Vintage Clothing: New York vs. Los Angeles
I have a confession to make: I am not a big fan of shopping in general, but I love collecting (and wearing) vintage clothing. Where I find the usual mall experience draining, I find the search for vintage clothing invigorating, a thrilling adventure of never knowing what I’m going to find when, where and for how much.
I’ve snapped up a mint 1940’s suit at an auto parts swap meet outside of Seattle ($12), a floor-length black velvet Edwardian coat at a local garage sale ($50), and, just last week, a Victorian embroidered wool cape from a most unpromising strip mall in the city ($40). But the unpredictability of the hunt – and it does tap into our hunting and gathering instincts – is balanced with the rush of a brilliant find, the mystery of provenance that necessitates a second (or third) look, and the invocation of the greatest conversation starter known to (wo)mankind: I love your [dress, coat, hat]! Where’d you find it?
Depending upon your need(s), there are six ways to acquire vintage clothing you love:
- Inherit pieces; it’s amazing what comes your way when people know you wear vintage;
- Do the long, slow pick, buying interesting bits as you go;
- Shop online or at auction with Etsy, eBay, Craig’s List and private auction companies;
- Purchase in person from professional vendors who curate vintage clothing for a living and can help build your wardrobe;
- Rent something exquisite from a vintage purveyor for your extra-special events;
- Engage a stylist who works with the vintage clothing companies who work only with industry insiders.
New York and Los Angeles, with a side of San Francisco, are hubs for the high-end clothing we see on movie screens, at art gallery openings and on the bodies of the beautiful people at those red carpet parties just outside our orbit. But with a dizzying array of rental options and price points – usually about 10% of the book value of the dress or outfit per week – it’s very possible to find, and wear, the look of your dreams.
Here are some of the finest purveyors of vintage clothing and accessories for your viewing pleasure. Prices range from less than $100 to tens of thousands for exquisite, high-demand pieces.
NEW YORK CITY
New York Vintage
117 W. 25th
On offer: The collection spans more than a century of vintage fashion from a dizzying array of historic and contemporary designers; retail on the ground floor; second floor houses one of the most important rental-only clothing archives in the world; advisory services to the film and television industries; fashion destination for one-of-a-kind gowns and accessories
Accessibility: Retail, open to the public; Archive (rentals only) – By appointment for red carpet and industry use
What Goes Around Comes Around
351 W. Broadway (Broome & Grand St.) + East Hampton and Roslyn locations
On offer: Purveyor of authentic luxury and vintage bags, jewelry, scarves, belts, gloves and neckties from labels including Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermes; collection spans from the 1880’s through the 1990’s
Accessibility: Retail to the public; archive to the fashion industry including an extensive vintage clothing collection and textile library
On offer: As their website states “the Albright Fashion Library is an essential stop for the fashion elite.” Opened in 1990 by stylist Irene Albright, this encyclopedic collection of fashion knowledge is 20,000 items strong, including more than 3,000 pairs of shoes. Styles range from classic Chanel and Dior pieces through up-and-coming and bleeding-edge contemporary designers.
It’s impossible not to name-drop here. A fraction of their clients include: beauty giants (John Frieda, Sephora, L’Oreal); Film & TV (Boardwalk Empire, Sex & the City, Saturday Night Live, House of Cards); retail (Bulgari, Cartier, Jimmy Choo, Harry Winston); publications (Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair); hotels and modeling agencies (Wilhemina, Elite, Ford); and designers (everyone of any note)
Accessibility: To the industry by appointment; you’ll need a personal stylist to gain access. And this is why a stylist could be your new best friend.
8006 Melrose Ave
On offer: Rare and historic designers pieces by American, European and Japanese designers including Hermes, Dior, Givenchy, Gucci, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, Dolce Gabbana, Chloe, Celine and Chanel (1960’s through the 2000’s); holder of one of the largest private collections of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren.
Accessibility: Boutiques open to the public; the Resurrection Archive Studio – New York (rentals) is open exclusively to the fashion, media, and entertainment industries by appointment only.
8214 Melrose Ave.
On offer: This is a luxury consignment store
Neo-vintage (the last 10 years) – Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Chloe, McQueen, Balmain, Balenciaga, Louboutin, Saint Laurent and Hermes; collectible pieces; fashion-forward designs; handbags, shoes and dresses are the most popular.
Vintage (1930’s to the 1990’s) – Red carpet looks and accessories by YSL, Gucci, Pucci, Galliano, Versace, Zandra Rhodes, Biba, Chanel, Missoni and select others
Accessibility: Boutiques open to the public + virtual storefront
8629 1/2 Melrose Ave.
On offer: Vintage designer, couture, avant garde and cutting edge fashion and accessories; coveted brands include: Christian Dior, Halston, Oscar de LaRenta, Yves St. Laurent, Alaia, Chanel, Paco Rabanne, Gucci, Hermés, Céline, Chloé, Thierry Mugler, Courréges, Valentino, Missoni, Prada, Pucci, Fendi, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyaki, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, Bill Blass, Oscar de laRenta, Pauline Trigere.
Accessibility: Retail to the public; consultation to celebrities, stylists, costume designers, museums and vintage collectors.
Decades of Fashion
1653 Haight St.
On offer: A vast collection of men’s, women’s and children’s vintage fashion, shoes, accessories and costumes to rent and to buy; a VIP area houses the high-end early vintage outfits (the 1860’s through the 1950’s); hard to find vintage designer purses, dresses, men’s suits, hats and shoes through the 1980’s; it’s possible to be completely kitted out from head to toe.
Accessibility: Retail/rental to the public; consulting to the trade
1605 Haight St.
On offer: High quality apparel, accessories, shoes and jewelry for men and women from the 1920’s through the 1960’s set in an intimate art deco shop; focus is ready-to-wear mid-century from the 1940’s to the 1960’s; repairs and tailoring available; costuming for special events
Accessibility: Retail to the public
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