Secondhand L.A.: Your Guide to the Thrifting Capital of the World

Scores of secondhand stores are turning used clothing into mountains of cash. Here’s the who, what, when, and wear of thrifting in 2021
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Remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones uncovers the Well of Souls, home to the most valuable archeological relic of all time? Recall the awed expression on his face? The self-satisfied gleam in his eyes? You can find that exact same expression on faces of the customers digging for buried treasures at Wasteland, Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads, and scores of other L.A. vintage clothing stores. These sartorial tomb raiders—“thrifters,” they call themselves—may not be unearthing anything as biblically awe-inspiring as an ancient Hebrew radio that talks to God, but, honestly, isn’t a gently worn Chanel skirt for under $200 almost as good?

Of course, thrifting is hardly a new phenomenon—budget-conscious shoppers have been doing it for years. But today it’s a whole different scene. Devotees now include not just bargain hunters but well-heeled hipsters who’ve grown bored with the disposable “fast fashion” that’s been the backbone of the schmatte biz for decades, as well as earth huggers who like the sustainability of repurposing antique wardrobes. Even Hollywood stars (and especially their kids) are becoming addicted to the thrill of the hunt. “I like the uniqueness of the clothes,” says frequent thrifter Laura Lopez, 22-year-old daughter of actress Catherine Bach. “Plus, it’s cool to feel like you’re wearing something with a bit of history to it. Sometimes you shop all day and leave empty-handed; other days, it pays off when you find that gem.”

Oh, it pays off, all right. Specific sales figures for Los Angeles aren’t available, but nationally, the resale business is beyond booming. Despite pandemic lockdowns keeping shoppers at home, the vintage market is currently valued at around $28 billion and projected to balloon to a whopping $77 billion over the next five years. “We’ve been in business 30 years, but shopping secondhand has become a huge trend in the past two years,” notes Crossroads’s Morgan Weinstein. “We’re seeing tons of styles come and go from our stores. It’s been as busy as ever.” Adds Jessica Pruitt of Buffalo Exchange, “Clothing is flying out of the store. We have more people wanting to buy clothes than clothes we have to sell.”

But just as the secondhand market has grown and evolved in recent years, so too have the shops themselves. Today, they range from high-end emporiums filled with red carpet–worthy gowns, to denim-crazed boutiques where jeans junkies can slip into pre-owned pants that date back as far as the 1950s, to scruffy T-shirt resellers and warehouse-like outlets where clothing can literally be purchased by the pound. For newbies to the recycling lifestyle—and even for seasoned veterans—the choices in L.A. are dizzying, with shops scattered in every part of town.

Which is why we are devoting this month’s issue of Los Angeles to the best places to scavenge not just for vintage clothing but also pre-owned furniture, books, vinyl records, and a host of other lost treasures. Read on and behold a world of recycled riches you won’t have to travel to the ancient City of Tanis to uncover. Just take an Uber to Melrose.


Beverly Hills

Lily et Cie

The Vibe: Rita Watnick’s 5,000-square-foot emporium of vintage cocktail dresses, suits, and gowns has been around for 40 years. Many an Oscar and Globes dress has emerged from this store. Renée Zellweger, Penelope Cruz, Kate Moss, and Mary-Kate Olsen all shop here, as well as many major celebrity stylists. On the Racks: Original garments by Edith Head, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Gucci, and Chanel, all in meticulous condition. The Money: From mid-hundreds (for a dress with less provenance) to many thousands (for one that’s got couture history). 9044 Burton Way, 310-724-5757, facebook.com/lilyetcie.

What Goes Around Comes Around

The Vibe: This luxe vintage store spent five years on La Brea and now five in Beverly Hills. It’s high-end and chic but also edgy and cool. On the Racks: An enormous selection of Chanel, Hermès, Dior, and Louis Vuitton bags, Chanel jewelry, as well as a slew of designer pieces from the ‘90s and 2000s. We’re talking Tom Ford, Gucci, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Roberto Cavalli, and Norma Kamali. But WGACA also has the largest selection of vintage Levi’s for men and women in the city, some dating back to the ‘50s. Brags founder Gerald Maione, “We are the gurus of denim.” The Money: $150 to thousands. 950 Brighton Way, 310-858-0250, whatgoesaroundnyc.com. 

