Two shops down from the Starbucks coffee house at 23 N Main Street in Sayville, NY, a boutique stands right next to an old barbershop. The two displays on both sides of its windows are updated at the beginning of each month and showcase an artistic rendition of something fashion. In October, a group of flappers stood alongside small artistic sculptures that resemble jack-in-the-boxes. They are abstract but they tell a story. It’s October and Halloween is coming soon. A few homemade, black-laced masks lay on the floor facing the window, peering out as people walk by.
But in the blink of an eye, it was the start of November and 1970s vintage pieces clothe the mannequins in red, orange and yellow ponchos. They wear tall brown leather boots and carry purses with tan fringes to celebrate the start of the Thanksgiving holiday. The mannequin in the left window wore an authentic 1970s vest with rainbow tribal print as white strings dangled from the wooly fabric. Tall brown boots sprouted from the floor.
A rack of clothes usually hangs outside the right-hand window with a yellow poster board attached. In black writing it exclaims to bystanders, “SALE: Only $20!” Some argyle sweaters and a few pairs of pants hang on the silver rod. People passing through the shady sidewalks stop to look at the dressed up dolls in the window, and then begin flipping through the clothing rack. If interested, they are going to step inside. The usual customers who stopped in were young women who carried old souls.
The soft pink walls inside radiate off a middle age woman around 40 years old who looks through the vintage nightgowns. She flips through the ivory and white silks but stops at one old chiffon piece. She calls over her elderly mother a few feet away. “Mom, look. Vintage pajamas.” The small old woman walks over and examinees the fabric in her daughter’s hand. “They have great stuff,” she says quietly.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Dominique Maciejka opened a boutique that stands out from the pizzerias, bagel stores and nail salons which decorate most of Long Island’s main streets. The store is a fresh and lovely change of pace from the department stores, malls and the multiple shopping centers that dominate the area. It is a vintage clothing store that’s filling the closets of people who admire older and unique types of clothing called Paper Doll Vintage.
Maciejka is young and completely devoted to her store. The tall woman with long, light brown hair has big eyes that sparkle when she smiles. Her face has sharp angles. Less than five minutes away from the Fire Island Ferry docks, her shop is dedicated to the selling and buying of vintage fashions. From the early 20th century to recently designed reproductions of retro designs, Paper Doll Vintage is Barbie’s dream closet for the young women in town who want a piece of the past. Walking through the white front door that sometimes blows open on windy days, seven racks surround the store behind the extravagant windows. There are two racks standing right behind the windows. They hold new pieces – recreations of vintage patterns – that fit people as small as a size zero all the way to a 3X. Maciejka’s friend Kristin MacDougal, who works at Paper Doll during the weekend, says that’s one of the best things about the store.
MacDougal, a returning art student at Stony Brook University, said that sizes were different during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Women had smaller waistlines or would often have the clothing tailored to fit their body perfectly. The trouble with that inside a vintage shop is that not all women can enjoy the clothing because not everyone can be a size two. The new reproductions allow women of all sizes and shapes to enjoy and experiment with vintage.
“Paper Doll Vintage is not just a store,” MacDougal said. On the walls that surround the racks of clothing, shoes and handbags hang portraits painted and printed by local artists. Every month they change – some are abstract and some are as realistic as a photograph. Every month the shop closes its doors to shoppers and instead holds art shows for artists in the area. At the start of December, MacDougal’s work will be presented and celebrated. “It’s a place for alternative culture,” she said. “There’s no regular here.”
The store’s art appreciation comes from Maciejka’s past. The Smithtown native studied art, sculpture and technology performance at the Art Institute of Chicago, which carried over when she combined her love for the arts with her other passion, fashion, in her store filled with vintage finds.
