In January 2021, Laura Simmons took her lifelong love of all things old and decided to share that love with Fort Worth.
The 47-year-old opened Studio 74 Vintage, a vintage clothing store specializing in curated pieces mostly created before the 1980s. Since the store opened, Simmons has been featured in Fort Worth Magazine, collaborated with the Justin Boot Company for a clothing campaign and had her clothes featured in style mags like Western Wedding, Cowgirl, and Cowboys and Indians. The clothes are beautiful, but the thrill of Studio 74 Vintage runs deeper than the tailored collection.
To walk through Simmons’ store is to take a stroll through Fort Worth history.
Upon racks and racks of clothes, the store at 4908 Camp Bowie Blvd. boasts thousands of unique vintage items carefully curated by Simmons. The walls are lined with historic Fort Worth pieces — Fort Worth Cats baseball shirts, a Panther City vest adorned with a panther head and vintage cowboy boots of varying shades and sizes. Even the clothing tags, which indicate the decade and often the location from which the item originated, read like a love letter to Fort Worth’s history.
“Fort Worth is where culture and cowboys mix,” Simmons said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else other than Fort Worth.”
Simmons has always been an old soul.
She grew up in a historic Fort Worth home, and her older siblings and parents taught her to cherish old music, cars and clothes. Her parents were embedded in the Fort Worth community — her mother ran a beauty salon on the North Side, and her father pitched against the Fort Worth Cats while playing for North Side High School.
In her spare time, Simmons collected antiques, old china and vintage housewares. She opened a booth at Benbrook Antique mall in 2018 that grew larger and larger until she started to look for a place a little more permanent. As she moved to open a store of her own, her focus shifted to collecting vintage clothing.
“It started something in me that I can’t let go,” she said of vintage clothes. “I need to rescue them.”
‘The new luxury’
In 2019, Simmons retired from her 25-year career with law enforcement and set up shop in a strip mall on the red bricks of Camp Bowie Boulevard.
On a warm December day, Simmons — dressed in ‘70s flare jeans, snakeskin boots, and a mustard yellow blazer adorned with a 1980s, gold leopard pin — moved among racks of clothes filled with colorful ‘70s blouses, prom dresses from the ‘50s and decades-old purses. She talked about her plans to redo the shop over the holidays — new floor, fresh paint and a website where people can shop some of her vintage collection. The store has been growing in popularity over the past year, and Simmons said she’s even seen some notable faces around the store, including Fort Worth native Leon Bridges.
If national trends are any indication, Simmons’ success seems likely to continue.
“As they say, vintage is the new luxury,” Simmons said.
Vintage clothing has become increasingly popular in the past two years. An emphasis on sustainability, environmentally conscious spending and a drop in shopping during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have all played a role, according to Vogue.
“Vintage is so hot and fast fashion is kind of dying,” Simmons said. “Vintage is like having an investment in your closet. Because it’s made better, it’s going to stand the test of time. If it’s already lived this long, chances of it living another 20 to 30 years is good.”
Unlike most new clothing, Simmons said, vintage clothing does not lose its value after being bought. A jacket from the ‘60s will likely only increase in value if it sits in the closet for years, unlike most clothes from department stores or online shops.
The one-of-a-kind quality of vintage is in increasing demand as well, Simmons said.
“I bet you cannot specifically name ten items you bought at Target or the mall in the past year,” she said. “Because it’s forgettable.”
Many of Simmons’ clothes come from people finally going through the piles of family antiques that have gathered dust over the years. People haul in trash bags and totes filled with old clothing from great-grandmothers and seldom visited attics.
“Rarely a day goes by where someone doesn’t walk through the door and sell me something,” Simmons said.
For people who don’t know what else to do with relatives’ belongings, letting their clothes live on can mean a lot, Simmons said.
“To me, I think for that person and for their kids who are selling those things, they appreciate it’s going to a good home,” she said.
Word of mouth has increased the number of people who come to her to sell, but Simmons still puts in the leg work for her store. She researches estate sales, and will drive for hours in the early morning to be first in line at a good sale. And, of course, she never neglects other local shops.
“I’m still a thrifter at heart,” she said. “I will hit up Goodwill and thrift stores on the weekly. Sometimes multiple times a day.”
Clothes with history
When shopping at Studio 74 Vintage — typically open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — one might come across a clothing item with a floral tag that reads, “I belonged to someone special, ask about me.”
Simmons’ collection includes and has included clothes intertwined in North Texas history. She has bought and sold dresses worn by Priscilla Davis — the second wife of Cullen Davis, infamously accused of killing Priscilla Davis’ daughter and attempting to have Priscilla Davis killed in the 1970s. One man sold her clothing that was worn by Van Cliburn’s mother. In 1962, Fort Worth started the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which draws pianists from around the world.
Simmons bought nearly the entire wardrobe of James “Maggie” Megellas — a World War II veteran who is considered one of the most decorated combat officers in history. Megellas lived in Colleyville from about 2009 until his death in 2020. Most recently, a woman sold her a jacket that belonged to Spanky McFarland. The inside of the jacket reads that it was custom-tailored for the Little Rascals star, who was born in Dallas.
Even the clothes without a special tag belonged to someone, and that unknown history is what draws Simmons back to vintage clothes again and again.
If you ask her to pick a favorite, she balks.
“That would be like picking one of my favorite children,” she said.