From left: Malcolm Starr dress, $850, from Decades. Suit from Some Like It Hot, $375; halter top, $75; shoes, $70; earrings, $28; and rings, $21 each, from Paper Moon. 1960s Eero Aarnio Tomato chair, Finland; 1960s Arne Jacobsen Egg chair, Denmark; and George Nelson Ball clock from Digsmodern. Suitcase from Paper Moon.

Justin Bettman

Downtown, South Central

Finders Keepers

The Vibe:  A thrift shop where anything goes, and not just when it comes to clothing. Where else can you find a guitar signed by 31 porn stars (including genuinely vintage ones like Ron Jeremy). On the Racks: Everything from Puma sneakers to Versace dresses to old Fila sweats and Gucci baseball caps. But they also recently sold a 1973 Rolls-Royce. The Money: From $1 to $10,000 for a carved bird that’s said to bring good luck. 7861 S. Western Ave., offerup.com/profile/finderskeepersla. 

Tried and True Vintage

The Vibe: Opened this summer at downtown’s Row DTLA, it’s aimed at a very specific clientele—men—and caters to the current fetish for everything ‘90s. On the Racks: Specializes in ’90s vintage T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps, and accessories, but also offers rare Nike Air and Air Jordan collectible sneakers that are almost impossible to find elsewhere. The Money: $45 to $200 (for authentic rock tour tees, like a 2004 Bette Midler “Kiss My Brass” artifact.) 660 Anderson St., 323-782-1336, triedandtrueco.com.

Echo Park, Atwater Village, Silver Lake, Highland Park

Avalon Vintage

The Vibe: Owned by music veteran Rodney Klein and Carmen Hawk (Carmen created the clothing line Jovovich-Hawk with Milla Jovovich) so there are lots of rocker-chic items. They also sell old vinyl records and other hard-to-find goods. On the Racks: Tons of rock tees, cowboy boots, and 1940s-style polka-dot dresses as well as odd-shaped vintage bags you won’t see anywhere else. It’s a great place to hunt down a gown or long dress for an event, or grab a long, pink, old-school nightgown. Add a slip, et voilà. The Money: T-shirts from $20 to $900; dresses from $40 to $4000. 106 N. Ave. 56, 323-309-7717, avalon-vintage.business.site.

Bearded Beagle

The Vibe: It’s where streetwear meets formal wear for both women and men. They have two stores—one in Highland Park and the other in Silver Lake. On the Racks: From Moschino blazers to Levi’s from the ’70s, plus camo-print jeans, ’70s two-tone patchwork boots, and maybe even a colorful crochet-knit jacket. The Money: $24 to $150. 5926 North Figueroa St., 323-258-5898, thebeardedbeagle.com.

Lemon Frog Shop

The Vibe: The mood here is hippie-chic and so are the clothes: mostly ’60s and ’70s dresses and accessories. Lemon Frog Shop is a certified green business by the city of L.A. On the Racks: Lots of clogs, boots, pumps, as well as never-worn costume jewelry and an occasional Gucci handbag at the best prices in town. Plus, a very few things for men, like flannel shirts. “You gotta have something for the boyfriends,” says owner Micki Curtis. The Money: Tons of items in the $10 range, going up to several hundred. 1202 N. Alvarado St., 213-413-2143, lemonfrogshop.com.

Goodwill

The Vibe: Goodwill has over 80 stores sprinkled throughout Southern California. But the shop with all the buzz is located in Atwater Village. It’s over 20,000 square feet and comes complete with an additional 27,000-square-foot outlet. But the outlet isn’t for the faint of heart: clothing and home goods there are sold by the pound. On the Racks: It’s bin after bin of tees and jeans (regulars wear gloves as they’re picking through the garments). One customer recently bragged about finding a mint-condition 1950s mahjongg set.The Money: $1 and up. 3150 N. San Fernando Rd., goodwillsocal.org. 

