Steeped In History: Lynda’s Antique Clothing Loft
By Amy Krzanik
Over the past 20 years, the town of Adams, Massachusetts has become something of a pit-stop, a place to refuel on your way to and from North Adams and Pittsfield, but not a destination in itself. Since the closure of the town’s major employer, Waverly Fabrics, in 1991, many businesses have tried and failed to create or keep a foothold along the town’s main thoroughfare, the picturesque Park Street. One of only a handful of success stories has been Lynda’s Antique Clothing Loft. “Every nearby business that was here when I opened the store seven years ago has since closed,” says the store’s owner, the petite and elegant Lynda Meyer.
So, what’s her secret? It could be her vast knowledge of vintage fashions; her shop is stocked with hand-picked clothing and accessories dating from the 1900s to the 1960s. Or it could be her obvious love of what she does, which shows in the store’s two carefully curated window tableaus, which Meyer updates often. (You may have ogled them on your way through town, as they are a welcome departure from the main street’s mostly empty storefronts.)
Meyer grew up in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. On her way to “discovering herself,” she lived in California, studied at the New School of Dance and performed with interpretive jazz bands, worked as an artists’ model in London, taught dance at a Navaho reservation in Chinle, Arizona, and lived in India for a year with an English boyfriend, paying only $6 a month for a one-room house on the beach. “Dance was part of my dialogue with myself, but it generated almost no income,” she says, smiling. She eventually moved back to NYC to look for work.
The self-taught fashion historian (Meyer was a sociology major in college but dropped out), ended up working for a friend who owned a vintage clothing shop in the city. On her hour-long train commute, she would immerse herself in old fashion catalogs, and found that remembering all the details came easily to her.
When the friend moved to Pittsfield and opened Greystone Gardens, the former vintage clothing boutique on North Street, Meyer followed. At that time, NYC was a more dangerous place than it is now, and Meyer was eager to flee after a neighbor was murdered during a home invasion. She eventually bought a home in Adams, drawn to the town’s rolling hills, reasonable housing prices and low crime rate.
After Greystone Gardens closed its doors, Meyer began doing freelance appraisals, and Carl Sprague hired her to design the costume exhibit “The Fruit of the Tree,” which ran at The Mount in Lenox for a year. At this time, Meyer also ran a vintage clothing store out of her house; she would invite people over to drink tea and browse, but friends would end up in her closet trying to purchase items she didn’t intend to sell. Realizing she needed a larger, and preferably completely separate, location to showcase her wares, she opened the Clothing Loft.
The store is a lot like her house, Meyer says. The pink walls and lace curtained entrance give the shop a charming, feminine feel, like a vintage life-sized dollhouse. The clothes help, too. Flattering and well-made dresses from the 1940s-1960s, in an array of colors and patterns, run from $65-$250. Vintage 1950s silk scarves ($10-$70), jewelry from the 1920s-1940s ($65-$120), and hats for women and men made in the years 1900-1960 ($35-$150) are hung on pegs, folded neatly in baskets and lovingly displayed in cases throughout the shop. The most expensive items are the evening dresses, which are perfect for fancy cocktail parties, weddings or proms. They run from $450-$600 and they are exquisite, made with intricate and extensive beadwork, fine satins and velvets, and quality period buttons. Not to be left out, men can find tuxedos and ties, along with winter coats for both sexes ($65-$100).
Besides running the shop, Meyer is still called upon to appraise historical society collections. This could mean anything from cataloging items and setting up displays, to the nitty-gritty of spraying disinfectant to remove bacteria and encouraging the purchase of acid-free paper and boxes in which to store items. “Rust will really spread and ruin something,” she notes.
To refresh her inventory, Meyer scours flea markets, as well as local estate sales. “When I get into a house, my eye is like a Geiger counter,” she says. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years now, and I can pinpoint a piece of clothing within a two-year period, out of 200 years of fashion.” The small rural Berkshire towns offer a great selection of pieces. “People live here for many years and don’t throw anything away. I have access to material other people would be happy to have.”
As for whom she’s selling to, it’s a mixture of locals, friends and tourists traveling through town from South County to MASS MoCA, the costume departments of the Williamstown Theatre Festival and NYC theaters, and online customers who find her through her Etsy store.
Not one to hoard her knowledge, Meyer gives historical fashion lectures throughout the region. Former venues include The Clark, Norman Rockwell Museum, the Litchfield and Falls Village Historical Societies and Smith College. “I never get tired of it,” she says, “it’s like archeology. When something is very old, it has its own aura.”
Lynda’ Antique Clothing Loft
39 Park Street, Adams, MA
Open Tuesdays—Saturdays, 12-5 p.m.
February 1-28: Sweetheart Sale: whites and linens (handmade Victorian petticoats, sleepwear, blouses & other items) 20-50% off.
April 25, Stockbridge: Mid 19th C. Wearables lecture at Norman Rockwell Museum. 5:30 p.m.