When it comes to vintage shopping, one Brooklynite’s goldmine is another’s pile of old clothes. Navigating the many vintage, secondhand and junk shops scattered around the borough can be tricky–shoppers looking for mint-condition vintage designer pieces aren’t necessarily going to be pleased with a store full of well worn Western shirts and rock tees. So, we’ve put together a guide to some of Brooklyn’s most popular purveyors of second-hand stuff (going beyond staples like Beacon’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange) so you’ll know whether to expect mid-century Dior or early 80s polyester–or both–when you head to a store on our list.
Collecther Bed-Stuy, 306 Franklin Ave. (at Lafayette) 347-658-7857
This tiny shop, which is now open Tuesday through Saturday 12-8, and Sundays 12-6, is one of our favorites. Owner and designer Shana Jackson’s tightly edited selection spans a few decades but right now styles from the late 70s and early 80s are prevalent, in a wide range of sizes (anywhere from 4-14), all at super reasonable prices. Shana herself is an incredible stylist, and when you go in it’s as if you have your own personal one at the ready to help pick through the slammin’ boot selection, great coats, dresses, cowl neck sweaters, belts and sunglasses. Plus, she now runs a Recessionista Weekend special Saturdays and Sundays, where everything in the store is 25 percent off. We dare you to walk out without an original piece.
Re/Dress NYC, Boerum Hill, 109 Boerum Place (between Dean and Pacific), 718-522-7962
Vintage shopping can be a real challenge for plus-size fashionistas–there usually just isn’t that much to choose from over a modern size 10. Re/Dress fixes that problem with a large selection of vintage (and new) items, size 14 and up. The best finds are dresses and coats, though they carry shoes, tops, pants, skirts and jewelry as well. The sales staff is extremely helpful and they’re eager to help shoppers find an ensemble that hugs curves in just the right way.
Olive’s Very Vintage Carroll Gardens, 434 Court St. (at 2nd Pl.) 718-243-9094
Olive’s is the kind of vintage store with a little bit of everything. Shoppers are as likely to find a fox fur muff from the 40s as they are a pair of black lace Nicole Miller evening pants from the 90s. Recent items of particular interest included a selection of beaded cocktail dresses and butterfly tops from the 70s and full-length skirts–similar to looks that graced the runways of designers like Marc Jacobs this fall. Ponchos and capes coagulate on Olive’s racks as well, and a large assortment of leather boots peek out from its front windows.
The Thing Greenpoint, 1001 Manhattan Ave. (between Huron and Green) 718-349-8234
Like something out of the abyss or black lagoon, this Greenpoint junk shop is an indescribable entity. “Dig if you dare” could easily be its motto, and the grab-bag approach merchandising is endearing if a little overwhelming. African statues, tennis rackets, pink feather boas and a Humanities High School Pentathlon 1st Place trophy all sat in the window together on a recent visit. A classic khaki trench coat was hanging on a clothing rack outside, and it’s possible to find well-priced gems here from time to time–we once scored a 50s shirtwaist dress with a rocket print and rhinestone buttons here for $19. A trip to The Thing is a true must if you’re into records. Both the basement and the back room are entirely devoted to them, stacked in crates from floor to ceiling. Be prepared to devote some time to finding an amazing album, but pure quantity dwarfs all but the most serious of record shops in terms of selection. As a sign hung over the basement steps demands, “Respect the Records.”
Almost New Vintage Clothing Park Slope, 68 St. Marks Ave. (between 5th and 6th Aves.) 718-398-8048
Almost New is more like the over-stuffed closet of a well-dressed grand dame than a vintage shop. Luxe furs fill the racks and walls of this Park Slope clothier. Sable, seal, fox, rabbit and mink are enough to give Michael Kors a coronary. Fur was a major fall fashion trend on runways and vintage is a way to get a fur fix without the price tag and stigma attached to new fur items. For those looking for items that are a little less fuzzy, Almost New also has an extensive selection of evening bags and jewelry, most of which has been collected at estates sales.
Guvnor’s Park Slope, 178 5th Ave. (at Lincoln Pl.) 718-230-4887
This vintage and thrift store has the air of classic American rebellion–think Cry Baby or Rebel Without a Cause. The bulk of its weighty collection of vintage goods focuses on the 40s through 70s, but its overall aesthetic lingers in the red-white-and-blue angst of the early 50s. The store’s staples include jeans, work shirts, dresses and leather jackets. Guvnor’s is a great place to find a just-right pair of jeans–owner Suzette Sundae hand-picks vintage denim from labels like Levi Strauss. And while the store is not designer oriented, it’s just as possible to find a Prada blouse or Pucci dress to pair with that leather jacket.
Odd Twin Park Slope, 164 5th Ave. (at Degraw St.) 718-633-8946
This Slope storefront carries vintage items for men, women and children, from the 20s to the 80s, and the inventory is priced at $100 or less, excluding the fanciest of women’s dresses, which start at $150. “We try to keep things reasonable, so people will buy and it doesn’t just end up being a museum,” says owner Francesca Neville. More surprising than the prices are the tags themselves, which carry hand-written descriptions of each piece, identifying the decade each item is from. Though they’re light on pants for the ladies, they do have a reasonable selection of men’s denim and slacks. Collared shirts and lived-in tees for men, as well as dresses, skirts and tops for the ladies, make up the majority of Odd Twin’s stock. Boots and belts are also abundant.
