LIVINGSTON — If you're looking for the perfect poodle skirt to wear to the sock hop, an online clothing company and vintage shop run out of a Staten Island home might help.
Vivian Vassar has owned and operated Hey Viv! Vintage Clothing for nearly 30 years, which specializes in poodle skirts, circle skirts, crinolines and more from the '40s and '50s style of dress, either designed by Vassar and her crew or vintage pieces she finds.
"We think of ourselves as having a Sock Hop division, and then we also thinking ourselves of having a division that's sweet retro," Vassar said. "If you want to dress up for a dance or a party or you just like that lifestyle of having things that are pretty, feminine and maybe show off your curves."
Aside from orders from her site, Hey Viv! has supplied retro clothes for TV shows like "Community," dressed workers at a '50s themed casino in Iceland, and wholesales pieces out to stores and catalogues around the world.
"We have stuff all over the world in I think pretty unusual places," Vassar said.
The line sells the designs — usually inspired by a vintage piece she finds — on Etsy, Amazon and her own site, and she employs three workers to help her sort out inventory, develop ideas, and ship out clothes.
The crew sends out around 50-100 orders a day from its Clinton Avenue home base, as well as handles customer service, designs new dresses, and tries to talk to regular customers to get feedback on designs. The team even started a contest where fans can name its latest dress online.
The store started in 1986 after Vassar, who always loved to dress in and collect vintage clothing, decided that her closet was too big and she found she got equal enjoyment out of dressing her friends in vintage threads as well.
"I realized as I accumulated 'I love it, but I don't have to wear it,'" she said. "I needed something to work on in the future and a friend said 'why don't you sell it since you buy it so much?'"
She opened up a storefront in Port Richmond, which eventually expanded in two, and in 1999, after the birth of her third son and her discovery of eBay, she closed up shop and went online only.
And even though she no longer has a Staten Island storefront, Vassar said she's still firmly rooted in her home borough and has recently paired with other local designers for pieces.
"That's something that we do to keep in touch with everyone on Staten Island," Vassar said.
Vassar, who left her job in market research to open her first shop, said she never looked back at her decision to focus her career on '50s clothes.
"I feel really lucky that I get to make a living doing what I love," she said.