Most days Starlotte Dresen looks like she just stepped out of a time machine: hair always perfectly coiffed, eyes meticulously winged, outfit accessorized to a tee.
One particular April afternoon at a vintage pop-up at the Cedar Nest Décor Café downtown, she’s rocking a full 1940s getup with a white polka-dot-on-navy dress, complemented by vibrant red lipstick and earrings, all topped with a white hat.
Her outfit says even more about her than it seems. It says the obvious: the owner of Sudbury’s Starlotte Satine Vintage pop-up shop has a passion and an eye for vintage. But it also reflects where that passion and eye come from: her family.
See, the dress is Dresen’s great grandmother’s.
“My love for vintage stems from my great grandmothers and my old-school upbringing,” said Dresen. “I grew up watching old Western movies and retro TV shows, listening to my grandmothers’ record collections, and playing dress up while adventuring through all of the old treasures my great grandmothers kept from the generations before me.”
At that time, Dresen was living in Carlin, Nevada. She was raised in the small, desert town until she was 13 and her stepfather’s mining career brought them to Sudbury, where her love for the arts fully blossomed.
“Thankfully coming here, art schools exist, because without that I'm not sure where I'd be now!” said Dresen. “Sudbury Secondary played a fundamental part in what I wanted to pursue, what would have been impossible in the small American town I grew up in.”
A visual arts and dance student in high school, Dresen pursued animation in college before deciding it wasn’t for her and dropping out to try and find a career that suited her better.
“I took a leap of faith and left and that's when I discovered the magical world of burlesque, film, and fashion,” said Dresen.
Dresen wound up working in film for a few years, has become a well-known burlesque performer, and she started taking vintage more seriously a couple years ago.
She was drawn to the nostalgia and aesthetic, but said she also appreciates the sustainable aspect of reusing clothes rather than buying them new.
“It started with fun wine and dress up parties at my place two years ago and then we decided to start actually selling,” said Dresen. “Since I'm a huge supporter of downtown Sudbury and many of my friends are business owners, adding vintage clothing to their spaces worked wonderfully.”
She’s held pop-ups at a variety of locations like the Cedar Nest and The Speakeasy (now called The Alibi Room), and interested customers can meet her in her spacious studio apartment to browse her collection.
Dresen recently upped her game though, entering her vintage business in the Win This Space competition being held for the second year by Downtown Sudbury. She entered last year too but didn’t make it into the second round; this year she’s one of the semi-finalists, currently preparing a business plan to pitch.
That’s just one of the things she’s juggling though: she’s also managing wardrobe for a local theatre company and planning a vintage prom with Sudbury Burlesque on June 9.
Whether she wins the competition or not, Dresen has no plans of slowing down, and sees her vintage business continuing well into the future.
“I have so many plans! I'm incredibly passionate about bringing a vintage community to Sudbury and inspiring others to step out of their comfort zone through style and fashion,” said Dresen. “I want to create a shopping experience that isn’t just about buying, but more about feeling like you've stepped back in time.”
Ella Jane Myers is a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury. Check out more of her work on her website.