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Old is new at The BackRoom vintage boutique. Photos by Tory Germann.

By Tory Germann
Think of it as one of the coolest closets ever, with looks straight out of a Mad Men set, the days of Woodstock and Studio 54. The BackRoom is downtown’s newest fashion boutique, founded by choreographer and lover of all things vintage, Jan Zawodny. Howl rummaged through The BackRoom’s racks of one-of-a-kind retro wares and sat down with Jan — an avid collector of looks from decades gone by since her college days — to find out more about her unique clothing shop nestled in a back room of the Zeitgeist Gallery at 167 Market Street.  
Have you always had a thing for vintage clothing?
I hit the vintage shops because I liked being unique. I know when you’re a certain age you want to look like everyone else, but one day you wake up and it’s like the last place you want to go is to the mall.

How did you turn your passion into a business?

I had been collecting vintage for a long time. Because it never goes out of style, at some point I realized I had enough clothes and started selling them to consignment stores. Now I wish I had some of it back! My second love has always been styling and clothes so I really wanted to share my love of all these unique things.

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Mad Men style dresses can be found at The BackRoom

Do you have a favorite decade?

I always wore my mother’s shoes and dresses from the 40s and 50s. I really like the romance of that period.  

Do you have any tips for wearing vintage?

You can do whatever you want. You can take those Mad Men dresses and wear them the way they were meant to be with stockings and stiletto heels or funk it up a bit with leggings and a cardigan sweater. I don’t really think there are any tips, it’s really what makes you feel good.

Do you see any trends for the holidays?

Mad Men dresses are still the hot item. But what I think is coming is a rage for the roaring 20’s with the release of The Great Gatsby this year.
Little flapper dresses, fringe, I guarantee you will see that coming.

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You’ll find some big names in the retro style selections at The BackRoom, like Coco Chanel, Valentino and Balenciaga.

What pieces will you never part with?

My Frye boots. I do have some 50s flare dresses I’ll wear in the summer and my leather biker jacket, which will never go out of style.

What are the most popular items in your store?

Little 70s tops go quickly and cowboy boots are always popular. The twenty- somethings go for the 60s and the cutesy kind of things, the 30-year-olds go for 70s and the 80s, maybe because they can relate to what their moms were wearing back then. Older women are going for the sophisticated vintage looks.

Do you have a favorite find?

Not in clothes. But I found an orange lamp that looks like a spaceship when I was in Idaho. I lugged that thing around on a three-week trip through the Canadian Rockies and took it back with me on the airplane. I just love that lamp.

WHAT: The BackRoom vintage clothing boutique
WHERE:  167 Market Street, inside the back room of the Zeitgeist Gallery
INFO: Store hours are Wednesday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Visit The BackRoom on Facebook.

About The Author

HOWL Street Team

Exploring everything from food and shopping to arts and entertainment so you can experience the best of what Greater Lowell has to offer.