Spring has sprung! Everywhere else, it seems like it’s warm, the sun has been shining, the birds are chirping… but here in the Pacific Northwest, it is absolutely freezing still! Easter was wet and dreary, and as someone who is constantly cold, I had to dress in layers when we made our rounds.
The grey, drizzly day was just like the one we had experienced when Jake and I were in Portland recently, which reminded me that I didn’t fill you in on one particular part of our trip. This segway was a quick stop–just because my curiosity had been peaked. I had learned from a friend a few weeks ago that there was Bernie Dexter shop in Gresham, OR. Anyone who’s familiar with the modern day pin-up, rockabilly, vintage aesthetic knows who Bernie Dexter is:
Bernie is an American model and designer who has her own clothing line which shares her name, and is married to Levi Dexter, former lead singer of Levi and the Rockats, a rockabilly band that was popular in the 1970’s. Her mother, an American from Oklahoma City, was a burlesque performer (so rad!) and her Filipino father was in the US Navy. I’ve always felt a little connected to Bernie because of her heritage, as I’m of Filipino descent too, and both of my parents were in the military! And… I did a (very) short stint in modeling as well…
Me, circa 2012, I think? With a black pixie ‘do. Boy, have so many things changed!
According to the ladies I chatted with during my visit to this shop, her clothing line came to life in 2009 and this brick & mortar shop was opened about three years ago.
So cute, right? Look at that apple purse!!
I don’t typically shop for dresses (which you’ll find me wearing 95% of the time) in person very often, simply because a lot of places locally don’t offer the style I wear on a regular basis at all or at an affordable price, and I get overwhelmed really easily when there is a lot to look through. Unless I know exactly what I’m looking for, my brain just shuts down on trying to even browse. Browsing online is so much nicer–it’s organized, you can sort in a variety of ways, you look at things one at a time, the list goes on! And if you can’t find what you’re looking for on one site, you can look elsewhere just using your fingertips. Though the drawback there is that you can’t try anything on right away.
When I walked into the Bernie Dexter shop, I was pretty flabbergasted with the decor and the amount of clothing that covered this shop from floor to ceiling. The art that hung on the walls were also kitschy, cheesecake-y, pin-up-y, retro and amazing! It was like being in a candy shop–but for vintage reproduction clothes!
I need more posters like this in my life.
There were a lot of “ooo’s” and “ahhs” coming from me, of course. I didn’t look at Jake’s face, but I’m sure he just had this sudden expression of dread on his face. He’s a good sport though! One of the shop ladies, Jen, quickly approached us and showered me with greetings and compliments. My goodness! My heart was aflutter with excitement. I’m sure my chubby cheeked face had a stupid, goofy smile on it when the shop lady asked if I was game to play dress up. How could a gal say no?
As I floated in between the clothing racks, Jake took a seat on a dashing vintage couch that was facing the window. Jen offered us water or coffee. No thanks, we replied, just had a huge breakfast. “Champagne?” She offered with concern, as if her guests hadn’t been rightly made at home. A look of surprise took over my face then. Champagne? Maybe the gal pals and I should make a field trip over here sometime soon!
Jen had struck a deal with me. As I went to find something I wanted to try on, she would find something for me to try on. Can’t say I’ve ever had a shop keeper do that before! She took a quick measurement of my bust for reference, and off she went. It didn’t take long for Jen to settle on a Kelly Technicolor Honeycomb for me to try. It was white (I don’t wear a lot of white) with the brightest, multicolored honeycombs I’ve ever seen on print! A darling dress, really. I whisked myself into a dressing room, bubbling with nervousness. How much is this dress? It’ll probably look like garbage on me.
That little dark voice creeped its way into my mind…
Anywho, Jen was absolutely delighted when I popped out of the dressing room and demanded that I model for her just outside the shop door. Again, how can I say no? I felt like I wasn’t looking pretty enough, but Jen clearly thought the opposite! Just as I was mulling over this in my mind, she suggested I have an accessory to match for our little casual shoot. She handed me a bag that was fashioned to look similar to a fishbowl, with two pink fish on it.
I had found a dress I really liked, actually. The Kelly Dress in Pretty Palette print was irresistibly cute–it immediately drew my eye. Jen wanted to take a picture of me in that one as well.
Awkward face… Heh.
Jen asked me if I had any Bernie Dexter dresses. I informed her that I have just one, which I had picked up a few years ago from Unique Vintage. It’s actually the same dress I got to meet Dita Von Teese in… which by the way, she complimented me on this very same dress!
Bernie Dexter’s dresses are 100% cotton and certainly have a weight to them–they’re of excellent quality. The skirt of each dress has enough fabric for maximum volume, but you can comfortably wear these dresses with a crinoline/petticoat. Most, if not all of her styles have pockets, which we all know is an important quality in a dress! We dress wearers are busy folks with a lot going on in our day to day life–pockets are a must! They’re also dry clean only, so be mindful of that, friends! For all these reasons and more, it may explain why they’re $172 each online, and a little less in the brick & mortar store. And as you might’ve seen earlier, the shop also offers more than just dresses. Crinolines, cardigans, handbags, the list goes on–the prices on these vary, of course.
Bernie’s dresses to me feel absolutely regal and I’ll probably only ever wear a Bernie Dexter dress for special occasions (that one Bernie Dexter dress I do have–I’ve maybe worn it twice in my lifetime so far). In fact, I have a wedding to attend to next year. I may have to take a chance on buying another Bernie dress then!
If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood, check out the Bernie Dexter shop in Gresham, OR! The ladies there are sweet as pie and I’m sure you’ll be just as tickled pink as I was!