Ok, so if you’re a fan of vintage fashion like I am, you’ve probably heard of Top Vintage Boutique by now. I’ve been a fan of their site for a while since I consider myself to be an avid collector/hoarder of several of the brands they stock.
(My favorite brands that I’ve purchased from Top Vintage would have to be Micheline Pitt’s Vixen by Micheline Pitt line and Top Vintage’s own Glamour Bunny brand, which my bestie Gia Genevieve has modeled for several times now)
So naturally, you can imagine how excited I was when I was selected to be one of the faces of Top Vintage’s newest Vintage Diva collection. Top Vintage has featured some of my favorite models on their site over the years, (@vanessafrankenstein @rachelfrancesx @vintagevandal @iddavanmunster) so I jumped at the chance to join them in Mexico for their latest shoot. I was beyond excited to join the ranks of so many of the stylish ladies that inspire me!
Now Boarding Vintage Divas
With the date for our departure approaching at a maddening speed, I packed my bag and prepared to head for the border. (Ok, it might be more accurate to say that I stuffed a couple of suitcases to maximum capacity and called an Uber to take me to LAX.)
I’d been told that there would be a few ‘vintage diva’s’ at the shoot, including Miss Doris Mayday, who I hadn’t seen in ages. It's safe to say we were long overdue for a catch-up.
Mayday and I exchanged jokes about overpacking, my laminated itinerary, and the fact that LAX has a SPANX store that opens before 6 am. (Hey, emergencies happen!)
I decided to opt for comfort in a set of Fabletics yoga pants and a fitted jacket. It was sleek enough to look make me look cute at 5 am and I figured that if it was tough enough for performance training, it could withstand international travel.
Neither one of us knew much more about Mérida than the sort of stuff that comes up in a cursory Google search. Little did we know, there was some serious Mérida magic to be had.
The Mérida airport was small but sleek. We made our way from customs to an ATM to grab some pesos before hailing a taxi. Mayday was a pretty impressive translator, I have to say.
(That would definitely come in handy a few times during our trip, but I'll get to that later.)
Our cab made its way along lively streets lined with colorful buildings. Each building had a patina that reminded me of the kind of wear you see on a favorite pair of shoes or a well-loved book. I was already beginning to suspect that I was about to fall in love with Mérida.
The Hidden Villa
As our taxi pulled to a stop at the destination, two well-dressed young women rushed out to greet us. They introduced themselves as Charlotte & Romy, the women who had arranged our trip. We introduced ourselves and shared a few laughs as we unloaded our luggage.
From the outside, it was difficult to tell just what our accommodations would be. The entrance was located on a lively street, but somehow it still felt hidden. From the street, there was little to identify it by. From the outside, our accommodations could only be described by two tall wooden doors and an antique doorknocker. Gleefully, Charlotte threw open the door and beckoned us to come inside.
It was like we had walked into our own little paradise.
(Villa photo stolen from Romy's Instagram)
‘Little’ probably isn’t the right word to describe a villa with two private pools, but you’ll have to cut me some slack, I’ve been awake for far too long.
Night 1 - Part 1
Our hidden villa welcomed us into its courtyard with a rustic iron chandelier and lush greenery. Charlotte and Romy were kind enough to offer us a tour (and snacks) before we changed for dinner. Jasmin Rodriguez (aka the badass babe behind Vintage Vandalizm) would be arriving later on that evening and we had some time to kill in the meantime.
Jasmin Rodriguez Photo via Coco Haus
I was especially excited because I’ve been a fan of her Vintage Vandalizm blog for quite a while now. (I still watch her YouTube hair tutorials when I need a refresher!)
After a quick shower, we returned to the courtyard to meet our new friends. Charlotte & Romy had the perfect place in mind for dinner. They were considerate enough to plan ahead and choose a spot with lots of vegetarian/vegan options for Doris & I.
