Shopping in New York City isn’t all about Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. For visitors looking for vintage gems, the city has a wealth of places to explore, from little-known thrift shops to vintage stores popular with celebrities, to flea markets brimming with accessories, home furnishings and memorabilia. Here are some tips to get you started on your treasure hunt.
Hit the thrift stores
Thrift shops in the suburbs might be a mishmash of outdated denim and discarded high school reunion T-shirts, but in a city like New York it’s not unusual to unearth vintage gems among the standard thrift store fare. Stores like Beacon’s Closet, which has branches in Manhattan and Brooklyn, carry a mix of vintage items and pre-owned contemporary clothing, from chic Dolce & Gabbana coats to reasonably-priced Banana Republic sweaters. Charity shops like Housing Works, where proceeds go towards the homeless, and old standbys like Goodwill are also worth a rummage.
Shop where the pros shop
Prominent NYC vintage stores like Family Jewels and Cheap Jack’s are frequent stops for TV and film crews, as well as theatrical costume designers, stylists and photographers. You can peruse rack after rack of neatly-organised antique clothing (think 1920s flapper dresses, men’s double-breasted suits from the 1940s and platform shoes) and speak to sales staff who truly “know their stuff” when it comes to vintage style. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a celebrity shopper or two.
Find the flea market
New York City’s weekend flea markets are a great place to pick up vintage clothing items, as well as accessories, home furnishings, antiques and memorabilia. One of the best in the city is Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market (above), where up to 100 vendors – selling everything from vintage jewellery to objets d’art – set up their stalls along this stretch of West 39th Street. Another favourite is GreenFlea on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which was one of the city’s first open-air markets. Brush up on your haggling techniques and be sure to bring cash, as some vendors might not accept credit cards.
Don’t forget the finishing touches
In addition to clothing stores, NYC has an assortment of shops specialising in vintage accessories. Visit Pippin Vintage for costume and estate sale jewellery – it’s a treasure trove of floral brooches, rhinestone bracelets and pearl necklaces. Then stop by Fabulous Fanny’s to pick up a pair of retro sunglasses or eyeglass frames. Need a unique gift for the man in your life? Head to The Missing Link – it has over 10,000 pairs of antique and vintage cufflinks on display.
Get kitschy with it
No vintage shopping trip would be complete without a stop at Reminiscence, a retro paradise that mixes vintage clothing with costume pieces and novelty items spanning the 1950s to the 1980s. Looking for a favourite toy from childhood, or a gag gift for your ’80s-obsessed friend? Chances are you’ll find it at Reminiscence. Then head to the vintage section to stock up on everything from Hawaiian shirts to hippie threads.
An adapted version first appeared in Silverkris.