She always had a business approach to life, she said, even when she was young. “I was always, like the kid at school that was selling lollipops, and I had the lemonade stand,” she said, smiling her huge white smile. “I would always sell stuff at garage sales and do better than my mom and sister combined because I was always a hustler and a salesperson.” Growing up on Long Island, the tall slender woman said that she loved rummaging through vintage even as a kid. She and her mother would visit garage sales and thrift stores trying to find something unique. When she turned 13, she began to profit from her findings.
“When I was 12 or 13 and I wasn’t old enough to legally work yet, my parents let me use their bank account to start an eBay account ‘cause that came out around 1997,” Maciejka said as she stood behind the glass counter inside her shop. She glanced down at her iPhone that was placed upon the clean, shiny tabletop – a glass case with sunglasses, jewelry and watches encased within it.
“I was like, ‘Alright I can sell my stuff on the internet,’ and I started seeing things at garage sales and thrift stores that I was like, ‘I think this is worth more money, I think I’ve heard of this Chanel brand before,’” she added. “I would come across things and try flipping the money on eBay.”
However the eBay store began getting difficult to handle so Maciejka began hoarding her vintage finds in her parents house until she could afford to open her own store. Soon enough she started looking at different towns on Long Island where her store would fit in. “It’s not the type of store that fits in between a pizzeria, a Chinese food place and a deli, so I had to really figure out where a good spot would be that would get a lot of traffic.”
And it does. The Black Friday weekend was filled with interested shoppers who strayed out of the malls and corporate controlled shopping centers. June Von Gizycki, a thin, dark-haired woman with golden, tanned skin is a returning customer who comes all the way to Sayville from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn just to shop at Maciejka’s store.
Von Gizycki thinks that Paper Doll is a great place to get something unique. “The owner has an eye for vintage,” she said. “You can tell.”
“There aren’t a lot of shops like this in Brooklyn,” Von Gizycki said. “All of my clutches are from here,” she added as she stood next to her best friend, Mary Ann Hesse, a Sayville native. The two visit the shop whenever Von Gizycki visits Long Island and every time she picks up another piece for her collection.
As Von Gizycki paid for her clutch bag and admired another purse that hung on a shelf above the cash register, MacDougal, with her short, blonde, wavy hair and thick blocky frames, stood behind the accessory adorned counter. She talked with Von Gizycki and Hesse about what they wore “back in the day.” Von Gizycki talked about how she met Sting when she was a teenager in the city and their favorite types of punk rock. MacDougal with a pleasant smile on her face nodded eagerly as she listened.
The two friends smiled and waved as they opened the white door that sticks. “What a beautiful shop,” Hesse whispered to Von Gizycki as they walked out.
“I love to talk to customers about their fashion and what they were back then,” MacDougal said as she walked over to a clothing rack to pick out more pieces that could decorate the mannequins in the window.
Maciejka works seven days a week and always has Paper Doll on her mind. “The store is something I created,” she said. “It’s my baby.” About once a week, she travels to the city to go to different antique auctions hoping to find something good for her shop. The clothing, shoes, accessories and handbags that lay within her store are not cheap or old looking. Every item she brings in is thoroughly checked to make sure there are no stains, no tears and no signs of wear. The pieces look brand new but, luckily for whoever purchases them, hold a story within history.
The things that customers can find at Paper Doll Vintage are fascinating. On a hat rack are bowl hats like Annie Hall’s, mini 1930s style caps with black lace hanging in front, fedoras and Russian styled snow hats. Chunky 1980s jewelry sits in a glass bowl up front; bright greens, yellows and purples and neon pinks. On a shelf in the back is a mannequin torso that wears a 1970s styled, suede brown jacket with cheetah heels placed tastefully next to it. Just walking inside the tiny little shop on Main Street can create any style that wants to be made.
“I’ll never dress normal,” MacDougal said laughing. “And retro is the only thing that’s really fashionable nowadays.” A woman walks in with a man wearing a leather jacket. They head straight towards the wall of shoes in the back. “This is a community of people of people who want to look different,” she said looking over at them. “And this is the place to get it.”