In a happy accident, we were soon joined by one of my favorite photographers, Shannon Brooke and her photo assistant Carlos Almanza, who would be photographing the shoot. Shannon and Carlos were staying at a hotel nearby and had decided to go exploring just as we were sitting down to eat. They had wandered right into us!
The waiters made our growing party feel welcome as they sat down to join us. I adore shooting with Shannon. We've only shot together a couple of times, but each time has always been especially memorable.
(Plus, I always know how good the photos are going to come out!)
Our first shoot together was in 2013. In fact, it was the first time I'd shot anything with a photographer who knew their way around 'pinup style' photography. I think it's a quite interesting story though…
I'll Make This Quick
Some of you may already know about my music/background, but for those of you who don’t, here’s the quick version:
Starting at 10, I grew up singing with a big band. I fell in love with old music and vintage clothing and all of the beautiful things that come along with it.
When I was 12, I signed to Warner Brother's Records, started my first long-running television show (Still Standing). Shortly after that, I started releasing music which is still a huge part of my life to this day, but that’s another story!
Suffice to say, as happy as I am to be alive in 2018, my love for all things retro runs deep.
As an adult, I used social media to follow so many of the bloggers, creators, and models that inspire me. I had never considered that I would ever be invited to join their ranks until artist Nathalie Rattner ask if I’d be interested in posing for a series of pinup inspired pieces that she was looking to create.
Claire Sinclair by Nathalie Rattner
Nathalie reached out to me after I reposted one of her pieces on Instagram. It's crazy how these things work out sometimes.
I was truly shocked when she asked, Nathalie’s work was so beautiful and evoked so many of the things I loved about the style of pinup artists like Vargas, Elvgren, and Olivia de Berardinis.
Nathalie's work has a lot of the classic pinup influence that I love but executed with a style that is all her own.
(To this day, I’ve still never met Nathalie, however, we corresponded regularly by email and snail mail for years!)
Nathalie's shoot would be headed up by Shannon Brooke, Danielle June aka Madame Pomp and Jennifer Corona. All three ladies would become major sources of inspiration for me. I was totally green in the pinup world and this would be my first shoot with any of the ladies that were responsible for creating so much of the imagery I loved.
Photographed by Shannon Brooke for Nathalie Rattner.
Hair by Danielle June, Makeup by Jennifer Corona
I’m 5’3, so while I’d been extremely fortunate in a lot of areas, Wilhemina wasn’t exactly knocking down my door. Modeling was one of those things that I’d just never really thought I’d have a shot at.
While there was some truth at the base of my thinking (and I’m still quite sure I won’t be putting any 6-foot runway glamazons out of job), I’d unwittingly used a single example to decidedly shut the door on something that excited me.
Sure, I didn’t fit the bill for high fashion, but what I failed to realize was, none of the girls I idolized the most fit that mold either. The models I loved the most had curves, the brands I loved and wore most often weren't designed exclusively for a tall, pin-thin set. So why was I sitting on the sidelines? Why was I taking the 'initiative' to count myself out?
**If you're a tall & skinny lady, more power to ya! I just love seeing diversity represented! **
Danielle June giving me a last minute touch up (2013)
Shannon, Jennifer, and Danielle made me feel like I could do anything that day and while their talent may have been what gave me my 'Cinderella-goes-to-the-Ball' moment, it was the acceptance, kindness, and support that they showed me that really made an impact on my thinking.
OK, that’s totally sappy, but I think you probably know what I’m getting at here. Sometimes it just takes hearing ‘yes’ once to realize you’ve been counting yourself out on your own accord.
Here's one of Nathalie's pieces inspired by the shoot:
"Why Don't You Change Partners and Dance With Me" Nathalie Rattner
While I haven’t even finished talking about my first hours in Mérida, I'm struggling to keep my eyes open. I'll have to save our Vintage Diva adventures for Part 2 of this post.
Sweet dreams, as much as I loved Mérida, I'm definitely looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight. I think my puppies missed me!
P.S. The cover photo for this entry is another piece by Nathalie. Check out her website to these and more... NathalieRattner.com