The perfect vintage t-shirt must be faded, soft, have a single stitch in the sleeve and a worn graphic, according to Rebecca Ravenna, vintage clothing connoisseur and owner of the curated vetements store Little High, Little Low (LHLL) in Wicker Park on Chicago’s Near Northwest Side.
An expert sense of curation is a theme obvious not only in the carefully chosen pieces lining the store’s racks and tables but also in the minimal design layout of the brick-and-mortar at 917 N. Ashland Ave. A neon red “LHLL” sign greets customers as they’re about to walk into the shop — the first indication of the owner’s aesthetic.
A seating area consisting of a white couch, pink velvet seats and an “ART” painting is the first area of the store the eye goes to, followed by a clear Supreme chair sitting inflated next to a rack of vintage concert t-shirts. A Byredo candle infuses the air with musky smells of chai and birch.
Clean white walls to the left and exposed brick to the right, LHLL mixes high-end designer and streetstyle items with casual vintage pieces, a tribute to the company’s name and its owner’s lifestyle.
Before the store opened last November, Ravenna started an Instagram account in 2017 — originally @foundthebestthing, now @rebecca.ravenna — as a platform where she could talk about her favorite pieces of new and vintage clothing or advise on the where to find the core pieces everyone should have in their closets, including white t-shirts, jeans and leather jackets.
Discovering a love for fashion at a young age, 33-year-old Ravenna jokingly self-describes her style as “dressing like a 14-year-old boy with access to his parents’ credit card.” As a kid, Ravenna said she’d wear princess dresses off-the-shoulder or backwards. Today, she balances designer handbags with casual t-shirts and sweatpants with heels.
“I always say that I’ll wear [sweatpants] out to dinner at night with a heel, I’ll sleep with them and then I’ll keep them on and throw a pair of sneakers the next day,” said Ravenna, a native of Northbrook, a north suburb of Chicago. “I wanted to create a piece that you could do that in.”
Taking a break from spending many of her days in sweatpants, Ravenna said she did a seven-day sweatpants cleanse, wearing only jeans.
“I think it’s important to check in with your jeans once in a while — make sure they still fit,” Ravenna said.
With LHLL, Ravenna said her goal is to bring together pieces that shoppers couldn’t otherwise find in Chicago. Not identifying with the vintage market in Chicago, she said LHLL fills a gap with its casual, streetwear focus.
“I want it to be a very curated experience for the shopper to come in and see things that they’ve maybe only ever seen online or discover a brand that they might not have heard of before,” Ravenna said.
In the year since starting her Instagram, Ravenna collected almost 14,000 followers and gained authority in the vintage community as a result.
“I felt like people would come to me for my aesthetic rather than tailoring,” Ravenna said. “I don’t use a lot of color when I get dressed. A lot of neutrals and a lot of basics, but I always like my basics to be a little bit interesting. I think I’m also very picky in ways that it’s hard to pin down, so I think that’s part of why people trust me.”
At the time, she frequently wore a vintage black raglan crewneck sweatshirt that often spurred questions from her Instagram following. That one article of clothing sparked something that ultimately led Ravenna and her business partners, Jacob Sachen and brother-in-law Angelo Ravenna, to open the brick-and-mortar store.
“I picked through my vintage dealer’s warehouse, maybe 25-30 pieces, and we came up with a logo,” Ravenna said. “We put it on the back; I put it right below where my haircut hits so that you could still see it. It was very self-involved … and it sold out within twelve hours. That lead to doing more, and it spiraled into the store.”
Offsetting the more expensive luxury items — Gucci and Celine handbags, Jacquemus boots and Givenchy pendants — are concert t-shirts and the shop’s in-house brand. The LHLL collection features popular items from joggers and cropped sweatpants ($90) to red “LHLL”-stitched sweatshirts ($120). It has since expanded to beanies, socks and mugs at prices ranging from $12 to $40.
Besides fashion, Ravenna credits music as being her passion. A white stand-alone rack is situated in the back of the store neatly displaying black and white vintage concert t-shirts from artists including Mr. Big, U2 and Bruce Springsteen costing anywhere from $85 to $400.
Vintage concert t-shirts have become collectors’ pieces, and they’re rare commodities in vintage and thrift shops. Ravenna said she wanted to gather a collection of these shirts and display them all in one place.
With concert t-shirts, some might say it’s a fashion faux-pas to wear a shirt of an unknown band. Ravenna has her own take on this unspoken rule, and it requires a simple Google search.
“I think that you should be able to name one song of the band you’re wearing because somebody will come up to you while you’re wearing the t-shirt and ask you what your favorite song is, like a fan of that band will come up and you just don’t want to look like an asshole,” Ravenna said.
Oasis, Queen, Greta Van Fleet and classic rock bands of all flavors, including Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, are some of Ravenna’s favorite artists, and she’s passed her taste down to her 3 and 7-year-old daughters.
“My kids know most Queen music,” Ravenna said. “I’ve played them the Live Aid performance many, many times. I’m debating whether or not I can show my 7-year-old ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ because she would love it. We may have to just fast-forward through parts of it.”
Ravenna’s philosophy when it comes to personal style is simple: wear what makes you feel good.
Little High, Little Low is open Friday-Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Items can be bought online at www.littlehighlittlelow.com.