Get a glimpse of Shani James’s impressive 1,200-piece vintage couture collection

Standout pieces range from a delicate 19th-century lace wedding gown to a floor-length embroidered ivory cape once owned by Ginger Rogers
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Shani James

Photograph by Alex Martinez

Stepping inside the wardrobe of professional stylist Shani James is like taking a curated tour through high fashion history. James has collected more than 1,200 vintage couture garments and accessories, and standout pieces range from a delicate 19th-century lace wedding gown to a floor-length embroidered ivory cape once owned by Ginger Rogers. James first began collecting vintage clothing while traveling with her fiancé, singer CeeLo Green; she says that flipping through racks at vintage stores is one of their favorite ways to spend time together on the road. Two years ago she opened a vintage-focused styling business, Knowstylegia. “I believe that fabrics have spirits,” she says. “They’re like my children; I love each and every piece that I have.”

Solid gold
One of James’s most prized possessions is a custom couture gown (wearing), hand-stitched with more than 35 pounds of glimmering gold beads. The gown’s history is equally lustrous: Its previous owner was Motown legend and Supremes singer Diana Ross.

Taking the plunge
This iridescent 1970s-era Thierry Mugler gown (on mannequin, right) is reminiscent of the notoriously revealing Versace dress worn by Jennifer Lopez at the Grammys in 2000.

In the bag
This black quilted satin bag (under James’ right arm), which James says is three times the length of a standard Chanel clutch, came straight off the runway in the 1980s. According to her, only two were ever produced.

Hats off
This ornate feathered headpiece (on stand, next to framed photo) is from Golden Age, a West Coast–based shop that sells retro-inspired accessories. It’s made out of vintage velvet, lamé, and peacock feathers.

This article originally appeared in our July 2017 issue.

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