Elisabeth Carr is a guest blogger for Mission Loc@l and the creator of missioncloset.com.

For the longest time I considered myself a vintage admirer but not a true vintage shopper. I love the way a piece from another decade can turn a boring ensemble into something completely unique, but I’m overwhelmed by the big racks of clothes with irrelevant sizing, the funky smells, and the question of how I’ll incorporate vintage clothes into my contemporary wardrobe. All this changed when I stepped foot into Bianca Starr, the Mission’s newest vintage shop on 20th between San Carlos and Lexington.

The boutique is simultaneously chic and welcoming. It focuses on women’s clothing and instead of too many racks jam-packed with mediocre items, Bianca Starr is well-edited and well-organized. There is a mix of vintage and designer consignment clothing and all of the pieces are dry-cleaned (no funky smells!) and repaired prior to display.  It’s also very well priced—I bought a fabulous Gucci sling purse for just $60.

Owner Bianca Kaplan is a San Francisco native and has been a Mission dweller for the past decade. She and her husband formerly owned the 222 Club in the Tenderloin, but when they became pregnant with their second child they decided they were ready to sell the bar. Bianca opened the store in October after taking a business course at the Women’s Initiative for Self Employment.

Kaplan at the boutique (photo courtesy of Bianca Kaplan)

During my first trip to Bianca Starr, I realized Bianca would be able to help me understand how to make vintage shopping work for me, so I asked her for some expert advice.

Mission Loc@l: How did you first get into vintage?
Bianca Kaplan: I never have been a fan of going to a store and seeing multiple items of the same kind. I can’t and have never been able to shop like that. I have always been a fan of creative fashion. Mixing old and new to make a unique look.

ML: If you could inherit the closet of any celebrity, who would it be?
BK: Bianca Jagger. She is my inspiration and I was named after her.

ML: What’s the one vintage item in your closet you couldn’t live without?
BK: I couldn’t dare part with my Christian Dior sunglasses from the 1960’s. They are timeless.

ML: What’s your favorite piece in the store right now?
BK: I love this vintage Victorian blouse with lace sleeves. It was a long dress that I made into a blouse. When you put in on you feel quite majestic.

Victorian blouse

ML: What are your tips for novice vintage shoppers who feel like they can’t “pull off” vintage?
BK: You definitely have to wear these clothes, the pieces cannot wear you. If you feel confident about it, then you MUST get it! If not, I wouldn’t recommend it.

ML: How do you recommend mixing vintage pieces with current trends?
BK: I would advise wearing current, trendy accessories with vintage clothing or vice versa. I am not a fan of the full vintage look or the full trendy look. Mix it up! Try a vintage Gucci purse with the latest outwear trends.

ML: What timeless items should shoppers look out for?
BK: Vintage jewelry. Broaches, pendants, rings!

ML: Are there any vintage pieces we should avoid?
BK: Avoid smelly, moldy items at all costs!

ML: What if something doesn’t fit exactly right?
BK: My seamstress is my neighbor Sally from Sunny Launderette. She is the master of alterations and at a reasonable price. Often times when someone tries something that doesn’t quite fit, we walk over with the item on and ask Sally for her opinion. It’s pretty awesome.

ML: What’s the high school fashion trend you most regret?
BK: Parka jackets! I had my Raiders parka and I thought I was sooooo cool. I was a gangsta!

You certainly won’t find any Raiders paraphernalia at Bianca Starr. The store is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11am to 7pm. Stop by on Sunday mornings to enjoy champagne and DJs while you shop.

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Elisabeth Carr is a guest blogger for Mission Loc@l and the creator of mission:closet, a blog about San Francisco fashion. She began her journalism career at Sunset Magazine where she wrote stories about caramels and well-organized pantries and ate a lot of food in the test kitchen. During the day Elisabeth works in marketing at salesforce.com and at night she scours fashion websites and blogs for mission:closet inspiration. She grew up in Berkeley, and currently lives by the Muni stop "Liberty and Right of Way."

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