The minute you step into Nicole Schaap's brand-new vintage boutique Crème de la Couture, you know you're not in Kansas anymore, and that this is not your everyday resale shop. It's more like a museum, a neatly hung collection of the real stuff, where the mood is amply set by Schaap's own obsessive enthusiasm for couture clothing. "I've always been into antique textiles," she says. "And I especially love Coco Chanel: She's just so totally inaccessible."
A passionate vintage collector ("I once found a Dior hat at a garage sale for $5 and got all teary-eyed about it," she says), Schaap worked for many years in the mainstream of Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Now, she's taken what was a side business and remade it into a full-blown retail heaven, in hopes of attracting other local couture collectors to come in and touch and feel her wares. Some of Crème de la Couture's one-of-a-kind vintage designer duds - a stunning black hand-sequined 1981 Chanel dress, for instance, or a '60s-era cream silk-and-lace peasant top by Karl Lagerfield - might put you back thousands, but there are also plenty of picks in a more affordable realm.
It's also nice to just come in and gawk -- at a 1920s seed-beaded bag here, a pleated black Givenchy gown or vintage strapless Chanel little black dress with a petal bodice there. "Some of these clothes still have the tags in them," Schaap says of her impeccable stock, which is for the most part in excellent condition. Don't miss the antique sections, where you'll find fine beaded and lace-finished flapper gowns, sexy bustled brothel dresses, petticoats, pieces embroidered in 14-karat gold thread and beautiful slinky 1920s lingerie that looks like it jumped out an Erté art deco poster. Quality is a theme here: "Everything here is cream of the crop, the best of the best," Schaap promises, noting that she's planning to kick off a "No Faux" campaign to merchandise her goods.
"I just hope people have as much fun here as we do," Schaap adds. "I'd like to bring fashion back in Denver, and we're going to start it. Let's all stop wearing jeans to the opera."
Crème de la Couture is at 3041 S. Broadway in Englewood. Visit www.cremedelacouture.com or call 303-781-5577.