New York City has long been regarded as a fashion capital of the world, attracting the industry's greatest designers and producing some of the world's most cutting-edge fashions. But as much as there's an appetite for the new, there's also a hunger for original pieces from decades past, which fuels a robust vintage clothing market throughout the boroughs. The City teems with vintage wear of all kinds—'90s Starter jackets, '60s cocktail dresses, rock 'n' roll tees—all waiting to be discovered in budget-friendly thrift shops, consignment stores and high-end secondhand-couture emporia. To help you curate a closet even Rachel Zoe would envy, we've put together a guide complete with some of NYC's best vintage shops—where someone's trash is another's treasure.
New and Almost New
This tiny consignment and resale shop packs a lot of designer punch. Owner Maggie Chan has stocked the Little Italy space with gently used garments from some of the most revered names in fashion—goods acquired from a tight circle of friends in the industry. The “new” in the name refers mainly to the selection of never-been-worn jeans plucked from New York City showrooms. But jeans will likely be the most casual item you encounter at the store, whose offerings center on elegant above-the-knee dresses, structured blazers and flirty blouses. Giorgio Armani, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Diane von Furstenberg are just some of the brands stocked in store. The majority of goods fall in the $20 to $300 range (though some can be double that), with sale items available year-round.
Monk Vintage Thrift Shop
It's a tight fit in here, but that's because the place is packed floor to ceiling with affordable secondhand goods. Located on Fifth Avenue in South Slope (there are other locations in Manhattan and one in Williamsburg, in the same building as Buffalo Exchange), Monk is a fun spot to duck into after a lazy brunch or during a weekend stroll. If you're in search of Gucci, Monk is not the place for you; it is the spot, though, to indulge shopping whims like a floppy sun hat or polka-dot dress. You'll find men's, women's and children's clothing in all colors, shapes and sizes; accessories like earrings, sunglasses and belts; and a healthy selection of shoes and boots. Keep your eyes peeled for goods tagged with the color of the week—these items are half off.
What Goes Around Comes Around
Mentally prepare yourself for the vintage big leagues before stepping into What Goes Around Comes Around's vast SoHo space. The coveted goods at this celebrity favorite cost a pretty penny; many shoppers cite the pieces' functions as both clothing and wearable art as justification for the price tag. The store is split by gender—women's wear on the left side, men's on the right—with stacks of denim, rock 'n' roll tees and vintage Chanel pieces throughout. The collection includes such finds as intricately detailed dresses and beaded jackets from the Victorian era, art deco dresses from the 1920s and '30s, and collections of clothing, boots, jewelry and leather from more recent decades. The house label, a popular brand of new vintage-inspired clothing, is also a hot seller at this location.
They're serious about fashion at this consignment store, so don't expect the employees to buy any old shirt you offer to add to their carefully curated collection. It's a bit expensive, yes, but not as tough on the wallet as you might expect for labels like Dolce & Gabbana, Betsey Johnson, Chanel, Gucci and Burberry, just to name a few. Typically, only the most prestigious fashion players find a home at Tokio7, and they come in all forms—from silk A-line skirts to houndstooth suit jackets to trousers for professional men and women. Some items are tagged as low as $25, and plenty of others approach or exceed the $300 mark, like the $3,800 Chanel jacket recently spotted.
Le Grand Strip
“Vintage makes a lot of sense these days, which is why I'm doing the world a favor,” says this Williamsburg shop's unabashed and stylish owner, C.C. McGurr. Step into her French boudoir–inspired store and you'll be inclined to share her optimism. Almost everything is for sale at Le Grand Strip—the plush couches, the ladder leaning against the wall, even the vintage Playboys you thought were there for decoration. Clothes are color coded throughout, pumps and booties line the floor and a rainbow of clutches and handbags are scattered on and around tables and shelves. The store carries labels like Prada, Dior and Chanel as well as an impressive array of cocktail gowns, fur coats, leather totes and coquettish nighties. But don't forget, C.C. wants you to be happy: “If you don't like the price, you can always argue with me.”
Hang a left on Driggs Avenue after bidding adieu to Le Grand Strip and head north, where you'll find a less discriminating take on recycled fashion. Buffalo Exchange isn't so much vintage as it is thrift, but its bountiful and wallet-friendly selection of jewelry, shoes and threads means no male or female customer will leave empty-handed. Warning: put your game face on if you plan to make a trip here on the weekend—that's when the Williamsburg fashion-hungry come a-rummaging for their next bold look. The racks aren't stacked with Prada but rather with the T-shirts, tanks, sweaters and skirts that the neighbors handed over after cleaning out their closets. A healthy selection of accessories and kicks—from pumps to sneakers to cowboy boots—will round out your outfit of choice.
