It's a Monday morning – the only day of the week Crush, Knoxville's first rockabilly specialty clothing boutique, is closed.
But that doesn't stop the owner, Sarah Frankel, from graciously opening up shop to allow The Daily Beacon an exclusive look at her kitschy, Americana wares.
"It's so funny when you look at this retro-reproduction lifestyle, because the people who are really into it were always the same people in high school," said Frankel, a 2009 UT graduate with departmental honors in history and Japanese. "They were in band or watched anime, and then they go to college and make their own clothes and go thrifting. Now that we're older, we're embracing a more conservative appearance and lifestyle in some regards, but we're all nerds deep down."
Conservative is not likely the first adjective Frankel's quirky aesthetic would generate from most passersby.
Clad in a pair of slim-fitting vintage cigarette pants, striped blouse, and black blazer ornamented with a chunky flamingo brooch, her outfit's minimalist color palette is offset by a shock of orange, perfectly coiffed hair, and bright red lips.
"People come in and ask, 'Oh my goodness, how long does it take you to do your hair and makeup?'" she said. "It takes me about 20 minutes. I teach pinup styling classes in the store because so many people get on YouTube and watch a video on pinup hair and think, 'Wow, what do I do? Where do I even start?'"
Classes are generally $20 per person for a two-hour session and require pre-registration via Crush's Facebook page. Frankel, who opened the Old City boutique nearly three years ago, focuses these tutorials on providing simple, effective techniques to evoke glamorous 1950s beauty trends for the modern gal on the go.
"I teach women eyebrow shaping and the traditional ways of setting and styling your curls so that when you wake up in the morning, you can just brush it out and it goes right back to that molded shape," she said. "If you come into the store, I'll teach you basic techniques and that's totally free.
"I really just like people to know (the look) is really obtainable. It's not nearly as scary as one thinks."
Christy Baird, overseer of southernpinups.com, praised Frankel for her dedication to helping local women bring a little whimsy to their everyday lives through their wardrobes.
"Sarah had a vision and she has brought that vision to Knoxville," Baird said. "She goes out of her way to educate those who are interested in the genre by providing makeup classes, photo shoots and just by opening her store to those who want to meet and network with others in the whole rockabilly-pinup scene."
Crush is noteworthy for price point as well as style, Baird said.
"It's worth checking out the merchandise simply because there is not another store like it in Knoxville," she said. "You will find quality items at a fair price that fits all budgets."
Frankel's delectable array of vintage-reproduction frocks, full skirts, screen printed T-shirts, and retro accessories are sourced primarily from lines like Pin Up Girl Clothing, Unique Vintage, and a few local antique shops.
A significant percentage of her wares are American made.
"I sell a little bit of lingerie, as well," she said. "I have access to this amazing company that makes modern-day girdles in modern-day sizes, but they haven't changed their pattern since the 40s. It's amazing."
For Frankel, the ability to integrate aspects of authentic vintage style with modern touches to culminate in a wholly individual look is something she clearly delights in.
"I think when you mix vintage and modern together, it gives you a really unique feel that's very different and really your own," she said. "Bringing in small aspects into your daily look is how you can put your own personal flair on vintage style."
Personal style has always been Frankel's favored form of expressing individuality.
"When I went to college, everyday was a fashion show for me personally," she said. "I felt rad. I made a lot of own clothes and I'd be walking in front of all these people and felt so good."
Although she understands the demands of a hectic school and work schedule, Frankel said she believes it's important that college-aged women put a little effort into polishing their appearance in the interest of increasing self-awareness and potential for success.
"College is really your first time on your own, and you're finding who you are as you're being thrown into all of these different situations," Frankel said. "The only way to defend yourself is to persevere and work on you and becoming a better you. That path for your education, the path for your future – fashion does go along with that.
"Just because you're in school working hard doesn't mean you need to be lazy in your appearance."
Frankel said she believes that by taking a few style cues from the elegant icons of the '40s and '50s, young women will find confidence in themselves that extends to all areas of life.
"When you feel good about yourself, that resonates," she said. "You dress to impress, you dress how you feel, and when you see someone with a put together look, all you can think is – they're put together. You don't know that they're having a hard time with their chem lab.
"If you have the drive to do well and to move forward, why not show it in every aspect of your life?"