By Laura Braden
I love vintage – you show me a brooch from the 40’s or a clutch from the 50’s, and I’m puddy in your hands. If I’m in a new city, the first thing I google is the best vintage/consignment shops in the area. There’s nothing more satisfying than poring over rack after rack of beautiful clothing and finding that one special and unique piece.
Recently, I read an article that advocated for shopping at vintage, consignment and/or thrift stores as another way to be good to Mother Earth. Consider that buying used clothing prevents that item from ending up in a landfill. If you buy clothing made in China, Turkey or New Jersey, not only does the factory need energy (IE emissions) to produce the product, but it takes more energy (IE fuel) to get the product from point A to your local boutique or department store.
Ergo de facto (as Michael Scott would say) shopping at local vintage, consignment and/or thrift stores helps your carbon footprint – and it helps support the local economy.
First, let’s understand the different options:
- VINTAGE – Vintage shops tend to sell clothing and accessories pre-1980 (though I feel like more and more are bleeding into that decade). Clothes sold prior to 1970 were top-quality, which is why so much of them are still around and in great condition today. Clothes sold during the 70’s were largely made of polyester, which means they’ll survive the “big one” along with Twinkies and cockroaches. Depending on the brand and quality, vintage clothing can run from the affordable to VERY expensive (many folks collect vintage couture like paintings).
- CONSIGNMENT – This means that folks sell their unworn or “gently used” clothing to the consignment store (though the money you earn is usually marginal), which in turn sells it to the public. Consignment stores tend to sell higher-end modern brands and vintage pieces, but they are usually less expensive than vintage stores.
- THRIFT – Folks donate their clothing to the store, which in turn sells it to the public. Many thrift stores benefit a local charity (Goodwill, SPCA, etc) so donations are usually tax-deductible. Thrift stores tend to be a hodge-podge of high and low-quality items, but there are diamonds in the rough to be found – if you have 2-3 hours to dedicate to the hunt.
All require an open mind and some time to kill. And now that we’re all on the same page, here’s my rundown of the best SacTown has to offer when it comes to vintage and consignment:
ATELIER (1617 16th St.) – lovely little store in midtown. Lots of older vintage (1940’s-60’s) pieces, and they carry clothing, shoes and accessories for men, women and children (a bit rare). They also carry new and one-of-a-kind items from local designers. A bit pricier than other shops, but excellent quality.
12/8/09 UPDATE: Atelier is now called Crimson and Clover. Same address and same great selection!
VINTAGE YSJ (924 12th St.) – small store with great finds. It’s part vintage, part consignment, and they carry a lot of name brands at pretty reasonable prices. Women’s clothing, shoes and accessories only.
BOWS AND ARROWS (1712 L St.) – very laidback spot in the heart of midtown. I love this place because they sell a good assortment of men’s and women’s clothing (though they tend to stock more women’s), accessories, shoes, purses, furniture and knick knacks. They tend to focus on the 1960-80’s, but you can find some fantastic finds with extremely reasonable prices. The staff are also friendly, knowledgeable and let you shop in peace and quiet.
FRENCH CUFF CONSIGNMENT (2419 J St.) – elegant shop with a great selection in accessories. This mother-daughter team mixes consignment with retail items straight from Paris. Prices are a bit higher, but almost all items are in excellent condition. Women’s clothing, shoes and accessories only.
CUFFS URBAN APPAREL (2523 J St.) – hipster store that carries vintage, new and reconstructed pieces (basically vintage clothing/fabric redesigned). They sell both men’s and women’s, and prices are reasonable.
EDITOR’s NOTE: Did we miss anything? Where do you shop to find one-of-a-kind vintage or consignment? Send us your tips and feedback at girlsonthegrid AT gmail DOT com