Helen Uffner has been a go-to period clothing source for television, movies and the stage since she began her career 39 years ago. From her 5,000-square-foot warehouse and showroom in Long Island City, Queens, she rents out vintage clothing, with her oldest pieces dating back to 1860. Her first film job was outfitting Meryl Streep for “Out of Africa,” and more recently, she supplied Amy Schumer’s dress for a Mary Todd Lincoln skit on “Saturday Night Live” (a regular client) and Kate Winslet’s shoes — 1930s wedges, new in the box — for Ms. Winslet’s portrayal of Mildred Pierce in the recent HBO remake. Sundays find Ms. Uffner, 68, who lives on East 70th Street, visiting flea markets and tag or estate sales with friends. She’s always on the lookout for new inventory and for additions to her personal collection of toys from the ’50s and ’60s.
WAKE UP WITH WINDUP TOYS I eat breakfast on the run. I might order out for a bagel and cream cheese with whitefish. I’m addicted to all morning news shows, so I’ll eat and sit on my bed and watch TV. On either side of my bed, I have two huge 1950s red-and-white table lamps that I got at a junky yard sale for $25 apiece. My apartment is kind of a conglomerate of things I find at estate sales. I collect old pop-up and windup toys, like Popeye and Olive Oyl, and arrange them in dioramas in glass cases. There’s a phrenology head on my living room table. It’s all fun and reflects my personality.
MAPMAKING Then I track out where the estate sales, flea markets and tag sales are and make a map of where I’m going to go. I look online to find them. There are estate sale sites, and I also Google local papers and look on Craigslist. I go with friends because I don’t have a car now. I don’t know what to expect on Sundays, but I know we’re going to have fun. Before I leave, I might hand-wash cottons or linens and hang them up to dry during the day. I’m a multitasker.