The Little Black List's Guide to Vintage Shopping

November 12, 2010

Super chic StyledOn member, blogger and vintage guru, Tess Pare-Mayer shares her tips for shopping vintage as well as her six top spots to shop in the city.
The Little Black List's Guide to Vintage Shopping

For as long as I can remember, I've worn vintage clothing. It started when I was in diapers and sporting my older brothers' "hand me down" tie-dyed cloud onesie with a vibrant red heart on the chest. In eighth grade, it continued with my long, black sequined "tea dress" at Redwood Middle School. Currently, my uniform of choice involves vintage fur coats, bags, boots, oversized dresses belted with (what else?) a used, beat up, ancient belt.

Vintage shopping has always come naturally to me—probably because I had the best teacher (my mother) guiding me and helping me alter any oversized or unflattering silhouette. For those who crave the thrill of finding a piece of fashion history for a fraction of the original price without ending up lost in a sea of used clothing, read below for my five tips for shopping vintage, as well as six of my favorite stores in New York City to get you started.

1. Know what you are looking for before you enter the store. Look through magazines to find inspiration, certain looks, cuts, silhouettes, textures, colors that really strike you. Keep these in mind or even in hard copy (rip out the pages and bring them with you) when you hit the stores. This will help to keep you from getting distracted by the abundance of clothing, disorganization, madness, or even the smell of the thrifted clothing.

2. Vintage shopping is one instance where impulse is OK because every item is one of a kind. If you don't get it right then and there, it may not be available later. Even if you change your mind about your impulse purchase later, the item can be sold back to the store, put on eBay, or donated back to the store.

3. Sizes are rarely consistent throughout every decade. Since the sizes on labels of vintage clothes have little correlation to the sizes of today's clothing, it is important to try things on or measure items before purchasing. Finding vintage clothing that fits you perfectly is almost always IMPOSSIBLE. Larger sizes can usually be tailored, or styled in a way where a little extra material doesn't matter.

4. Wear layers when hitting the stores: it makes it easier and faster to try on clothing. Wearing a leotard or leggings and tank top under a skirt makes it possible to try on clothes even if there is no fitting room. This comes in especially handy at flea markets and garage sales.

5. Don’t judge the clothing before you take it home and style it your own way.
Some of my most valued, stylish collector pieces began as stinky, old, stained articles of clothing at the goodwill or Salvation Army. It is only after a dry cleaning, some killer heels and accessories that the garment really comes to life.

And now, six of the stores you should start checking out on the reg:

The Salvation Army: Thrift Stores
220 East 23rd Street, New York, NY (212) 532-8115
So cheap! Amazing selection and the clothing donated by people from every walk of life, so you never know what you will find.

Beacon's Closet
88 North 11th Street, Brooklyn, NY (718) 486-0816
Predominantly vintage and hand selected by vintage buyers, this store has jewelry, shoes, sunglasses, clothing, and accessories. Organized, and always fully stocked with current season's apparel.

112 W 17th St, New York, NY (212) 505-5159
Best jewelry store in all of NY. Antique diamonds, costume jewelry, sterling silver, Native American cuffs etc., moderately priced, always stocked.

Housing Works
202 E 77th St # 1, New York, NY (212) 772-8461
Amazing selection of housewares, and home goods, accessories (belts, hats, sunglasses), and always a nice selection of outer wear.

New World Order
13 Avenue B #A, New York, NY (212) 777-3600
MECCA of all vintage haute couture, VINTAGE DESIGNER EVERYTHING, all clothing resembles works of art, limited pieces, hard to find collector items, gowns, and jewelry galore.

Cheap Jack’s
303 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY (212) 777-9564
Decade by decade clothing, meticulously organized, sequins, Victorian dresses and blouses, perfect for more "costume-y" type clothing (my favorite kind – wink wink).

What are your tips for vintage shopping? Do you have favorite stores you would recommend?

Be sure to visit The Little Black List for more from Tess!


  • atobtoc

    almost 7 years ago


    This is a great list. I LOVE New World Order.

  • Theresa

    almost 7 years ago


    Oh, I love it! The pink dress and studded leather jacket is perfect. Tess, you have inspired me to shop all over again! :)

  • SO1354

    almost 7 years ago


    I've been looking for good vintage stores so thanks! It'll add some variety to my usual flea market weekends.

  • valeriekw

    almost 7 years ago


    i LOVE this feature and that pink dress! thanks for letting me know the coolest vintage shops in NYC!

  • hannpark05

    almost 7 years ago


    Love the list and the cool vintage finds.

  • MarielleMurphy

    almost 7 years ago


    Oooh Housing Works is the best! Definitely going to check out Pippin asap! Thanks!!

  • Cassandra

    almost 6 years ago


    I am always looking for vintage stores where ever I travel...the best place to find classic couture... :-D

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