By Sarah Elsesser
Paper dolls, the thin paper cut outs with interchangeable clothes, have been girls’ toys for over two hundred years. But now, Dominique Maciejka, has taken this toy idea and revamped it into something of her own, a vintage boutique.
“I thought the imagery of paper doll evoked this idea of playing dress up- of trying on different clothes, and paper dolls is something very vintage that girls have played with in their childhood from the early 1900s through the 1980s,” said Maciejka, 30, from Smithtown. “It gave that idea that every decade has its own paper dolls and its just such a pretty image to play with.”
While the paper doll might have inspired the name of the boutique, Maciejka remembers her passion for thrifting and fashion starting at age 12 when her mother brought her to different garage sales and antique shops.
“I liked the way [the clothes] were made and how unique they were,” Maciejka said. “It was always something I did on the side and then I ended up turning it into a career path for myself.”
Paper Doll Vintage Boutique opened on May 19, 2012 and since then has been voted Long Island’s Best Vintage Clothing Store by the Long Island Press in both 2013 and 2014, and is currently in the running again.
“I think she is doing something really important, because she is a young female entrepreneur who owns a small business,” said Kristin MacDougal, Paper Doll Vintage Boutique employee and a high school friend of Maciejka. “I think that it is amazing that she put this together. She has a gift for finding things and knowing what’s good quality and she uses it. There is a ton of beautiful stuff here and there will continue to be.”
The boutique is located on Main Street in Sayville and carries clothes from as early as the 1890s to as recent as the 1990s. In addition, she sells designer pieces like Elsa Schiaparelli, Betsey Johnson, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Dior.
Paper Doll gets its merchandise through wholesalers, manufacturers and auctions. The store no longer does individual purchases because it was becoming too much with people coming in during store hours to sell their items.
“I really try to find things that are in the highest quality pieces in mint condition, with really unique designs, mostly things that are colored or patterned or that have something really special about them,” Maciejka said. “So it does get really tricky to find the right pieces.”
However, according to Maciejka the boutique has been “successful” with finding “the right pieces.”
Paper Doll has had unique finds like an 1890 dress with whale boning, silk detailing and hand-sewn lace. Maciejka a traded it with another dress and now this one of a kind dress sits behind the register at the store.
“It has beautiful details,” MacDougal said. “The dress is damaged, so it’s not museum quality but it’s still amazing.”
Maciejka says she even saw the bathing suit on the Metropolitan Museum website.
“The Met is trying to preserve a certain fashion history,” said MacDougal. “So, they want to take them so in the future people will be able to see and understand where fashion went over time.”
When it comes to what exactly vintage is, though, people’s idea vary.
“Vintage is 40 to 50-years-old or older, nice condition and something that makes you happy,” said, Lee Olsen from Sayville, N.Y.
However, according to another Sayville resident, Julia Micelli, she says vintage is “anything that is old, but stylish or really anything that looks old styled that takes styles from years and years ago and uses them.”
With everyone having a different idea of vintage, that is why Paper Doll carries 90s crop tops and high-waisted jeans, even though the boutique has a strong focus on 40s and 50s pinup girls.
“It is an adorable store with all the art and clothing,” said, Johanna Reardon, from South Beach, N.Y. “It’s just really cute.”
But, for Maciejka, one of her favorite things about the boutique is interacting with people and seeing how they feel after a positive shopping experience. Besides that she has enjoyed the connections and opportunities she has had.
“We have a lot of other designers or people in the fashion industry come in here and look for inspiration or their future collections, for editorials or things like that,” said Maciejka. ”To have the recognition from well-known designers or editors of magazines and blogs… has been really rewarding and I hope to work with those designers, editors on a more professional level outside of the store.”
Michael Kors, the Baroness of the Baroness Latex Fashion, Christene Barberich, founding Editor-in-Chief of Refinery29, and Joshua McKinley, Project Runway season 9 runner up, have all visited the boutique.
Maciejka said meeting Christene Barberich was “a great experience.” She went on to say that because of making this connection she was able to meet Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, at her book signing of Girl Boss, where Maciejka gave Amoruso a 1970s, gold, rhinestone broach that said, “Boss” as a gift.
Likewise, when MacDougal met Joshua McKinley, she said, “it was weird because I didn’t want to be like ‘hey I know you,’ but I think since I didn’t bother him. We had a simpatico moment, where I know who you are and you’re shopping here.”
While Maciejka has always had a love for these designers and vintage clothes, she never thought she would end up where she is now. She went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she created her own program and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture and art history.
However, after graduating and figuring out what her next steps in life would be, Maciejka went back to school to take business classes. It would be in 2007 that she started planning to open her own business. Then, after a lot of research, she “pulled the trigger” and opened her shop in Sayville, on May 19, 2012.
During Maciejka’s planning process she decided on Sayville for her boutique because of the community.
“Sayville is a great town that has antique stores and clothing stores and we fit right in between there,” Maciejka said. “There are a lot of mom and pop shops and small unique business so I thought it would be a great place where we could fit in.”
The history extends beyond the clothes though. Sayville itself is rich with history. At one point it was the center to World War I, Germany radio towers that were partially at fault for the sinking of the Lusitania and also the a hub of bootlegging during the 1920 prohibition.
The storefront, in which the boutique now sits, is rumored to have been connected to the restaurant next-door, Café Joel, through underground tunnels used during the prohibition period, according to Maciejka.
Now Maciejka is looking toward the future of her business. While she doesn’t where it will end up, she said the journey it took to get there was worth it and that she would do it all again.
“Owning a business has definitely been an adventure, said Maciejka. “It’s had its ups and downs but the ups have outweighed the downs.”