Vintage expressions

Maggie and Mimi Saba of Vintage YSJ

Mimi (left) and Maggie Saba, of Vintage YSJ in downtown Sacramento.

Mimi (left) and Maggie Saba, of Vintage YSJ in downtown Sacramento.

Photo By wes davis

For more information on Vintage YSJ, visit

Thriving through the art of vintage fashion, Maggie and Mimi Saba are the mother-daughter team who own and operate Vintage YSJ, located at 924 12th Street in downtown Sacramento. Combining their love for the thrill of finding timeless pieces in thrift stores and estate sales, this boutique specializes in the classic styles of the ’40s and ’50s. The two will also admit to taking interest in a bit of early ’80s fashion—as long as neon isn’t involved. Mimi sat down with SN&R on her creamy Victorian-style sofa to discuss trends and the secrets to secondhand shopping. Since opening its doors in December 2007, Vintage YSJ now reaches customers in New York, Australia and England through Esty, sharing Sacramento fashions worldwide.

What is your relationship with vintage fashion?

When I’m getting dressed, I don’t try to be gimmicky. I just try to think what’s in for now with an interpretation of myself and what’s trendy. [My mom] was the one who got me started with secondhand shopping. As I grew up, I realized more and more that you can manipulate and personalize your clothes with vintage more than you can with clothes that are commercialized. You can make clothes from thrift stores look like they’re from the runway.

What aesthetic does Vintage YSJ emit?

I feel like this store is a reflection of both of our personal styles. So when people come here, they see the way we dress and they see the stuff we have and they connect it. It makes sense. That’s pretty much the psychology of the store. It’s a vintage store, but it’s kind of like a gateway to vintage. I’m not going to throw a prairie dress at you, but if you happen to see it when you’re looking through the denim rack, good job.

How fast can you two scope out a thrift store?

We’ve got it down now. Say we’re like half an hour early to the store and we decide to go to the Salvation Army, we’re like, “Go!” And in half an hour we rummage the entire place and we pull out the best pieces. We got really, really good at it.

Does the person make the outfit?

You pretty much have to just wear things you believe you can wear. It makes me happy to see people freak out over something and you know it’s going to change the way they carry themselves when they’re walking around. It makes you really happy.

What are customer reactions to Vintage YSJ?

These two sisters came in the other day from Utah. They came here once when we first opened, and one of them got a dress. … She has a blog and she’s worn it a million times in her blog, and it makes her the happiest. She came in here and she was like, “Oh my God! That dress made me so happy for the longest time.” And I was like, “Cool. Go find another dress that makes you happy.”

Favorite item you’ve seen come through the store?

We got this 1920s crushed, dark-blue velvet dress with lace on the top and little, tiny velvet buttons down the bottom and it comes up to mid-calf. It is sickening. It’s so good.

How can you tell if a piece is authentic?

The construction. The dress, the blue one, was sewn with a straight-stitch and the ends are fraying, but then it’s sewn with a whipstitch at the bottom. And, the cut of it, the fabric, the style. You get used to it. We’ve got it down now.

Where do you find vintage clothing?

We live in Rocklin, so any thrift store between here and there we frequent. And customers. We do trades with the public, so they can get store credit. [Customers] can go through their closet and bring in clothes, and then we recycle it, and then they can go through the store and find something else. It’s the epitome of eco-friendly.

Ever participated in fashion shows?

We had a fashion show in the summer; it’s going to be an annual event. And there was a theme. I interpreted vintage clothing in the future. I let my imagination go crazy, because, I figured, it’s going to be in our basement and it’s super dramatic, so why not have fun? The concept was how someone in 10 or 20 years would wear vintage clothes. I cut up old jeans and wore them as scarves, layered a sequined mini-dress with a sheer nightgown and I put a nightgown with a blazer on top of it so that the sleeves were popping out of the sides, with high-waist denim shorts and a top.

Do you enjoy your job?

Yes. It’s not boring. If I’m in here and there’s naked mannequins I’m like, “Sweet. I get to dress them.” Or the window displays, I get to take them apart and put them together and make them kind of match each other so they’re cohesive and tell a story. I get to think of a theme and concept. I have a big creative outlet here, and clothes are a big part of it.