We first met Samantha Balk, the woman at the helm of Etsy sensation Rose Vintage
, on a snowy Saturday morning. As we rounded the stairs of her north-side Chicago walkup, she swept back the front door to reveal the most charming matchbook apartment. Sweet and bohemian with pops of vintage, Samantha’s place has the look and feel of a dollhouse sprung to life. With Otis, her Old English Sheepdog at her side, Samantha welcomed us into the one bedroom space she shares with her fiancé, promising us coffee, Red Velvet cupcakes, and a peek inside her vintage-heavy wardrobe.
“My friends told me I had to incorporate this into the interview today because I always wear lace,” she says, holding up a 1960s lace blouse that she’s recently added to her closet. She rifles through a free-standing rack that’s been set up beneath the stained glass windows of her living room. “I can’t show you my actual closet,” she says, speaking the words of every city girl cursed with laughable storage. “It’s just tiny. I manage the space as best I can, but it’s definitely a challenge.”
…mod dresses, a Pendleton cape, vintage Dior, a glamorous fur stole,and blouses detailed in bows and lace…
What’s hung up before us—mod dresses, a Pendleton cape, vintage Dior, a glamorous fur stole, and blouses detailed in bows and lace—we identify as instantly enviable. As the sole buyer for Rose Vintage, Samantha echoes the aesthetic of the shop in her own day-to-day wear. Both her wardrobe and the shop’s inventory boast colorful patterns, unique collars, and good quality, wearable pieces. But Samantha’s sartorial choices don’t stop there.
“You don’t have to buy 100% vintage,” she says. “There’s usually one modern piece I mix into an otherwise vintage outfit to bring everything together.
Let’s say you have a white blouse with a lacy peter pan collar, then you could buy a new blazer to wear over that blouse to tone it down a bit. The same goes for a new skirt.”
It’s been over two years that Samantha has been hunting down vintage and selling it both online and out of a renovated 1960s camper. Following a string of lackluster jobs in her previous city of Missoula, Montana, Rose Vintage has evolved far beyond her initial expectations. She began by selling her own pieces online for extra cash and was surprised at how her little shop took flight. Now Rose Vintage is Samantha’s full-time gig, allowing her to work anywhere, from her home, to markets, to a cross-country tour selling straight from her camper.
“When I was in Missoula I’d do the craziest photo shoots for Rose Vintage,” she laughs. “I’d bring a rolling rack of vintage into the forest where there were wild bears—and it would be just me and my clothes waiting for the photographer and models.”
“I’d bring a rolling rack of vintage into the
forest where there were wild bears—
and it would be just me and my clothes
waiting for the photographer and models.”
These days, Samantha is staying out of the woods, and tends to frequent the city’s markets to sell her wares. Other times, she’ll park her camper any old place in the city, set up at a friend’s house, or do private events. Once, she was even invited to sell in the Hamptons at a party hosted by one of the Real Housewives, a proposition she describes as both bizarre and fantastic.
When it comes to her personal style, Samantha has very few rules. “I just do my own thing,” she says. “I don’t spend more than $50 on any one item and I don’t recreate looks. I just grab random things from the closet and hope they work. And if they don’t, I just hang them back up and start again.”
For a girl whose striking look says anything but haphazard, we found her daily outfit strategy a bit mind boggling to say the least. Truth be told, we had to see it to believe it. So we asked Samantha to pull together a handful of looks in the hopes we’d see the magic behind her prowess. Scroll through our slideshow below for a peek into her charming home—and a tour through her daily style.