New York vintage, like the city itself, is one of extremes. There are the stores that stock $500-and-up 1950s prom dresses and bespoke Jazz Age tuxedos.
And then there are the places where you can get a cute 60s shift or a pre-loved Mad Men-style suit for under $50. These places are harder to find – especially the ones that are inexpensive across the board.
This week Boo York City provides its own guide on where to dress well for less in a city known for mark-ups and rip-offs.
We have included those stores that stock slightly more expensive pieces along with the bargains, because you can usually find something affordable on their rails.
Now it’s up to you to have the chutzpah to dress like Don Draper or Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe.
Screaming Mimi’s, 382 Lafayette St, NoHo
A very well-organized large shop that has been trading since the 1970s. Walk past its carefully curated jewelry and accessories collection to get to the color-burst of clothing rails containing men’s and women’s clothing from the 20s to the 90s. This place stocks beautifully made costumes from New York City Opera, and has a fancy-dress section, making it one of the go-to stores for Burning Man outfits. It’s more highly priced than the others on this list, with dresses usually priced at $65+, but one can still usually find a bargain on its $20 rail.
Stella Dallas, 218 Thompson St, Greenwich Village
This is a treasure trove of tightly packed show-stopping dresses – Stella Dallas is big on glamour. Frilly petticoats and satin dirndl dresses push out from the walls above the rails and there are delicately beaded evening bags, jewels, scarves and hats stuffed all around the shop to complement them. Not the cheapest in the city, but you’ll still come away with something nice, and in good condition, for $50 or less.
Beacon’s Closet, 92 5th Ave, Brooklyn
This vintage chain store – which has four shops dotted around the city – buys its stock from the general public for cash or store credit, which is great if your regularly wear vintage and want to update your wardrobe without breaking the bank. They usually have a fair amount of modern designer clothes along with the vintage, and rummaging is essential, as their racks are organized by color rather than era. It IS cheap though, so it’s worth exploring if you’re cash-poor and time-rich.
Metropolis, 43 3rd Ave, East Village
Well known for its large vintage shoe and boot collection, Metropolis is well organized and has a great selection of menswear, unlike a lot of vintage places. Its pricing can be a bit random, with aberrations like a $25 T-shirt next to a $35 Jackie O-style 60s dress, but for the most part, the prices are reasonable. Sought-after items, such as vintage military jackets, are around $100, which is a lot less than other shops charge for similar clothes.
Housing Works, 130 Crosby St, SoHo, and 245 W10 St, West Village
This chain has stores all over the city and is a non-profit, whose proceeds go to fight AIDS and homelessness. We’ve selected these two, as they always seem to have the largest selection of vintage in stock. The West Village store is packed with modern designer clothes sold at huge discounts and has an interesting selection of bric-a-brac and books. The SoHo store is less tightly packed, so it’s a nicer shopping experience, and it benefits from being next to the excellent Housing Works Bookstore and café, which sells second-hand and vintage books.
Star Struck, 47 Greenwich Ave, West Village
A terrific selection of clothing awaits you at this West Village glory hole, which doesn’t seem to do ‘ugly’. It has a large menswear section, which includes 40s trilbies and fedoras, colorful Hawaiian and bowling shirts, as well as vintage rock T-shirts. Its womenswear is equally impressive, with rail upon rail of stylish dresses, skirts, tops, and coats. However, the owners know the value of their gear and aren’t afraid to price it accordingly. Beautiful dresses will be in the $125+ range, though there are deals to be found if you rummage enough.
Buffalo Exchange, 332 E11, East Village
Like Beacon’s Closet, this is a chain store that trades clothes for cash with the public. The East Village shop seems to have more vintage stock than the others, but the vast majority of the clothes are from modern chain stores or designers at very low prices. However, you can still pick up mid-century daywear for around $20 and accessories from around $5.
Pippin Vintage Jewelry, 112 W17, Chelsea
A gem full of gems, this small shop sparkles with jewels of all kinds. There are 20s bracelets, 50s necklaces, Victorian brooches, gold cufflinks and every other conceivable form of old-time adornment. The shop itself is a lesson in vintage charm, as it uses burnished antique dressers, mirrors and stands to display its wares and is washed in a golden glow from Art Deco lamps. As well as jewelry, it also has a small selection of hats and ‘beautiful objects’. Prices range from just a few bucks to hundreds of dollars. Pippin’s homewares store – which is next door, down a narrow lane – is packed with very reasonably priced collectibles and antiques.
Cadillac’s Castle, 333 E9, East Village
A nicely curated small consignment boutique, which is organized in such a way that it gives browsers plenty of room to move around. It sells a lot of new and second-hand designer clothes at a hefty discount, but also has a decent amount of vintage in very good – and clean – condition, as well as a $25 rail with items you’d actually like to buy on it. A high turnover of stock means you could find a wiggle dress one day and a polyester shirt the next.
Village Style, 111 E7, East Village
Our favourite vintage shop in the whole of New York City. This shabby-chic store is packed with affordable vintage clothes and accessories of every kind. So much so, that a 5-minute rake will give you sore arms from carrying all the clothes you like…and can actually afford to buy. They stock mostly mid-century stuff, with less dating from before the 50s, but what they do have is as cheap as it gets in this town. Mad Men-style 60s dresses from $20 – $40, men’s jackets from the same era at around the same price.
With all your vintage finds, you may need a tailor to nip in a waist or take in a trouser leg…but which one? Of all the tailors in the Lower East Side, Boo York City has tried almost all of them. We recommend Stanton Tailor Shop at 90 Stanton St, between Orchard and Ludlow. They do excellent work at bargain-basement prices, and though you may have to wait a long time in line to be served, you’ll find that it’s worth the wait.