Black Cat Vintage
was founded in Phoenix, Arizona by Claudine Villardito, pictured here in her mother's travel suit, circa 1962.
Opened in 2005, the boutique is the result of Claudine's 20-year habit of "adopting" mid-century garments when their original owners could no longer wear, store or care for them.
Distressed by the thought of their being abandoned, Claudine rescued the clothes that represented the milestones of peoples' lives: a first date dress, an enlistment uniform, an anniversary necklace.
When the rescued items outnumbered her own, she opened an eBay store whose sole purpose was to find new owners who would value the pieces as much as their original owners did. This process continued for four years, and as word of her mission spread Claudine's collection and passion only grew. In August of 2009, she learned of a collection of over 1500 rare pieces that was scheduled for disposal in a Las Vegas landfill; by month's end it was on her doorstep.
Since that acquisition, black cat vintage
has relocated to Tucson, Arizona and launched an e-commerce website dedicated to the care, preservation and responsible ownership of the collection that began 20 years ago. For every piece sold, another is adopted so the legacy of fashion--and that of its wearers--can continue.
who, what, when
When you've got it, you know it. We know it (and we share).
- Black Cat Vintage was one of the original providers of inventory for London's "Lucy in Disguise," a vintage rent-the-runway boutique founded by pop-star Lily Allen and her sister Sarah Owen in 2010.
- We sold renowned pinup model Bernie Dexter a velveteen leopard spot catsuit for her private collection in September 2007.
- Our collection has contributed to the archives of fashion houses such as Rudolf, Tori Richard, Italian outerwear label Sealup, and Julianelli footwear.
- One of our most prized gowns originally belonged to 1940s screen legend Betty Grable.
- Many of our designer and couture pieces come from the estate of a French heiress who counted Christian Dior and Jacques Fath among her personal friends.
- Among our more notorious acquisitions was the lingerie and fur estate of a 1960s Las Vegas madame.
- Black Cat Vintage houses some of the few remaining deadstock shoes from Taj of India, manufacturer of Barbara Eden's slippers in "I Dream of Jeannie." Ours are the same size Jeannie wore, and still have their original boxes.
- Our inventory includes items from vintage artists whose artwork is exhibited at The Met and V&A Museums, but seldom produced wearable pieces for the general public.
Black Cat Vintage has been a key contributor to a growing number of publications and fashion features, as well as art and historical installations.
- "Street Style: Black and Gold," The New York Times, week of March 25, 2013
- The 100 Best Vintage Shops Online, S. Davis. New York, 2013
- "Dressing Room," En Vie Magazine, February 2013
- "Dressing Room," Zocalo Magazine, February 2013
- "Doll Face," matchbook magazine, January 2013
- Holiday 2012 (promotion), FORD/Robert Black Agency, Phoenix AZ
- "I Left My Coat in Paris," Essere Magazine, Holiday 2012
- "I Left My Coat in Paris," Zocalo Magazine, December 2012
- Chasing Rainbows Gala with Steve Winwood, Fox Theater (wardrobe + costume). Fox Theater Tucson, November 2012
- Inaugural Opening Reception, Tucson Modernism Week. A decade of mid-century fashion in a live al fresco installation, November 2012
- "Seriously Vintage," 3storymagazine.com, November 2012
- "Tip Your Hat," Zocalo Magazine, November 2012
- "Lady of Spain," Zocalo Magazine, October 2012
- "A Well Groomed Life,"matchbook magazine, September 2012
- "Old Hollywood Awaits," Zocalo Magazine, July/August 2012
- Canvas: Art on the Runway, First Fridays (fashion show). Fox Theater Tucson, May 2012
- Crazy for Cats Benefit, Hermitage Cat Shelter (fashion show). Skyline Country Club, April 2012
- "Art-Inspired Fashion," Cover (features), The Arizona Daily Star, April 2012
- "Barrio Beauty," Zocalo Magazine, April 2012
- "Safari Disco," Zocalo Magazine, March 2012
- The Garment District: 2011, Villardito, Ballesteros, Lugo. Blurb, January 2012
- "2011-12 Performing Arts Season Spotlight," Cover. Zocalo Magazine, September 2011
- "The Best Designer for Vintage Dresses," typef.com, August 2011
- "Aim High, Buy Low," Cover (features), The Arizona Daily Star, July 2011
- "Sail into Summer," Zocalo Magazine, July/August 2011
- Passport: A World of Style, Tucson Fashion Group/First Fridays (fashion show). Fox Theater Tucson, May 2011
- "Romance in Pink and Black," Zocalo Magazine, April 2011
- Romance at Tiffany's: The Evolution of the Little Black Dress (presentation + fashion show). The Loft Cinema Tucson, February 2011
- "Buy Local Week," KVOA Channel 4, December 2010
- The Evolution of Fashion, Tucson Museum of Art. Five decades of fashion history in an al fresco installation, May 2010
- The Naked Shoe: The Artistry of Mabel Julianelli, J Julianelli. ACC Distribution, New York, 2010
"The cat who would be Queen," Bear is the namesake of Black Cat Vintage. Adopted from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona in 1993, she was the owner's sidekick and partner-in-crime for 17 years.
Black Cat Vintage exists for--and because of--her.
Thank you Bear.