Professor’s passion for fashion draws students to vintage pop-up shop

Professor Beth Staples invited the community to browse her vintage clothing collection


Catherine McKean

Students browse racks of clothes at the Rummy Vintage pop-up shop.

Catherine McKean, Arts & Life Editor

Beth Staples, English professor at Washington and Lee, opened her Lexington home on Feb. 11 to anyone wishing to browse her vintage clothing collection for hidden gems.
“Rummy Vintage,” the name of Staples’ store, has been on Etsy since 2011 and has made over 1,000 online sales. But Staples’ professor duties have kept her busy lately, and she hasn’t had much time to post listings, leaving her with a large collection of unclaimed items sitting in her house.
With the help of one of her students, Staples decided to host a pop-up shop at her house to unite the local community and introduce herself as a small business owner.
“I feel like this is a coming-out, in a sense,” said Staples at the pop-up event. “I’ve never really talked about my business before, so this is the first time people are hearing about Rummy Vintage.”
The name of Rummy Vintage was inspired by Staples’ memories of playing Rummy with her grandmother when she was a young girl. She spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s house, listening to stories and learning to love and cherish the things that came before.
“I love vintage because I like treasure hunting,” said Staples, comparing each piece to an interesting story that she might select in her role as Shenandoah Literary Magazine editor.
Staples loves all things vintage, and decorates her own home with her finds. But she has a soft spot for clothing after spending her days as a graduate student on a budget in Phoenix, Ariz. thrifting to keep her closet full.
“The selection there was amazing, great for my budget, and vintage is very sustainable,” Staples said. “So collecting vintage clothing and sharing that with others was just a mix of things I cared about.”
She finds her pieces at thrift stores, including Goodwill, and estate sales, where she’ll comb through every rack to find clothes that inspire her and tell a story.
Her personal fashion sense is very informed by what she calls the “sweet spot” of the 70s to early 80s. But she loves it all, and points out that some of her favorite pieces in the Rummy Vintage selection are not necessarily things that she would wear.
Her love of fashion extends into her academic work. During the 2022 fall term, Staples taught a first-year writing seminar titled “Fashion and Society.” The class examined expression of self through clothing across history, as well as the use of fashion in establishing individuality, which is something that vintage clothing makes easier in an age of fast-fashion.
“One of the nice things about vintage is that you get a one-of-a-kind wardrobe,” she said. “With vintage, you get to ask yourself what you really like, and who you really are.”
The pop-up shop was well received, with many Washington and Lee students coming by to check Rummy Vintage out and pick up a few pieces.
Joanne Ko, ’23, said that she came out with her friends to browse after seeing a poster advertising Staples’ vintage clothes.
“I’ve been trying to only buy second-hand recently,” Ko said. “I know what I want to wear now, so with thrifting, I can pick and choose styles out of the many options.”
Staples was thrilled with the reception, and pleasantly surprised to see so many students at her event. She hopes to strengthen her ties with other Lexington businesses and begin working on Rummy Vintage again.
“After today, I’m thinking that I should do more of these pop-up events,” Staples said.