Best faith in vintage fashion: Phoebe Verkouw, The Dress Fiend

Best of Sacramento 2014 Shopping & Fashion

PHOTO BY wes davis

“I remember when we used to dress like that,” a gray-haired stranger at the Sacramento Antique Faire says with a smile to Phoebe Verkouw. The porcelain-doll faced 32-year-old is wearing a vintage blue-and-white print dress from the ’50s—the kind with a tiny waist and a full skirt to the knees—and her blond hair is carefully hairsprayed into a sunny bouffant. She stands out like a time traveler from the mid-20th century even in the middle of a market with so much vintage stuff, but this is The Dress Fiend blogger Verkouw’s everyday wardrobe, and more and more people can’t help but notice that she’s making a mark on the local fashion scene.

The Dress Fiend website began as a hobby for Verkouw in 2012. Her mission: “To spill all of my frugal thrifting secrets and prove to people that high end designer pieces are hiding at your local thrift, consignment, and vintage stores.”

But to her, it’s also more than just pretty clothes.

“I hid away for a long time,” Verkouw says about a darker time in her life when she was depressed. But after deciding to live by the philosophy to dress to impress, “I started shining.” And opportunities began opening up for her.

The art-history graduate and Crocker Art Museum employee says she uses her body as a canvas, and has been emulating her icons—the style of Audrey Hepburn and the self-portrait creativity of Cindy Sherman—in her blog posts for the past two years. Then, Good Day Sacramento noticed and invited her on the show for some fashion segments. Then, Thrift Town noticed and began to pay her to blog on its website. Crossroads Trading Co. noticed, too, and she hosted a fashion event for the store in April.

At the Antique Faire, Verkouw is turning plenty of heads in her blue frock—only $12 from the SPCA Thrift Store, she points out. She spots an exquisite peach lace dress with a beaded neckline, and tries it on over her dress in the vendor’s booth. Four people go out of their way to gush over how perfect it looks on her. “You have to get it!” one of them says.

Later, a little redhead wearing hot-pink Hello Kitty sweatpants runs up to Verkouw holding up a napkin.

“I know who you are!” the girl trembles with excitement, like she’s meeting a Disney princess. Someone wrote “The Dress Fiend” on the napkin for the girl. “Can I have your autograph?” Verkouw is flattered. She obliges and goes on her way, then turns back.

“Do you want to take a picture with me for my Instagram?” Verkouw asks the girl. The redhead nearly implodes from happiness (proof:

Then, other nearby shoppers ask for a photo with Verkouw, too. She’s a virtual celebrity just for her style.

She finally slips away from all the picture taking, but immediately encounters a powder-blue restored Triumph convertible, which perfectly matches her ensemble in era and hue. She can’t resist sneaking a photo with the classic car, but then, the owner walks up and Verkouw apologizes. The owner’s reaction? “Want to sit inside?” He opens the door and another opportunity for the Fiend. E