An Interview With New Etsy Seller: Jess Because For Hella Tuff Stuff

jess-dye2an extremely old jess pic, but I love it

This article is about a dear friend of mine,, so it may be slightly slanted in fabulousness.

She also asked me to help a bit with stocking her store, so if you see any cacti, that’s my neck of the woods!

Your name:

Jess Because

Where you live and breathe:

Dale City, Va (“the friendliest town around”)

Just moved into a country home an hour outside of DC to escape excessive partying.

Store name:

Hella Tuff Stuff

When did the store open?

April Fool’s Day 2009!  No joke.

Tell us how you got started with Hella Tuff.

I have been browsing thrift stores, estate sales and my granny’s closet for a decade now.  I always had a passion for clothing from decades past, even when it wasn’t en vogue as it is today. I always found items I loved but were the wrong size or too similar to other things I owned.  I fantasized about having a cute boutique to showcase all of my fabulous finds.  With the amazing little invention of the internet, my boutique has become a virtual reality.  I’ve been discussing plans for the launch for almost a year now and the timing is finally perfect!  I’m diving into the market.

What types of things do you offer at Hella Tuff?

HellaTuff primarily features vintage clothing from the 40’s to the 80’s.  However, we have a wide selections of accessories from hats to shoes to scarves and jewelry.  We even plan to offer adorable house wares, knick knacks and some hand made items as well.  The best part of being a vintage shop is that our stock is one of a kind and constantly changing.  The high turnover of stock thrives on the curiosity of customers to check in frequently to browse new items.

When do you put new things up for sale?

Since we are still in our early stages, we will only be updating twice a month.  Which is still a lot!  We hope to eventually  update weekly once we are off the ground.

Will you be having any specials or giveaways to start out with?

Funny you ask, at our launch party April 1st, we are giving away the most delightful gift bags to all customers.  As for the online shop, we will have monthly featured items and discounts.  We also have some promotional giveaways in the works!

Why is shopping “indie” and thrift/vintage so important to you?

For the same reason it should be important to others: it’s recycling.  So many beautiful garments end up in the Salvation Army’s of America.  Why waste energy resources to run factories to produce 100,000’s of the same articles of clothing so we can pay too much for them, look like everyone else and then have them fall apart because they were cheaply made?  Plus, thrift shopping can be a communal experience.  I often buy garments from other young ladies like myself running shops on Etsy.  Plus the most exciting reason why is the hunt!  Sometimes I find 10 beautiful things, sometimes I find nothing.  It’s about patience and persistence.  It’s about waiting for the doors to open at 9 am and running straight to the dress rack to fight for the best finds.  It’s about climbing inside of 10 feet tall bins in a face mask. This should be a competitive sport.

How long have you been collecting vintage clothing?

Birth.  Well, maybe not that long, but it feels like forever.  Starting scoring my granny’s old scarves when I was 5.  We used to shop together second hand when I was a kid, but I got obsessive with the idea of it in high school.

What are your favorite eras of clothing and why?

I have to vote for the 40’s because my body looks best in clothes from that era, I can rock a great 40’s pencil skirt. All of the full skirts and cardigans of the 50’s.  I love the mini dresses of the 60’s, the prints of the 70’s and over sized sweaters from the 80’s.  I guess I love a little of every decade!

What/who are your fashion inspirations?

Bad prom dresses, Abstract Expressionism, British school children, technicolor movies, classic Barbie, sushi, Piet Mondrian, Miss America pageants, William Eggleston, my mom’s and granny’s yearbooks, Marc Jacobs, Leslie Feist, hot air balloons, picnics, the excitement of dressing for the first day of spring, mix-match, tulips, BCBG Maz Azria

What do you look for in a vintage piece at a store?

Quality and originality come first. If it looks like thirty other items I’ve seen out there, what’s the point?  And if it’s missing original buttons, zippers and other detailing I often think twice about it.  I am pro-restoration, but the real deal is always favored.  Also important is taking a close look at hem lines and seams.  I do my best to make sure I am not buying damaged or stained itemsMost importantly, I shop for myself.  I pick out things I like, things I find difficult to sell because I want to add them to my closet.  It’s all about personal taste and styling.  If I love what I am selling I feel confident others will be able to see my vision for the piece; it’s like art!

Any future plans yet?

Oh yes! I plan to host some sort of vintage collective runway show with other local designers.  I’m talking built up runway, silent auction and all.  But it all depends on how the launch goes.  But this would be a beautiful event to have at the end of summer, but I make no promises, you’ll have to wait and see!

And, of course we have to ask: what’s with the name?

This is a ridiculous story. Years ago an old boyfriend and I would make fun of this hilariously aloof security guard who attended to his apartment building.  The man insisted on being called Corporal Ron, even though I don’t think security/rent-a-cops have a rank structure.  Every time we saw him he would say outlandish things, cat call women on the street and attempt to be our best friend. Corporal Ron, now in his late early 50’s would reminisce about how great of a drummer he was, although when asked questions about drum equipment or terms he seemed clueless.  I often took my guitar over to my boyfriend’s apartment and Corporal Ron assumed we were in a band together.  From that point on he hinted daily that he wanted to be our drummer. My ex bf and I joked that Ron would steal the spot light and we would be his back-ups.  From all of this non-sense the make-believe band name, “Corporal Ron and the Hella Tuffs” was born. This story still makes me giggle, so I borrowed “Hella Tuff” because it’s silly but strong, unique and playful.  Plus it can be used as an adjective, noun, and verb. Who doesn’t like that?

people-goin-placesphoto by jess because

Also, here is an article with some more gifted ladies and their portraits.

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