Trends may come and go, but vintage is forever; at least, that’s what I always say. There’s just something so alluring about an old look, partly because we live in a world that is constantly bringing back early styles and reinventing them by adding a modern twist. You can find a variety of unique thrift stores in the Tampa Bay area, but you haven’t seen vintage until you’ve been to La France. One step through the door and you’ll feel like you’ve just entered a completely different time period.
Located in Ybor City, La France is a bridal shop, costume shop, and vintage store all in one. Forty-one years ago, Jill Wax’s love for fashion and old styles lead her to open up the store in November of 1974. “I really loved the old looks and fabrics,” Wax said. “I don’t get too involved in what’s new or what’s happening. I appreciate the new designs, but I don’t exactly like the combination of fabrics that are used.”
The owner, who is originally from Syracuse, New York, moved to Tampa for the warm weather (the same reason why I moved down here). Before she opened up La France, Wax owned another store in Ybor (located just across the street from La France), called Rivendell, in which she carried a variety of clothing items, including recycled jeans. After she left the store, she wanted to start fresh and try something different; that’s when she decided to take on the vintage theme.
When it came to the store name, Wax decided to keep it La France (which was named by the previous owner), due to the fact that it fit with the theme. “I specialize in Victorian clothing,” Wax said. “Not too many people out there carry the older pieces. That’s what sets us apart from other clothing stores.”
In terms of where she gets the items, Wax has individuals who go to thrift stores and people’s houses to pick them up; and the older, the better. From ‘60s polyester skirts to embellished flapper dresses, La France has everything: hats, shoes, purses, corsets, you name it! The store also offers a selection of men’s clothing; but it doesn’t stop there. Want to dress your kid up in vintage? La France can make that happen!
I had the chance to visit the store myself to see what all the fuss was about, and boy, was I impressed. This store is everything a fashionista like me could only dream of shopping at. The place was so big that I could spend hours trying on different clothes in there. The quirky decor and old-time music playing in the background really made me feel like I wasn’t in the year 2016 anymore. I was overwhelmed by the amount of clothes, but what really caught my eye was the wide array of jewelry that was displayed. They were all so beautiful and I could tell that they were from different time periods.
After what seemed like two hours of me exploring the whole store, I chose to try on three different dresses.
The first one I tried on was both unique and trendy, due to the fact that the dress looked like it was a shirt that had been tucked into a maxi skirt. I also really liked the combination of the striped pattern and the gold color together. It made the dress look elegant, yet playful at the same time.
The second one, which was a light blue off-the-shoulder dress, was definitely more flirty. The texture was very light. If you’re looking for a cute new dress for the summer, this one is perfect! If you want the dress to look more modern, you could always cut it.
The last dress I tried on (and my personal favorite) was a new 1920s inspired black and silver embellished flapper dress. The intricate patterns were breathtakingly beautiful. It was also super flattering, especially if you’re petite, like me. This would make for a really unique and gorgeous prom or formal dress.
Next time you find yourself in Ybor City, I would recommend you visit La France. After all, this vintage clothing store has something for everyone.
Madison L. Irwin is a fashion writer for AliveTampaBay.