“I don’t collect vintage – I am vintage!” exclaims the irrepressible Harley Brooke-Hitching, whose orange, white and green striped Gallanos coming-out dress (no, no, not that kind of coming-out, reminisces this 60s Oklahoma City debutante) and the low-backed fuchsia Chloe dress (which “I wore when I met Princess Margaret,” remembers this granddaughter of the High Sheriff of London) are part of the selection – as is a black-lace number she calls a show-stopper.
“OK, this was vintage when I bought it,” she confesses of the all-revealing black-lace dress (“the boner,” this refreshingly candid bon vivant remembers dubbing it, after she wearing it “to some society function in Chicago” that drew her, en route to the ladies’ room, “a standing ovation.
“I was pretty, but I was never drop-dead gorgeous,” Brooke-Hitching says, matter-of-factly, and when the ovation began, “I thought, ‘this probably won’t happen again in my life,’ and I slowed down to a strut.”
That’s vintage Brooke-Hitching (the best joke is always at the teller's expense), who, before you can blink, is modeling the pink feather boa cape she wore “with hot-pants” in 60s-and-70s London, when she and her friends launched the cutting edge disco, Annabelle's.
Oops, we’re back to the “vintage” thing again – turns out a couple named their daughter after the club they were so enamored of, causing Brooke-Hitchings to feel vintage, herself, upon meeting Annabelle as the wife of a peer, a couple of decades later. “Did I ever feel old” is how she describes that particular moment.
Old? Well, some of the stuff she’s selling is – like the Telluride bottles dating back to the early days of the 20th century, and the oak dresser ($150) and teak-and-leather loveseat ($400) that offers, she observes, a great way to divide a room.
And let's not forget “the boner,” which must date back to the days of speakeasies, the Valentine’s Day Massacre, flappers and bathtub gin.
There’s a lot to be found here in the $1 department – most particularly the exquisitely folded-handkerchief Christmas ornaments Brooke-Hitching commissioned from a Thai princess back when she lived in Bangkok (ask her about her role in the antiquities trade there). Billed as “Handkerchief Fantasies,” they made the cover of the 1975 Lord and Taylor Christmas catalog and, in the one example of pure deflation I’ve stumbled on in this life, they sold back then for $2.75.
There’s a trunkful of feather boas, and a boxful of vintage Hermes scarves ($100) as well as vintage Hermes belts, ties and hats at $150 – each last one, in the words of this salesperson’s salesperson, “a collector’s item.” There’s a $5 box of sturdy white dinnerware, bone china with moose as their sole decorations, an “artists’ table” with scraps (the remains of an antique lamp-base, for example) and an assortment of bright red appliances straight out of the Goodtimes Society crib she occupied, red light on when she was home, on Spruce St. (sometimes hostessing an evening in a slightly louche vintage lingerie), until recently. A collection of leather-bound classics, their pagetops a tad dusty, are selling for $25 each, and framed Telluride memorabilia for $75 – “The frame is worth more than that.”
When you shop, keep in mind two things: Brooke-Hitching was New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani’s transportation secretary (and one of his two Telluride supporters in the last primary), developing the City Harvest food-recycling delivery program under his auspices.
And she’s so busy recycling, she has run out of plastic bags. Bring a few to her once-in-a-lifetime sale, so you can fill them up, before Jan. 15.