1 Of A Find Vintage Prospect Heights, 633 Vanderbilt Ave. (between St. Marks and Prospect Pl.) 718-789-2008
This Prospect Heights shop holds all the haute couture a “vintagista,” as owner Honey Moon calls her clientele, could ask for. 1 of a Find encompasses all four pillars of fashion–jewelry, shoes, bags and clothes. When we visited a toffee-colored Hermes Birkin bag beckoned from the shelf beside the register and a silver-stitched Escada skirt embodied the store’s stated aesthetic: Unique, designer and inspirational pieces. Moon caters to the cocktail-party sartorial set–don’t expect to find denim here. Recent highlights varied from a pair of mint-condition Wedglings–multi-color foil wedges from the 30s–to a 70s Sasha harem pantsuit. And while 1 Of A Find is mainly focused on women’s vintage clothing, making it a first-stop shop for an exceptional little black dress, Moon hasn’t forgotten about the men, or the current menswear-inspired trends either. Perry Ellis oxfords anyone?
Bopkat Vintage Red Hook, 117 Union St. (between Columbia and Van Brunt) 718-222-1820
This out-of-the-way shop on the Columbia Street Waterfront is “the kind of store Joan would shop in,” says owner Laura Bascaglia. She’s referring, of course, to the Joan Holloway character from Mad Men, who has become famous for the way her curves fill out the 50s silhouettes the show has helped usher back in vogue. Bopkat specializes in mid-twentieth century clothing, collectibles and accessories. Label-less dresses from the time period in classic cuts conjure up images of Jackie Kennedy and June Cleaver, and a selection of cats-eye glasses on the counter were equally enticing. And while the Don Drapers of the world will be disappointed by the small selection of men’s suits from the 50s, a large selection of work-wear inspired outfits are on hand, as well as an assortment of hats.
Junk! Williamsburg, 500 Driggs Ave. (at N. 9th St.) 718-388-6981
It’s full of it, as its name implies. Junk! specializes in the obscure, which recently included an entire box of fox head pelts priced at $4.99 a pop. Something about Junk! gives off a surreal circus vibe, and the excellent thing about this basement shop in the Buffalo Exchange building in Williamsburg is that everything they carry, they carry in bulk. Stacks of steamer trunks, rows of wooden furniture, bowls of buttons and quite possibly the borough’s largest selection of costume earrings are all found in this subterranean store, along with a derelict doll house or two.
Horizons Williamsburg, 377 Metropolitan Ave. (at Havemeyer St.) 718-647-4981
Entering Horizons is like walking into an apricot. The sunshiney interior is in stark contrast to the mainly minimalist inventory. Racks of clothing in creams, camels, navys and blacks evoke a sense of casual luxury without the expensive price tags. When we visited the chunky knit scarves were especially charming, as were a pair of lace-up leather boots in the front window, sitting beside well-worn leather totes, satchels and side bags perfect for carrying your entire life around in.
Malin Landaeus Williamsburg, 111 N. 6th St. (at Bedford Ave.) 646-361-0261
It would be easy to walk right by Malin Landaeus, which sits just off Bedford in Wiliamsburg, and for a female vintage clotheshorse, that would be a mistake. More like a French salon or a living room than a shop, Malin Landaeus has an easy air of European chic. An eclectic collection of vintage hats hang on antlers and hat trees when not tipped just so on the head of sales associate Marie Mamonia, who enjoys the added perk of wearing outfits from the store on her shift. “We have tea parties every Sunday,” she told us. “Come by and play dress up.” Malin Landaeus is a niche store for wears from designer Norma Kamali in particular, as well wardrobe pieces with a more romantic mien, such as full-length dresses, flowy silk shirts and delicately-detailed little black dresses. The shop frequents in vintage that’s closer to contemporary–80s and 90s items–and specializes in larger shoe sizes as well. Many of the amazing hats resting atop all those antlers are head pieces created by local milliner Michael Calloway exclusively for Malin Landaeus.
10 Ft. Single by Stella Dallas Williamsburg, 285 N. 6th St. (at Metropolitan Ave.) 718-486-9482
This shop measures more like a warehouse than a 10-ft. single no matter which yardstick you use, and it’s a veritable smorgasbord for vintage shoppers. Classic-rock style of the late 60s and early 70s is Stella’s overall aesthetic, but there’s more here than just a bunch of worn-in rock tees–not that aren’t appealing. Stella’s is an excellent place to look for military-inspired pieces, as well as find authentic military items such as French arm undershirts ($25) from the 20s. It also has an excellent assortment of boots for both men and women in a range of heights from the ankle to over-the-knee. Other standouts include a selection of collared fur coats, pelts and hats and chunky knits you just want to curl up in.
Stella Dallas Living Williamsburg, 281 N. 6th St. (at Metropolitan Ave.) 718-387-6898
The sister store and next-door neighbor of 10 Ft. Single by Stella Dallas, Stella Dallas Living has floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves full of authentic vintage blankets and textile fabrics for the industrious individual interested in making their own clothing or home items from scratch. Fabrics range from $15 to $60 per yard, and blankets go from $40 to $200. Fabrics, on the whole, are intricately designed, with details ranging from flora and fauna motifs to stripes and polka dots. Quilts are also easy to come by. Jewelry cases encompass the counter in the back. Bandanas, yardsticks and wooden crates of vintage license plates add just the right eccentric touch.
Visit the BB Blog for vintage shopping tips from store owners.