“My story is of such marvel that if it were written with a needle on the corner of an eye, it would yet serve as a lesson to those who seek wisdom.” The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights
I’m sure many readers can think back to a time when they walked in to a shop and had the same sense of awe and excitement as Aladdin when he saw the treasure spread before him in the cave. July this year, I too had my heart palpitating like a bunny in Spring when I stumbled across Punch on Santa Barbara’s (California) well-trodden State Street. The treasures at Punch are the fruits of a dedicated team of collectors who trawl shops and markets internationally to present vintage lovers with immaculate antique furniture and vintage clothes. So often vintage and second hand clothes stores have that musty smell and if you buy a piece you have to take it to the dry-cleaners several times before it feels clean enough to wear. However, at Punch, I could have chosen a garment and walked straight on to the street in it.
Like a great cave, the further I walked into the boutique the deeper I was drawn and trapped into its bowels. Beads and earrings dropped from what seemed like thin air, antique furniture displayed delectable rings like sweets in a sweet shop and clothes jumped out at me as if I were in a LSD-induced dream. Fortunately, I was with two like-minded travelling companions on a road trip and each of us had our own taste so we were not poaching each other’s discoveries.
“Oh wow!” my friend Leng and I gasped as Kate revealed herself from behind the dressing room curtain wearing a full-length black evening dress trimmed and strapped at the shoulders with clear crystals.
“Are we having a wow moment?” asked the enthusiastic boutique manager, “Yes we are” she confirmed after taking a look at Kate who had been transformed from backpacker to siren in the flurry of a curtain. Kate had no immediate function at which to wear the dress but having just returned from a year in South America as a freelance tour guide she decided it was the perfect reason to keep herself in shape.
In contrast to Kate’s classic dress I embraced Punch’s more theatrical pieces. Stood on a shelf like the pieces of art they were was a pair of floral platform shoes with carved wooden soles. I had seen a similar pair on a calendar given to me a couple of years back but had never seen any available to buy. This particular pair was far too big for me to actually wear but this wasn’t a deterrent, I was happy to purchase them as a decorative piece for my home. Incidentally, they now stand like proud sentinels at the entrance of my bedroom acting as doorstops. My second flight of fancy was on a pink paisley full-sleeved trouser suit from the 60s. Again, I doubt I’ll ever wear the suit, except perhaps to a themed party or with my closest friends, but I had never seen anything like it and could not pass the opportunity on owning something so unique. Leaving the garments at the till and running to the cash machine I thought of my mum, whose taste would not necessarily stretch to liking my purchases, who would have said “you’ll regret it if you don’t do it.”
Leng was more restrained than Kate and me and settled on a pair of gold triangle earrings, nevertheless, she left the boutique grinning from ear-to-ear clutching her bag. At the back of my mind I began wondering how on earth I was going to get my newest collection home but as ever with me, where there was a will there was a way.
1223 State Street in the Victoria Court
Between Victoria and Anapamu streets
Public parking in Lot #5
Monday-Friday 10:30am to 5:30-ish
Saturday 10:30am to 8-ish
Sunday 11am to 5-ish