VA-VA VINTAGE: Underwired Boutique offers Retro Wares with a lot of Class (and Sass, Who am I Kidding?)

“I feel that, if you are passionate about something, the energy and joy in what you do spreads to others.” – Lisa O’Brien

What’s glamorous, hilarious, and pink (and purple and green and red) all over? UnderWired Vintage Boutique, now on South Side Bethlehem, has been providing the Valley the best well-edited selection of vintage clothing for years! One look at the lovely Lisa O’Brien (owner) and you can see that owning a vintage store must be a passion that pulses through her fashionable veins without messing up one perfectly-sculpted red hair.

Underwired offers well cared-for women’s and men’s clothing, as well as jewelry, shoes, accessories and  a whole lot of laughs from the classy and comical Lisa. She’s quick to point out new items, and show you what she thinks you’d love and that would look great on your body!

Underwired is also hosting weekly craft nights – tune in to the facebook page below to learn more about them (another one tomorrow, the 12th). After you read the INTERVIEW, of course.

What brought on your passion for vintage stuff? Was it an always-evolving love or did something in particular set it off?

I started shopping thrift stores and vintage stores as a teenager.  I always loved finding an article of clothing that was unique and interesting.  I think the love of the vintage hunt was always somewhere in my lil’ brain.

Tell me about the birth of UnderWired. (Did it hurt? I kid.) What life events lead you to opening Underwired?

UnderWired weighed twelve pounds at birth, but it wasn’t too painful.  I had always wanted to have a vintage boutique, and for years, I plotted and planned. Just over two years ago, when I was a member of the Wired Artists Co-op, I found that there was space available in the gallery basement, and the ball got rolling – quickly!  It was a whirlwind, and a lot of work, and a very satisfying move!

Did you have a positive attitude about starting the business? It seems like it could be risky to open such a specialized shop.

Opening a business is risky, even in the best of circumstances, but I love what I do so much that it never really occurred to me to worry about it.  I feel that, if you are passionate about something, the energy and joy in what you do spreads to others.  And did I mention that sometimes people bring me snacks when I’m in the shop?  Seriously, the snacks have included, but are not limited to, peanut butter balls, wine, chocolate, and ice cream.  Opening this store was the best career choice ever!

Was this your first venture into being a business owner? Was it difficult to do, or easier than expected?

This is my first business, yes.  It is a lot of work – it becomes your life, but I wouldn’t say it’s difficult.  It’s all about creativity and flexibilty, and making sure that you never do something you’re not really excited about.  The most difficult part for me is that I can’t fire myself, so I have to see me every day.

Why the name “Underwired”?

The shop originally opened under the Wired Gallery.  The logo uses the W in UnderWired as an underwired bra.  Forethought, for just in case the store moved, which it did.  The bra in the logo was Larry’s idea (Owner of Wired)! I’m glad I didn’t name the store “Vintage Shop in a Basement of a Gallery” because that wouldn’t have worked out nearly as well.

How often to you bring in new pieces?

I bring in new pieces every week.  I hand pick, repair, and clean all items.  I could give you my long, drawn-out answer about where I find things, which starts with “there are a lot of ways” but this answer is really just designed to throw you off my trail anyway, so…I’m not tellin’.

You take great care in preparing clothing for the shop. Can you tell me about the process of cleaning the clothes?

Yes!  Thank you for mentioning that.  I try my best to choose items that are in great condition, with minimal wear.  My inventory can be from the early 1900s through the 1980s, so washing and care varies.  Delicate, antique items are always hand washed, but 70s polyester, cotton blends, and other newer items can be machine washed.  It can be quite a process, especially when repairs must be made.  At one time, I took some items in on consignment, but I rarely do that now, as I find it to be very important that I handle all the preparation of the clothing.

Do you have specific style inspirations? How do you choose what to wear, outfits well-chronicled in your blog? Also, please tell me how you get such amazingly sculptural hair. It’s really something.

For me, style is about having fun and doing what feels right when the mood strikes.  The choice of what to wear for the blog usually happens when I’m in the shower for some reason OR I might match my outfit to whatever my hair ends up looking like that morning.  My hair bosses me around a lot.  The trick to the hair sculpture is threefold: 1.  My hair is really long, so I can fold it, roll it, and smoosh it around to get the shape I want. 2. HAIRSPRAY. 3. BOBBI PINS.  I have about one million bobbi pins in my house or hair at any given time.

What does vintage clothing mean to you, from an ethical and personal standpoint?

Another great question!  I love vintage for many reasons.  One reason is that vintage clothing has already been in style once.  There are no rules attached, so you can do whatever you want with it!  Another reason is that, in my opinion, clothing was made with more care and more attention to actual women’s bodies in some previous decades.  But one of the most important aspects of vintage clothing is that it is here now.  No new waste is made through manufacturing.  And the clothing itself is not being thrown into landfills.  Instead, it is being worn by you, and looking great, by the way (hey everybody, Jaime looks awesome in vintage)!

What are some of the best things to have come from opening Underwired? Why is your store different than a thrift store?

I love meeting the wonderful people who come into my shop.  I love learning about them and developing new relationships.  I love the opportunity to participate in community events, and I love helping people shop and feel great! The biggest difference between UnderWired and a thrift store is personalization.  Everything in the shop is chosen for style and character and is made ready to wear for it’s new owner.  Try something on, you’ll see what I mean!


Tuesday – Saturday: 11:00am – 7:00pm

Sunday: 11:00am – 5:00pm

Monday: Closed

337 Vine Street (near Deja Brew cafe)

Bethlehem, PA  18015


Follow Underwired on FACEBOOK here: I “like” Underwired Boutique

Check out Lisa’s incredibly thorough chronicles and musings of life as a vintage lady, cat-lover, and creater of belly-laughs: UNDERWIRED Blog


Filed under South Side Bethlehem, Stylist, Underwired Vintage Boutique

5 responses to “VA-VA VINTAGE: Underwired Boutique offers Retro Wares with a lot of Class (and Sass, Who am I Kidding?)

  1. Yay! I love Underwired and the lovely Lisa! Great interview, and i hope to be up to visit the new location in August!

  2. Morena

    I enjoyed the interview because it was all so true! You are the most caring person I know. Your energy, creativity and imagination in all the events you host are unique. Shopping Underwired is a pleasant experience. I love looking at all the pretty things from a bygone era. Keep up the great work.

  3. Annie

    Wow!! Great interview and i love the pictures! Lisa, you AND the store look AMAZING! (not to mention that you can’t seem to not be funny which i truly appreciate) I see a lot of new earrings that I want to try on for starters. Underwired is the BEST!

  4. Aw, shucks, thank you UnderWired friends and thank you Jaime K.!

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