This is how a Sheffield vintage shop owner came to own a dress once worn by Mary Wilson of Motown group The Supremes

When Amber Savage was a young girl, she played one of The Supremes as part of a school play.

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 8:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 5:27 pm
Amber Savage, owner of Vulgar vintage store in Sheffield, holding a dress she found at a carboot sale in France which belongs to singer Mary Wilson of 1960s Motown group The Supremes.

She could have not possibly imagined, as a bright-eyed youngster pretending to be a singer she loved, that over twenty years later she would meet own one of the outfits worn by one of the famous band.

Amber, who is the owner of Vulgar vintage shop on Devonshire Street, met Mary Wilson, one third of the American female singing group that were a premier act of Motown Records during the 1960s, earlier this month to give the dress back.

Amber said: “I was on holiday in France when I found the dress in 2018, I lived in Brittany for around seven years when I was younger so I was revisiting some old friends.

“Myself and partner, Liam Smith, had been to see Patti Smith the day before and we were driving back past a small town when we saw that it had a carboot sale on.

“We stopped and had a look around but there wasn’t really anything to buy, but this one outfit caught my eye. It was a little confusing to be honest, because it was clearly incredibly well made, yet it was just simply disregarded.

“I asked the stallholder how much it was, she said €70 (just over £63), and that she had had it in a box in her garage for the past 30 years, but didn’t give me any information on how she acquired it.

“After I’d bought the dress, I saw the name Mary Wilson in the label. I was grabbing a coffee with Liam and I put the name into Google, which immediately brought up Mary Wilson and The Supremes.

“There were images of them all wearing extravagant costumes, so I then went on to spend the rest of the day trying to find a picture of her wearing this exact piece.

“Eventually, after scrutinising web pages for three hours, I did find a photo of her wearing it. I couldn’t believe it.”

The ivory coloured dress, which is a leotard style with a high neck and covered in sequin and diamante detail, was in good condition when Amber found it – although it was over 50 years old.

Amber said: “There were a few gems coming loose and a few loose threads, but nothing in terms of real damage, although I later realised there was a skirt which once completed the outfit and unfortunately that was, and still is missing.

“It was very petite though, probably the equivalent of a Size UK 4 in today’s sizing. Ms Wilson herself was shocked that she once fit into it.”

Amber met Mary Wilson, who was one of the original members of the Supremes alongside Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown, earlier this month to return the dress.

Mary was delighted to meet Amber and have her dress returned, telling her ‘that was so sweet of you, so many people would have kept that’.

Amber too was pleased to meet Mary, having listened the music of The Supremes when she was a child.

She said: “I’m a big fan of The Supremes, I listened to them a lot growing up, thanks to my parents. My favourite song was Lovechild. I actually played one of the Supremes at the school play when I was a pupil at Nethergreen Juniors.”

Amber has also promised Mary that she will keep a look out for the missing skirt section of the outfit, and as the 28-year-old regularly finds herself at carboot sales she might just find it.

Amber said: “We do travel a fair bit when searching for things for our shop, generally the UK, France and Belgium – we’re always looking for standout pieces. My parents are antique dealers so Its been the same my whole life.

“We’re always coming across interesting bits whilst out searching, whether it be vintage clothing, old film props, taxidermy, bits of furniture – basically anything that we think looks cool, fun or unusual we’ll have a go at as it keeps the job interesting for us.

“Liam is an antique dealer so we love finding unusual stuff, as you can probably tell by the interior of our Devonshire Street shop, Vulgar.

“Liam and I have been buying and selling stuff for the past ten years since we got together in 2009. We used to sell online when we first started out but decided to move into a ‘real’ shop in 2015 after really enjoying doing a few pop up shops up and down Division Street.

“For me, it’s a million times better being able to meet the customer, chat with them, find out what sort of thing they’re after, find them something they love and see them walk out with a beaming smile rather than just posting something out to a random address and that’s the last of it.”

Amber has been interested in vintage clothing all of her life, and said she believes it is better for customers and the environment.

She said: “I love vintage clothes with a passion. Hopefully fast fashion will soon be a thing of the past as it’s terrible for our planet and isn’t made to stand the test of time in quality, style or design.

“I’d much rather wear a second hand Versace dress than this season’s fad from Topshop that will probably be in a landfill next year – and for about the same price too.

“The thrill you get from finding an amazing pair of vintage jeans, or a unique patterned silk shirt, just doesn’t compare to the high street.”