In a small, upstairs shop in downtown Cadiz, Kristen Willis runs Kris’ Vintage Clothing. Originally, she wanted to open a children’s bookstore, however, that didn’t end up happening. Instead, she found her passion for finding the perfect vintage apparel for any and every occasion. Vintage is defined as anything 20 years old or older that was not mass produced at the time. Willis focuses much of her attention on getting 1970s and older items. While she will occasionally find a good 80s or 90s piece, she doesn’t gravitate toward them. 

Many people seek out vintage clothes for parties. The 80s style prom dresses can be particularly fun for customers.

 “Usually it’s for an event,” she said. “They wear them to like 80s parties.” 

Willis said she loves to dress vintage but it’s just not feasible for her everyday life. 

“I enjoy dressing up,” she said. 

She loves attending events when she can go. 

Much of her business is done online, but she has the shop space in town available if local customers want to make an appointment with her. She started her Etsy shop in 2011 and eventually opened up her physical location in 2015. The physical space also makes it easier to store and organize all of the vintage pieces away from her home and five children. She typically spends a couple days a week setting up items, taking pictures, and organizing products. Then she lists those things in her shop, prepares and ships out orders, and spends time looking for more vintage apparel. She hunts through yard sales, flea markets, estate sales, and online auctions for most of her products. Sometimes people contact her with items as well.

Buying online can be an issue with authentication. 

“The other day, I got some hats from an online auction. There’s not a lot of pictures and so I was like ‘at least one of those looks like they’re vintage.’ None of them were,” she said. 

Until she has it in her hand, it’s hard to know for sure what’s vintage and what’s not. 

“Vintage clothing has a different feel to modern clothing. Plus, I look for union labels, if it has a zipper and where the zipper location is; I look at tags, labels,” she said.

Often needing to reference online resources to find the age of labels on clothing. Authentication has many small details that go into the process and for the most part with online items she says it’s a “buyer beware” situation. If she ends up with non-vintage items, she usually donates them instead of trying to sell them. 

Her children are kept busy by life on Willis’ and her husband’s beef farm but are sometimes able to lend a hand in the vintage clothes business too. 

“Sometimes, I use them for models,” she said. 

Her kids range in age from 2-16 and it may be surprising to note that one of her big selling categories is children’s clothing. 

“Little girls’ dresses are usually a hot ticket item. Especially the poofier they are, like the pageant dresses, the faster they sell. People love them, especially down south,” she said. 

Willis sells all over the world. She has regular buyers in Australia, Brazil, and China in addition to all over the U.S. with a focus in California and New York. 

Willis is committed to keeping her prices reasonable so that everyone is able to enjoy vintage clothing. She wants to share the joy of all her products, especially hats. She has more than one wall covered in hats and many hats in boxes ready to be assessed and listed. 

When listing hats, she uses a sizer to make sure customers know how it will fit them. She does the same for other items, listing dimensions rather than sizes as many times the garments have been altered in some way, taken in or out for whoever originally purchased them. She doesn’t pull out any seams if a dress has been altered because she wants the buyer to have the most options once they receive their item. 

“Vintage sizes have changed over the years,” she said. 

Giving the customer every possible opportunity to make the garment their own is important to Willis. 

She is also involved in many community activities. She serves on the school board and is treasurer for music boosters. She used to also be a 4-H advisor and co-director at the food pantry, but has had to pull back in recent years to spend more time with her family as her kids get older and themselves become more involved. Willis and her husband still personally sponsor some 4-H events and get involved when they can.  

She is available by appointment through her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Krisvintageclothing) or email. Her website is also always open to browse for that perfect vintage item.