Dandelion Vintage is a Downtown Champaign fixture selling vintage and used clothing. CCP spoke with owner Charlotte Westcott.
Tell us about your background and how you ended up at Dandelion Boutique.
I became the owner in January. I grew up in Urbana and moved to Washington state in 2010 to study visual art and environmental studies, and returned to Illinois last year. I lived in Olympia and Seattle, both of which are full of inspiring community minded vintage stores that feature local artists and double as event spaces like we do here at Dandelion/Exile On Main St. When Sara told me she wanted to retire, I suggested that maybe I could continue the business. Personally the store meant a lot, and I was sure that sentiment was shared by a big part of the Champaign-Urbana community. I was both nervous and excited to have the opportunity to operate such a beloved staple in town. After a series of meetings, Sara and I realized it could work and here we are now.
People of all ages rave online about the great selection here. How do you decide which vintage items to include in-store to include cool trends?
It’s my goal to have something in the store for everyone, regardless of age, gender expression, size, etc. I also keep in mind that someone may be shopping for the everyday, a costume, or to add to a collection. You can come in and find a 1950s circle skirt, a 90s blazer or a silk wedding gown from the 1930s. Social media platforms like Instagram allow me to see what’s popular. The 90s and Y2k are having a moment right now, so I’ll put some of that stuff out and see how it does. It’s like an experiment! One thing I learned from Sara is that just because you may like something, it doesn’t mean that everyone else will, so it’s good to keep a variety.
You share space with a record store (Exile on Main). What kind of environment does that make for your customers? Do people hang out?
You can meet up with friends here, kill time while waiting for a train, play pinball. You could easily spend hours here and still have things to discover, and new stuff is always coming in. I would love to transform the space more and play around with it to be more conducive to hangouts, a space for local art, seating space, and the like.
This building you are housed in is in the old Champaign train station. are there any remnants of that train station in here?
Yeah! So, the Exile on Main side of the store has the original train station’s wooden framing around what would have been the ticket booth, which is cool. A soap display on our side of the store used to be a register drawer near the entry of the train station, too. It’s very cool when people come in and remember the old train station layout. It adds another layer of nostalgia to the store, which is awesome.
Can you talk a bit about the mural above us?
It’s a mural by the artist Langston Allston! He’s based in New Orleans but I’ve even seen his work in Seattle, so he’s definitely very talented. You can see his murals all over town.
What do you like most about Dandelion being Downtown?
Our building is conveniently situated near University Ave on the border of Downtown Champaign and Midtown, which I like a lot. I hope to see more students as things develop. Another favorite perk is being a step and a hop away from some great coffee and food spots. Pumpkin cranberry muffins from Avionics, cold-brew from Kopi and acai-bowls from Bossa Nova have been my favorite treats lately.
What’s your favorite vintage era for clothing?
You can get very specific with the terminology, but vintage clothing is considered to be at least 20 years old. I’m constantly trying to expand my knowledge on styles, cuts and materials. I’ve learned a lot over the years collecting and reading. It’s hard to pick an era, but I’m a fan of things that are well-made and with my favorite materials. I like natural fibers like silk and cotton and wool. I also like unique patterns and bright colors, dresses with pockets! Jumpsuits!
What’s been your favorite part of your work?
The people I meet, the things I learn from them. We host some great events here. It’s cool to see how people wear the clothes, and it makes me so happy every time I get to see someone wearing it out in the world! I love when someone finds something that gives them nostalgia or appreciates something novel or unusual. I look forward to everything the future has in store!
By Melinda Sevilla, Contributing Writer