There are days when Zophie Leslea, even after over a year of volunteering, still can’t believe she gets complete access to Seattle Goodwill’s Vintage Fashion Collection (VFC).
For a fashion lover such as Zophie, it’s paradise.
“I came in and I just stood there with my mouth hanging open,” said Zophie of her reaction to seeing the Seattle Goodwill VFC for the first time. “Every time I came in I would say, ‘This is amazing.’ It blew me away. I was floored. We have a bonnet from the Oregon Trail. It still has dirt on it from the Oregon Trail.”
Zophie, who crafts hats and has been trained by some of the best milliners in Seattle, plays an important role in inventorying Goodwill’s VFC, especially the hats. Once a week she travels from Everett to Seattle to research, date and inventory hats and she also mends hats in preparation for Goodwill fashion shows and displays.
Zophie’s volunteer position improves her design knowledge and gives her an outlet to explore her love of hats.
Goodwill’s VFC is an expansive time capsule of clothing and accessories dating back to the mid-1800s. History radiates from the items, and some pieces even come with historical information that describes the origin of the item, including location it was made, who owned the item and where they would wear the garment. In special cases, the garments are donated with photos of the owner wearing the item.
But for Zophie, she has found her niche in millinery.
“I love that of all the other classes I have taken my whole life in crafts—embroidery, needle work, sewing, knitting, crocheting—I can use all of those skills in hat making,” Zophie said. “It’s never boring, and it’s very exciting to come up with something to emulate that you admire.”
Zophie said while she’s spent countless hours volunteering, time spent in the vintage collection never feels like work. That is partly because she’s entrenched in what she loves and partly due to how she’s treated as a Seattle Goodwill volunteer.
“One of the strengths of Goodwill is how privileged you feel as a volunteer here,” Zophie said. “This has just been a breath of fresh air for me. It’s amazing being around a collection like this and to have access to it. I feel blessed every day. I also feel really blessed to be introduced to the people who are involved with Goodwill.”
Besides volunteering in the vintage collection, Zophie also has taken advantage of some of Goodwill’s training classes provided to employees and volunteers. She said her overall experience has been outstanding.
“The Goodwill mission statement really speaks to me,” Zophie said. “Education is so important, across all aspects of our society. We learn critical thinking skills, we gain understanding of others’ experiences and with that comes empathy.”