Photograph by Jonathan Willis
When she’s not advising the students at Sycamore Junior High School, Jessica Ruggiero is hunting down her next vintage treasure.
What is your preferred style era? The 1940s and ’50s. I’m first and foremost always trying to make an hourglass figure, so I’m drawn to structured clothes with defined waistlines.
Who is your inspiration? Mae West was a curvy girl with a great sense of humor. And her humor was sexy. I’m also inspired by characters like Joan on Mad Men, or by any vintage pin-up girls.
Where do you shop? Nvision and Mustard Seed, but primarily I shop at thrift stores and estate sales. Valley Thrift in Reading is my go-to. I’ve found amazing vintage pieces there. I also like Modcloth online for a retro aesthetic, but I get most of my ideas from vintage pieces.
How do you make vintage work for you at school? Vintage clothing is actually very work-appropriate. It’s classy and feminine, but not over-the-top. I’ll mix vintage pieces with more modern ones, like a modern shift dress and a vintage jacket. I don’t usually go head-to-toe vintage.
Why is vintage so important to you? There’s something really interesting about clothes—where they come from and what they convey to people. And the stories. I research my pieces, so it makes for good conversation. A lot of people are afraid that they couldn’t choose vintage pieces.
Any advice for people trying for a vintage find? You have to be really patient when you’re searching for a vintage piece, especially clothes. A lot of the time I don’t buy anything. And that’s OK, because I’m building a collection.
Originally published in the January 2013 issue.