38-year-old Ruella-Maria is a part-time vintage slinger, mumma, wife and full time sick girl, who lives in The Woodlands Texas but originates from Aberdeen. We chat to her about her courage to keep going when faced with a myriad of health issues, how she started selling vintage and her stunning tattoo collection…
Tell us a little about your Etsy shop, and how you began selling vintage? I predominantly sell antique fashion on Etsy. I have a penchant for late 1800s to 1930s women’s clothing. I’m drawn to anything feminine, light and airy or a bit manky and masculine with possibilities for longevity. I like to combine sourcing vintage for myself and my shop with exploring Texas. Texas is an antique and vintage fashion treasure trove. My hunting grounds are flea markets, antique malls, fairs and estate sales.
I started selling vintage after my health deteriorated a few years ago. I only sell vintage on a very part time basis as my health permits. I was born three months premature in 1978, weighing 1lb and wasn’t expected to survive. I’ve been told that I’m a fighter my whole life, I see it more as stubbornness, I don’t like being told what I can’t do. I am neuro diverse, I have a developmental disorder known as dyspraxic with overlapping disorders on the spectrum.
I’ve always known I was different. It isn’t always easy but it’s part of who I am.
I also have Ehlers danlos syndrome a collagen disorder that affects my skin, blood, muscles, ligaments and joints, which causes major pain for me. I also have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome which causes a myriad of problems but mainly has me feeling sick, tired and dizzy on a daily basis. I’ve gone through hell over the years with both these illnesses but luckily I have an amazing husband who has helped me figure out how to weather the bad times and a daughter who gives me a reason to be strong each day. There are no cures for what ails me but I think it’s good to be honest & talk about them as they obviously impact greatly on my everyday life.
So selling vintage gives me a purpose. I don’t make it out of bed every day. I might be the slowest seller in the world but I know that I carefully choose each piece on my adventures, I put love into reviving the lost and broken pieces and I enjoy sharing what I find with others. I also set up a vintage fashion community Instagram page two years ago so folk like me had a place to tag outfits. I spread the word to use the tag #truevintageootd when listing personal vintage fashion outfits. 18k people later and I now have a group of Instagram friends helping to run the page so we can feature new people are regular users daily. It’s been an adventure building our not so wee vintage fashion community!
Can you describe your personal style? I have been wearing vintage properly since I was 17. My own style is a mix of antique femininity almost fairytale pieces mixed with modern and masculine pieces. I love the 1920s but find the Edwardian, 1910s and 1930s styles suit my curves better. I’m a bit obsessed with Victorian prairie and whore house boudoir looks at the moment. I spend a lot of time at home which affords me the opportunity to wear impractical outfits such as underwear for outerwear and corsetry.
It’s only really been the past few years that I feel I’ve really explored all decades of fashion and found my own fashion groove. I don’t feel like I fit in a particular category anymore.
Now I’m happy to be a square peg in a world of round holes. Difference is good.
Does your home decor emulate your style? I guess my house reflects my style a little bit. I’ve lived in Texas for four years with my hubby and 17 year old daughter plus two dogs. If I lived alone my home would would be pink and floral with mad Victorian wallpaper and dolls everywhere. But as it is I’d call our home industrial luxe – a mix of rustic wood and metal furniture with pink velvet chaise, teal velvet sofas, a taxidermy buck wearing a tiara and knick knacks everywhere. I have several cabinets filled with my older, rarer antiques, curiosities and pretty things.
Are there any values or traditions that you have that have been influenced by your love of the past? What pieces are you drawn to and which are your favourite? I am a HUGE period drama and old classic movies fan. I always have an old movie or something running in the background whilst I work. I have eclectic music tastes ranging from Victorian era music in swing, blues and jazz to more modern but probably 70s at the latest rock artists like The Doors.
Can you tell us about your tattoos? How do these fit into your look? Do they help you to feel comfortable in your body or help your confidence? My tattoos are also an expression of who I am. They are the pain I choose. But I live life in daily pain – at least tattoo pain is something I choose for myself and I get something beautiful at the end of it. I have a lot of scarring on my body – the collagen disorder EDS makes it all worse. I’ve been through the wars, had a bubba, been thin then fat then a bit less so and I’m almost 40, it all leaves its mark. I guess my tattoos cover up some of my tell tale signs in places and I prefer to look at tattoos than scars so that’s a bonus! My tattoos are for me. I’ll be getting more for sure and eventually there will be more visible but for now I like that they are mostly for my eyes only.
I see tattoos as personal art that I’ve collected. They are either tokens of fond memories or something that I admire. My recent, more complex pieces have all been done by the same amazing folks at Power House Ink. Jason and Amanda – both big antique & vintage fans. Both are very talented and I plan to have as many of my tattoos as I can done there and I’m far more likely to choose from their own flash as I admire their style and skill