By Janet Kelly
SPORTS teams and bridges (you might remember one in particular)—are what Pittsburgh is most well known for. Among its lesser-known treasures is a 1,200-square-foot store on the city’s South Side named Three Rivers Vintage.
Proprietor Scott Johnson opened the shop eight years ago, intending to sell his fashion-focused collection of clothes and accessories from the 1860s to the 1980s to “anyone who walked through the door.” One of the first to come knocking was Netflix’s psychological crime thriller “Mind Hunter,” asking for ‘70s and ‘80s apparel. “I sold them a ton,” said Johnson. Shortly thereafter he got a call from the film crew of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” requesting cardigans à la Mr. Rogers.
When movies are filming in Pittsburgh Johnson says he tends to gets more involved, so he asked someone on a set why they had called him. “Oh, please, everybody in L.A. knows that when you need vintage pieces for filming on the East Coast you go to Three Rivers,” was the answer.
So Johnson wasn’t shocked when last January “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” team called to request late 1950s, early 1960s dresses, coats, hats, purses, shoes and jewelry for potential use in the fourth season of the Amazon Prime Emmy award-winning comedy. (The fourth season was scheduled to begin production in late spring 2020, but it was postponed due to the pandemic. It finally started in early 2021 and wrapped filming in late summer.)
The crew communicated with Johnson via e-mail and Instagram, sending pictures of their story boards, pointing out the looks they were going for. He spent many hours sourcing, reading e-mails in the middle of the night and speaking with the costume designer. When he saw what he had that matched their vibe, he sent them a batch of mostly accessories, including more than 100 pairs of gloves, as well as handbags, winter coats and matching hats.
“They had specific requirements, such as skirts have to fall beneath the knee. The show is known for fashion, so they’re very particular.”
Johnson buys and hand selects every item in Three Rivers’ comprehensive inventory of about 8,000 pieces, 98 percent of which is from private buys. He makes house calls and has traveled up to five hours away to see a collection. To judge whether it’s worth the journey he asks customers to send him five or six photos of their holdings. He notes that sometimes you get lucky and score a motherlode, while other times those five or six pieces you have photos of are the only ones you want.
Nevertheless, he’s looking forward to seeing what stylish vintage clothing the Maisel folks (the stars as well as the background characters) will be wearing.
As for us, we’re rooting for a comeback for Midge and her comedic career after her fall from the graces of Shy Baldwin. If her conversation with Susie in the season trailer about not doing any more opening-act gigs and running her own show offer any clues, we’re in for a rocky ride. But we’re confident Midge and the rest of the cast will be dressed for the bumps.
The fourth season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” premieres this Friday night, February 18, on Amazon Prime.