Wounded Bird: Revamped Vintage

| Scene Reporter
Winding through downtown St. Louis, I had no idea what I could expect when I first made that left turn onto Cherokee Street. Set in a quiet residential area just southeast of St. Louis University, the street is home to several trendy boutiques offering everything from party planning services to home decorating. As I walked up to 2212 Cherokee, I noticed the yellow molding on the building, the soft lighting and the array of different objects shoved into the window display—yes, this was going to be an interesting experience.

It was opening night for Wounded Bird Vintage Clothing, and the little store was crowded with people from all walks of life—students in their early twenties, young professionals in their early thirties and empty nesters. Wounded Bird is located in the back of a storefront for the small publishing group Cranky Yellow, which houses art, small paperback books and music from different artists in the area. The eclectic mix of merchandise within the two stores is overwhelming: everything from books and T-shirts, to paintings and dresses, to CDs and shoes. There was also an entire display case of handmade jewelry—necklaces, earrings, rings—you name it. Housedresses from the ’40s were hanging next to vintage T-shirts from the ’70s, and there wasn’t an inch of space left uncovered. Shoes were stacked on windowsills and hats and bags thrown onto nearby standing mannequins. Despite the garage-sale aura, one could feel that there was an acute awareness to everything chosen, and a purpose for each item.

Emi Hemeyer, the owner and self-named “proprietor” of Wounded Bird, informed me that indeed, each item was chosen with intention, as they had all been part of her personal collection. What had started as an innocent hobby of collecting previously worn clothing blossomed into a passion, and after 10 years of searching thrift shops for the right pieces, Hemeyer had assembled a collection worthy of a boutique.

Still, sizes and styles are limited and select, and by no means is this a place to do back-to-school shopping. However, it may be the place for you if you are looking for a trendy top or funky belt.

More than what the boutique sells, however, is how they sell it. Despite the “old school” vintage feel, there were many “newer” advancements—for example, a laptop was set up in the storefront with a past employee monitoring the sale of her artwork via a cyber chat. As she greeted employees that walked in the store from her new location in Portland, Ore., you could tell she was in this for the art, not the money.

This is fitting, considering everything in Wounded Bird is reasonably priced, with T-shirts going for as low as $4 and dresses for as low as $38. With the recession we’re facing and our student budgets, Wounded Bird makes buying clothes affordable. An additional bonus: Altering is included—that is, if you do it yourself. There is a small room adjacent to the store, which they lovingly refer to as “the butcher shop,” in which shoppers can cut up and re-stitch the fabrics to suit their needs. To fit with the theme, the room is decorated with bones and what appear to be animal insides on the walls—a little too haunted house for me, but still a cute idea. Hemeyer expressed this option as a way of “liberating” the clothing and allowing the new shoppers to “re-instill life” into the articles they purchase.