They call you the “Queen of Stuff,” but that’s because you can never turn down a Payless BOGO sale or a gift with purchase at Estee Lauder. They call Bette Sherman the “Queen of Stuff” because she owns an extensive collection that gives a peek into a century of fashion industry history.
“A lot of what I collect was meant to be thrown away,” Sherman says. From lithograph powder tins and antique advertising to authentic 20s flapper dresses and vintage handbags, Sherman has it all.
The collection — and let’s face it, her fashion fascination — started in the 80s when she watched the movie “Somewhere in Time,” a flick where Christopher Reeves’ character goes back in time. “It was then that I noticed that I had a real connection to earlier decades. I started collecting things like catalogs and clothes,” Sherman explains. “Being in the fashion industry, if you purchase any item of clothing, you want it to be something no one else has. Same went for these vintage items I was buying.”
At the time, she was working as a stylist at Shillitos downtown. Sherman then worked for Pogues where she did styling for ads in New York City. “I worked with people who were, at the time, superstars.” Jennifer Beals from “Flashdance” was one of her most memorable, Sherman adds.
When Pogues closed, she began work at local shopping centers, such as Kenwood, Tower Place and Northgate Mall, coordinating fashion shows. “In the early 90s, I was pulling clothes at a show and couldn’t find anything for the finale,” Sherman recalls. So, she threw in a series of her own vintage evening gowns to end the show with a bang. She created such a wow factor that she started getting approached to do vintage clothing fashion shows all over the city.
Today she has such a large collection that an entire room at her house is dedicated to her vintage clothing and handbags. “My sitting room is completely decorated with these items,” she says, “but really, there isn’t a room in the house that doesn’t have the collection incorporated into it somehow.”
But the collection isn’t just for display. She puts it to work by doing vintage fashion shows for private events, such as corporate events and fundraisers like this year’s Concourse d’Elegance. “I’ve also done events where we focus on the history of the beauty and cosmetics industry,” Sherman says. “I have more than 1,000 items to talk about like the first lipsticks, pantyhoses, hair dyes and face powders.”
If you’d like to hire out this “Queen of Stuff” or find out when her next vintage fashion show is, send her an e-mail at email@example.com.
Photo: Courtesy of Bette Sherman