostalgic feeling just hit me right in the face,” said Alvy. “It tugged at my heartstrings.”

Vintage Diversity provides a sort of escape from the outside world as soon as you walk in the door, said Alvy. 

“It provides a nice break away from the things you see in stores, or really anywhere, every day,” said Alvy. “The magic of a time when things didn’t seem so bleak. It’s a pick-me-up for sure as soon as you walk in.”

And for Alvy, that escapism that the vintage community and Vintage Diversity provides is even better when she gets to share that experience with her daughter. Showing her daughter the things that she used to wear and telling her stories from when she grew up in the 80s is what the community is all about – passing down knowledge, stories, and passion.

The Community’s Passion for Vintage 

For Garbo, growing up shy and introverted was tough. 

“Couldn’t speak up for myself, if I wanted to try, I’d immediately cry,” Garbo says.

Growing up in a strict Italian Catholic household, Garbo was given a lot of responsibility leaving little time for play. Still, Garbo was able to find peace in some areas like music.

Photo credit: Samantha Soria

“I think I was just destined to be an old soul,” said Garbo. “I found some solace in areas that nobody else cared about.”

Garbo found solace in music from the 60s and 70s. The artists at that time, Garbo says, were storytellers.

“The lyrics were about experiences,” says Garbo. “The folk music, the soft rock, all of it is about experiencing pain, hardship, loss, and getting through it, and I could identify will all of it.”

And just like music, vintage clothing has lived through many experiences as it is passed down from person to person and from generation to generation.

“I’ve always loved pieces of clothing and shoes that I’ve received from my mother, my aunt’s, and my grandmother,” said Alvy.

Preserving History One Thread at a Time

Just as lyrics tell a story, the pieces that Garbo has collected over the years tell a story as well. Garbo not only has a deep respect for the history behind each item of clothing, but she has a deep respect for the craft behind each piece.

The pieces that Garbo has collected over time are extremely delicate and watching her navigate throughout her store and assist customers, one can see how important these articles of clothing are to her.

Photo credit: Samantha Soria

When looking for new items, whether it be at an estate sale or visiting thrift stores, the pieces that she brings back don’t look the way they do once they’re on display. Garbo takes the time to restore the pieces she finds. From cleaning, mending buttons, restoring zippers, she brings life back to the pieces she finds, and essentially, that is when the curating begins.

“There’s no more new vintage,” says Garbo. “There’s nothing made today that would be good enough to first of all, last.” 

Alvy appreciates the preservation that Vintage Diversity does for the community, not just with the clothing, but the props and accessories as well.

Garbo is aware of the detailing and hard work that is behind every piece of clothing. Preserving it is extremely important to her because in doing so, she is preserving the history and stories behind each of these items.

Long Live Vintage!

The vintage world is a unique one — from the clothes to its community members. But in South Florida, the vintage community agrees that Vintage Diversity is helping keep history alive while also creating a space for the ‘old souls’ to come together and celebrate.

“It’s history, it’s quality, it’s personalization, it’s your personality,” says Garbo about the vintage community.

And if you’re new to the vintage community, you can count on Garbo’s passion, dedication, and respect for each item she has curated over the years. Her devotion to vintage reflects in her relationship with customers.

“I don’t think it will ever go out of style,” said Alvy. “It’s only going to roll over into our children’s children and so on. I don’t think vintage will ever go out of style. It hasn’t yet.”

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