Some people want to wear the latest fashion. Not Sarah Lader. The-23-year-old College Park resident hunts through estate sales and online auctions for hidden treasures to sell on her website and at her pop-up shop at events, flea markets and festivals throughout Greater Washington. Through her business, The Sustainable Socialite, Lader tries to perk up people’s wardrobes while reducing fashion waste.
What led you to vintage clothes?
I needed a break from the everyday, so I applied for a work program in Israel. I got a job as an assistant professional photographer. And that was wonderful. I gained a lot of experience, but I wasn’t completely happy with my position there. And I had a friend tell me about some tiny little vintage store in the middle of Herzliya. So I took the bus to the store. I walked in and was amazed.
Everything was affordable. I spent hours in there just looking. Eventually, I muttered to myself, “I wish I could just work here.” And the girl putting shoes away was like, “Do it. Quit your job. Come be an intern here.” And so that’s what I did. I spent three months working at Golda Second Hand. I basically learned all about how to curate inclusive collections. So I came back [to the United States] and I started my own collection.
What draws you to vintage clothing?
People nowadays want to fit in. I go to the mall and I see 20 shirts of the exact same style and different colors, and people will pick up one of each and they’re not really willing to take that risk anymore. I actually had a pop-up shop the other day and someone came up and she was like, “Why do all of your pieces have shoulder pads? Ew!”
And I was like, because people wanted to be bold. People wanted to feel powerful. And people were more experimental with fabrics and colors and styles throughout the decades, and I always really loved that. I am someone who wants to stand out. I want to express who I am, my personality through the things I wear. I want when someone comes up to meet me at first, they can see what they’re getting into.
Aside from style, what separates vintage clothes from the new?
The quality. You hear about fast fashion and all the ways it’s terrible, but you also don’t hear about the lifecycle of the clothes. They don’t last as long as old pieces. These pieces, some of them are from 1950, and they’re still in pristine condition because they’re made well. They’re made with great materials. They’re made solidly. They’re not made so that they are torn apart in the wash after a few wears and you have to go buy another one. They weren’t made to make a profit. Making clothes was an art.
Do you have a favorite decade for fashion?
I love the ‘70s more than anything. I’m a really big fan of novelty prints. So I have a ton of just ridiculous neon floral shirts with dagger collars. Different crazy patterns with crazy colors. And I have neon yellow bell bottoms that I wear to a lot of my pop ups. It’s definitely a decade that speaks to me. It was unapologetically bold.