A similar animal to Buffalo Exchange, this vintage-thrift superstore (with locations in Greenpoint, Park Slope and Manhattan) offers a huge selection of low-priced finds. True to its name, Beacon's Closet exudes an air of coziness you might feel while exploring your mother's walk-in—only on a much larger scale. Be sure to give yourself at least an hour to scour the racks: garments for men and women (coordinated by color), vintage and new necklaces, bracelets, and, well, pretty much everything else.
A colorful addition to a sleepy Astoria street (31st Avenue, naturally), Loveday 31's cutesy name is appropriate given its Skittles-colored interior packed with vintage clothing and accessories. The store stocks pieces from the 1980s and '90s, but '70s, '60s and even '50s styles have their place here as well. Dresses and boots rule at Loveday 31, along with a slew of statement pieces like fedoras, coats and purses. You'll be hard-pressed to find anything over $100.
This NoHo standby, a favorite of funky Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field, is the place where you’ll find everything from tulle gowns and acid-washed jean miniskirts to leather vests and all those old vacation sweatshirts you're kicking yourself for getting rid of. The racks are organized both by genre and by decade with spots for floral dresses, Western-style shirts, and yes, '80s tie-dyed tees with fringe. Accessories, particularly sunglasses, also play a big role at Screaming Mimi's—there’s an impressive selection of aviators, heart-shaped Ray-Bans and other stylish shades. Be sure to swing by the shop's vintage designer and specialty garment penthouse.
Olive's Very Vintage
A sunny Carroll Gardens shop, Olive's Very Vintage is worth the trip to Brooklyn's energetic Court Street. Customers will encounter designer pieces at not-too-steep prices, along with over-the-top collectors' items that could threaten to break the bank. Candy-colored pumps, buckets of patterned scarves and antique jewelry like cameo brooches and earrings complement the era-spanning garments that hang in the space. Designer items from Emilio Pucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Oscar de la Renta can be found alongside dresses, flapper gowns and hats straight out of the '70s.
Amarcord Vintage has built up quite a reputation for selling hard-to-find luxury items, specifically those from the '60s, '70s and '80s. Owners Patti Bordoni and Marco Liotta, who both hail from Italy, carefully select garments during trips around Europe, focusing on upscale goods that embody Italian moda. You'll want to visit both locations, in SoHo and Williamsburg, as well as the appointment-only showroom (also Williamsburg), for entrée to reasonably priced bags, accessories and clothing from labels like Chanel, Fendi and Salvatore Ferragamo. The stock, which changes seasonally, is not restricted to designer-only items. Less expensive dresses, coats, belts and shoes are also available.
If you covet the style of Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, then this East Village concept shop is worth searching through. Owner and sports memorabilia collector Michael Spitz takes the stock here seriously, using his childhood bedroom on New York's Long Island as inspiration. The small store is packed with ephemera from the '80s and '90s, including NBA jerseys, snapbacks, Starter jackets, colorful tees and silky bomber jackets in a kaleidoscope of colors. A true boy's bedroom wouldn't be complete without toys, though, and there are plenty here: you might find Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe and X-Men action figures on any given visit.
If good things come in small packages, then Pilgrim is no exception. This pint-size boutique, with its ethereal bohemian vibe, carries a mix of clothing from the 1950s through the 1990s—including a stunning selection of Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Lanvin and Celine pieces, as well as a deep archive of coveted items from Japanese designers like Junya Watanabe and Rei Kawakubo. But the stock of vintage and recent Chanel purses and accessories is one of the shop's biggest draws. (It's all authentic and gently used, so expect a hefty price tag.) The house line, designed by owners Richard Ives and Brian Bennett, reflects the store's '60s aesthetic and includes silk and cotton dresses and beach cover-ups.
A Second Chance
Between its two Manhattan locations (SoHo and the Upper East Side), A Second Chance boasts one of the largest selections of pre-owned Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermès bags and accessories in the City. Each neatly organized store resembles a dream closet, with rows of glass shelves and racks that display gold baubles, belts and heels for a fraction of their retail cost. For example, a jumbo Chanel caviar purse that retails for a little over $4,900 sells for around $3,800 here. If that asking price is still more than you bargained for, take heart: A Second Chance buys used designer items for cash or to put toward your next purchase. But don't wait for your third chance, because you may not have one.
Stray Vintage and More
This unassuming yet inviting Sunnyside shop prides itself on selling salvaged furniture, trinkets and antique goods looking for a loving new home. Owners Tara and Dan Glasser seek out vintage treasures from around the region and also spotlight handmade items from local artists. While mid-century furnishings and collectibles are this shop's specialties, you'll find vinyl records, bags, clothing, typewriters and housewares as well. On any given day, the sounds of classical music, jazz, '50s rock or holiday tunes add to Stray's mellow shopping ambience.