Photography & Story by Jillian Gandsey
Sheri Ramirez operates the Blue Sky Boutique, which was run out of the Rail River Folk School in the summer of 2015. While the vintage boutique is going through some rebranding and relocating, Sheri has been loyal to thrift shopping and vintage clothing since middle school. We sat down with her in her home to talk about everything from her shop to her relocation from Los Angeles to Bemidji.
in: Where do you shop to find all of your vintage?
SR: Primarily, thrift stores. I try to take small road trips. I try to plan it out. Of course, with four kids, well three at home and a two-year-old, it’s hard to plan it all out and get it all situated. I hit The Salvation Army and Goodwill and the church thrift stores. All of those kinds of places and it’s really a lot of hunting, rummaging through and sifting. You walk in. You scope out everything. You hit all the main areas. I have an idea of what I’m looking for.
in: How often do you visit each spot?
SR: Ideally, I would love to probably go back at least once a month. It’s hard. Here in town, I’ll go to some of the thrift stores and the church shops here. For a while there I was going every week but that gets kind of tiring. Then you’re looking at the same stuff all the time and more and more vintage is so hard to find in your typical thrift store. It has been picked over. So that makes it hard to find, but when you do, it’s exciting.
in: Do you look online at all?
SR: I look online. I look on Etsy. Usually it’s kind of for myself. If I have a particular item like vintage bell-bottom Levi’s; I love that. And those are very hard to find usually. But I’ll go online if I can find a good deal on them and they’re my size then I’ll try to snatch them.
in: Is that what you’re wearing today?
SR: Yep and a threadbare India blouse.
in: Do you remember where you got it?
SR: No. Probably one of my searches. It’s been awhile since I’ve had this one that’s why it’s just… It’s a go-to. I just love the rainbow threads through it. That’s one of my favorite things about it too, and the bells.
in: Certain style period in history?
SR: Definitely late ’60s and early ’70s. The music has a lot to do with it.
in: Who are your style icons from that time?
SR: What’s funny is probably more the men than the woman of the era. I think of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and of course Stevie Nicks back in the day. She had great clothes. Even Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez. Gloria Steinem, for sure. If I wanted to put on more of a professional look, it would be Gloria Steinem.
in: What’s always in your handbag and with you?
SR: Let me tell you, this has been an ongoing thing that’s been haunting me. This needs to cleaned out. Usually the basics. Usually it’s a lip balm and at least a couple handkerchiefs in there. I’m a granny, handkerchiefs kind of gal. My nose is always running out here. The weather is always changing and my nose doesn’t know what to think of that. Probably some sort of toy or bottle. Mom stuff. Never is there a comb or brush when I need one.
in: You’re originally from Los Angeles?
SR: Yep. Born and raised there, my husband and I. Our first three were born there and we’ve been here, it will be nine years in August, so eight years.
in: What brought you to Bemidji?
SR: Freedom, I guess in a sense. Not being able to be bothered by our neighbors and have nature. Really. It’s kind of like, you see in the cracks on concrete, the flowers are always trying to grow out of the concrete and it was just starting to really feel that way. Why we moved from the warmest place in the U.S. to the coldest place pretty much in the U.S. It’s OK. It’s worth it. We still haven’t figured out an escape plan for winter yet but that’s another dream. Definitely miss the food out there. Miss the culture. The ocean is a big one. Lakes just aren’t the same as beautiful as they are. So much more grounded here. People are so much more kind. Freedom is kind of a deal because we’re able to be more ourselves here. It’s not so fast-paced and everybody’s trying to keep up with everybody in L.A. and not just with their cars.
in: Most customers buy stuff from your Etsy shop?
SR: Yeah. It’s funny because, here I am, from L.A., and then I have people I don’t know from L.A. buying from my shop. Because out there it’s almost impossible to find it on your own at a thrift store. You have to go to the vintage shops where they’re charging you outrageous amounts of money.
in: What’s your fashion philosophy?
SR: Have fun, No. 1. Don’t be afraid of it. Express yourself. It really is a tool just to say, “Hey this is part of who I am.” And it changes. It evolves just like we do as people. Be mindful of what you’re buying too. Be a mindful conscious consumer. I can’t stress that enough but I’ll leave the documentary makers to take care of the fashion industry and what they’re doing to us. It really doesn’t get talked about enough and there are some great documentaries about fast fashion and why people should probably shop and thrift stores more, buy second hand and of course shop local.
in: What’s the craziest item you’ve found while looking for vintage clothes?
SR: I can’t come up with anything because what’s crazy for someone else isn’t crazy for me. I’ve been wearing vintage clothing for quite some time, since probably eighth grade. On and off really because I went through those phases, too, where I thought, “Oh no I have to start shopping in the malls.” It’s that whole fitting in thing and I thought, you know, it’s so costly to buy stuff from the mall and the quality just isn’t there anymore. It’s always fun to find something that’s just unique, whether it’s for me or not I could find that early ’60s mod dress that I know some girl out there is just going to die for and it’s outrageous colors and patterns. That’s what’s fun about having a shop. I’m not just shopping for me, I’m shopping for other people.