Dallas’s “Denim Whisperer” Can Match You With Vintage Jeans
Jul 08, 2023
“I must see this magical woman.”
“Weird way to invite me to Texas, but thanks.”
“You’ve nearly convinced me to fly from Chicago for this lady.”
“WHERE DO I GO.”
Do these sentiments, culled from the comments on a TikTok that’s received 1.3 million views, seem over-the-top? Or are you just not one of the many desperate to achieve the status earned by a pair of well-worn and well-fitting vintage jeans? Because what Caitlin Brax is promising is truly the stuff of legend: a vintage denim shopping experience that doesn’t feature confusion and frustration over outdated sizing and quality misrepresentation—a complete sidestep over the sometimes invasive practices of being measured, sized, and squeezed into a musty pair of no-stretch Levi’s. (Or, conversely, saying a prayer and ordering Wranglers from somebody’s aunt on eBay before realizing shipping tacked on an extra $16.) Instead, Brax says assuredly that “numbers are not a thing,” and she pairs shoppers with jeans after giving them a thorough up-and-down scan—sometimes with an added requested twirl.
Brax opened AA Vintedge in 2020 after spending nearly eight years in vintage retail in Tyler, where she accrued a similarly loyal, albeit smaller, customer base. Since she’s become a fixture in Dallas’s Lower Greenville neighborhood, known for its quaint, tree-lined streets that boast an active dining, nightlife, and local shopping scene, Brax has connected with a wider fan base—to which she’s known as “the Denim Whisperer”—particularly interested in testing and utilizing her unique skill. But that’ll happen if you go viral on TikTok, which Brax has done a few times since AA Vintedge first opened.
“We found some TikTok attention early. That grew me pretty fast to a place where I was comfortable and used to a certain amount of business and grateful for that,” Brax says. “And then this last kind of wave happened and, again, it surprised me. I’m thankful for the growth that I’ve had, and I’m eager for more, but I was unprepared for how much this did for us.”
Brax says there are plenty of weekends when she encourages customers not to bother with coming in on Sunday if they’re looking for vintage denim, because Saturday at the shop was so busy that she’s low on stock. After one particularly successful TikTok espousing Brax’s talent for size matching garnered nearly three million views, the following weekend’s turnout had her nervous she might be breaching the building’s occupancy code.
“It can be difficult sometimes to accommodate all the bodies in here,” Brax says, but there’s no denying the success that the packed house indicates. “I’m like, ‘Okay, do I get an accountant now? Do I get my nails done? Am I at the point where I have that disposable income?’ ”
Brax arranged to open her doors at AA Vintedge privately for my fitting after doing something she says she hasn’t done in over ten years: taking some time off and temporarily closing up shop. Although Brax speaks highly of her shop’s employees, she says she hasn’t yet been able to impart her fitting know-how on any one protégé, so when she’s not working, the shop is shuttered. The closure was also intended in part to give Brax time to fully restock before fall and the influx of back-to-school shoppers.
“When I’m sold out of sizes or when people come to me and then leave empty-handed, I do take it personally, because I feel like they think I suck. But when it’s been so busy, I can’t control that,” Brax says. “When people come in in the afternoons late, and I don’t have their size, I don’t want them to think I don’t carry their size. But stuff sells out. It’s like a bakery. And I don’t get wholesale, or have a stockroom. This is it.”
Two days away from her reopening, however, I arrive at a fully stocked AA Vintedge and am met by an indigo rainbow of denim washes spanning racks and racks across the shop’s floor. I’m not skeptical of Brax’s claims, but I too have been hurt in the past by unforgiving vintage denim, and I remain healthily wary that she’ll be able to match at all, let alone do so without witnessing the sort of frustrated tears one reserves for fitting rooms. True to the lore, Brax does not measure me but instead asks me to “do a little spin.” I’m wearing a flowy dress, so she also asks that I pull the fabric closer to my body. After a couple minutes of chatting while she looks me up and down, she beelines for a nearby rack of denim and pulls four pairs of jeans she’d like me to try on. She talks me through her thinking behind each one, noting distressing and wash and what I can expect in terms of fit. She mentions that these pairs can be a starting point depending on how I like them, but after a quick try-on and reveal, we both know there’s no need to explore further.
They fit. And they fit well.
Of the four pairs Brax pulled for me, I rule out only one as something I wouldn’t purchase. The pair I’m most comfortable in and find most flattering (and also the pair I end up buying and taking home) is the first one she pulled off the rack: a light-wash pair of 550 Levi’s with some distressing on the front pockets. I feel weirdly light leaving the store with a pair of jeans of which I don’t know the size.
“I don’t want to act like I’m saving the world, but I do have customers that come in that have had difficult times with body image and finding something they’re comfortable in,” Braxton says. “I feel grateful that I’m allowed to be part of that journey—that they trusted me with that and to be able to facilitate someone feeling confident. I don’t want it to be like I’m this genie. But yeah, I do sometimes I feel like, ‘Hell yeah, I’m good at what I do. That’s a badass pair of jeans.’ ”