Heidi Rosenau got started early, donning vintage goods in high school. As an adult, she has specialized in seeking out American fashion from 1920 to 1945 and generally wears items from the 1930sbecause they flatter her petite figure. Along the way, Rosenau, whose day job is doing public relations for the Frick Collection in New York, amassed (without really intending to) more than 1,000 pieces, including 450 dresses and 200 hats.
For her, fashion is only part of an interest in the overall history of the period. “I had always listened to the music of those decades—the costumes came with that attraction,” she says. They’re not the only thing she collects, but they certainly stand out.
“I have also collected Chinese export ceramics. But this [fashion] is a more thorough self-expression.”
Donning vintage duds also sparks interactions. “A lot of people stop and ask me what I’m wearing,” says Rosenau. “It creates a lot of conversations. A 92-year-old former paratrooper told me, ‘I mean this in the nicest way, but you remind me exactly of my mother in 1942.’ And we shared a moment.”
Rosenau is dressed in samples of her collection. Above is a postwar printed cotton; on the previous page is Rosenau at a lawn party with husband Joe McGlynn.