“I’m known for dresses and partywear,” says Tiny Stainker, fanning out the skirt of a velvet dress in her boutique, Lily’s, next to the Woodstock Village Green. She also sells streetwear, winter hats and scarves, nightgowns, kids’ clothing, cards, chocolate, and an eclectic mix of other items. Most of what she sells is designed by artists she has connected with in her 25 years of running a shop in Woodstock.
Many of the designers also have fine art careers, including Star Nigro, whose photographs are currently on display across the street at Oriole9. Tiny sells Star’s photo jewelry, which incorporates bits of her photos — often very small bits — into earrings, necklaces, and hair ornaments.
Elana Kattan designs the partywear, all of it made in the U.S.A. Tiny pulls out a simple white gown, perfect, she says, for a beach wedding dress. “A lot of people like to get married at the beach.”
Then there’s Ulf from Sweden, who makes dresses in 1940s styles — crêpes, georgettes, chiffons. “It’s all bias-cut,” says Tiny, “which makes the fabric fit the body best.”
Quirky hats and fleecy hooded scarves are designed by Tiny, who grew up in New Jersey and went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. After graduating, she designed lingerie and made patterns for Diane von Furstenberg’s bodywear line. Her patterns for Morrie’s Closet included Victorian slips, dresses, and tops that were made with new fabrics but trimmed with vintage lace and buttons. They were sold in Bendel’s, the Fifth Avenue luxury accessory store, in 1979 and 1980.
Tiny came on visits upstate with her husband, building on a relationship with Woodstock that had started when she was eight, and her mother’s best friend retired to Willow after running a deli in southern New Jersey. “She was going stir-crazy, so she opened Dot’s on Mill Hill Road and introduced stuff from south Jersey—hoagies, subs, Philly cheesesteaks. In 1969, I waitressed there for the summer. I always wanted to live up here.” She’s still friends with neighborhood kids she met in Willow as a child.
With her husband, Tiny hung out at the Expresso and Joyous Lake, ate soup at Joshua’s, camped out at Minnewaska or slept at the Twin Gables. They often hitchhiked back and forth to the city. They were married in Fleischmanns, where they liked to go for the autumn colors.
The marriage broke up when Tiny’s son, Aren, was a year and a half old, and she moved upstate along with a group of city friends. She had worked at Gypsy Vinicor’s shop in the city before the Vinicors came north. In a corner of Alan and Lynn Fliegel’s underground comics shop SoHoZat in lower Manhattan, Lynn and Tiny sold children’s clothing they designed. The Fliegels had sold their Babytoes clothing line at a series of shops in Woodstock and Phoenicia.
Arriving upstate, Tiny continued to fix up vintage items with beadwork for resale at flea markets, including Mower’s in Woodstock. She sold Department of Peace clothing on nearby college campuses, bringing her son along for the first few years, to the delight of college students. Then she started working for shops in town, including the Laughing Bear boutique. When the owner sold her the lease, she changed the name to Wild ‘n’ Sweet, which lasted 15 years. Ten years ago, she moved across the street to larger digs and felt the new shop needed a new name.
For a while, she had tried to change her own name to Lily, but it didn’t catch on. People insisted on calling her by the name she had received from an uncle who objected to her being named after her grandmother, Edna. Born at just over five pounds, the infant Edna had a longish hospital stay. “She’s too tiny for an old lady’s name,” the uncle declared, and “Tiny” stuck.
Years later, when the name Lily didn’t take, Tiny applied it to her dog and then, at last, to her new shop. The store she replaced had sold chocolate for 40 years, so she promised her landlady she’d continue the tradition, stocking bars from Rhinebeck-based chocolatier Oliver Kita.
She still sells vintage clothing, “one of my loves,” including lingerie samples from her 1976 designs. Her mother was the size of the samples, so Tiny passed them along. When her mother died, a drawerful of never-worn lingerie surfaced, and the samples are now on sale in the shop.
A handful of local women put their own art on t-shirts, jewelry, and cards, such as Carol Cramer, a painter whose day job is working as the florist at Mohonk Mountain House. Margaret Owen, who now runs Phoenicia Arts and Antiques, paints graceful, elaborate patterns on hand-dyed dresses, shirts, and other clothing. “She ups her design” with every new batch of items, says Tiny.
Young people may recall how Tiny photographed trick-or-treaters when they came to the door of her shop, starting back before digital. Each Halloween, when she had Wild ‘n’ Sweet, she would post photos from the previous year, and kids would search the shop window for pictures of themselves in costume. She used to shoot eight to ten rolls of film every Halloween. Some of those photos have wound up on cards sold at Lily’s.
It’s the combination of people and clothes that keeps Tiny enjoying her business. “I love talking with people from all over the world and knowing they are taking a piece of Woodstock home with them. I love fabrics and fun designs and elegant party wear that moves when you dance. It’s a great feeling when I outfit a woman and she feels fantastic for where she is going.” ++