Golden Age Hollywood  

The Vibe: Golden Age now has two shops—one on La Brea and this one in Silver Lake (which co-owner Ludvic Orlando deems the best). Designer pieces are available at all levels. “We marry brands with vintage,” says Orlando. He and co-owner Jesse Bardy are movie nerds, with fashion  tastes inspired by Hollywood. On the Racks: Dresses, jackets, some purses by the likes of Chanel, Gucci, Bill Blass, Versace, and Zara. There are also Levi’s and Wrangler jeans as well as the specialty the shop is known for: French workwear uniforms dating from the ’20s to the ’50s. Check out their Old Hollywood photo-print T-shirts and hoodies. The Money: Dresses will run you $80 to $150 and jeans from $80 to $200. 3511 Sunset Blvd., 213-298-7115, goldenagevintagela.com.

Avalon Vintage

Courtesy Avalon Vintage

Luxe de Ville

The Vibe: It’s only a dainty 800 square feet, but every inch is curated with cool stuff for both women and men. Artwork from a number of local artists—including the owner, Oskar De La Cruz—hangs on the walls. On the Racks: You can find both new and old items (or a mix, like a necklace made from an old Greek coin). The vintage is killer, at reasonable prices, with old Gucci luggage ($380), Pierre Cardin handbags ($40), and groovy sunglasses ($16 and up). The Money: $15 to $600. 2157 Sunset Blvd., 213-300-2255.

Paper Moon

The Vibe: This staple of mens and womens vintage clothing when it was on Hollywood Boulevard is now by appointment only in Highland Park. Stock comes from the Victorian period through the 1960s. On the Racks: Beaded flapper dresses, plaid mens suits, hand-painted ties from the 1940s, cotton tea dresses, party dresses—and the kind of ’40s cocktail peplum number Scarlett Johansson bought on a recent trip. There’s also giant fringed piano shawls, Victorian lace-up granny boots, along with authentic pieces worn in movies by stars like Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Betty Grable, and James Cagney. The Money: A mens summer suit might be $275 (unless Gable wore it, in which case expect to spend more), while a womens cocktail dress and accessories go for around $150. By appointment only, 818-515-2276.

Supergoodie

The Vibe: Owner Lynette Kirchner, a former fashion model, sifts through giant stock warehouses to find gems from the 1950s all the way up to the ‘90s. “Thrifting takes time,” she says. “You’re after a needle in a haystack of garments. But finding gems is more exciting.” (Her Sunset Boulevard store debuted in 2018, and a smaller Silver Lake outpost just opened  in June. On the Racks: Holiday looks for ladies, with lots of gonzo ’80s pieces festooned with silk, sequins, and lace. But there’s a rack for the men, including European workwear, sweaters, and military styles. The Money: Ninety-nine percent of the stock is under $100. 3734 Sunset Blvd., 323-486-7692, supergoodie.com.

wasteland
From left: Yves Saint Laurent jacket, $2,000, and Levi’s jeans, $78, from Wasteland. Dsquared2 feathered jacket, $550; Cinq à Sept dress, $128; and Zarqua boots, $200, from Wasteland.

Justin Bettman

Hollywood, West Hollywood

American Rag Cie

The Vibe: Once upon a time in Hollywood—that’d be the 1980s—American Rag sold mostly inexpensive vintage staples for guys and gals before anyone else did. Now the store offers an impressive array of all manner of garments, along with a dazzlingly hip selection of more modern streetwear brands. On the Racks: There’s a huge stash of vintage Levi’s jeans and jackets, tees, sweatshirts, parkas, and shorts for guys, including Levi’s specialty pieces like red sateen five-pocket pants and colorblock fleece cardigans. The Money: You can find pieces for $50 but more likely $150 to $400. Men’s vintage Levi’s go from $200 to $300. 150 S. La Brea Ave.,, 323-935-3154, americanragcie.com.

Buffalo Exchange

The Vibe: With four stores in L.A., Buffalo Exchange is a hipster hub selling mostly low-priced trendy wear for men and women. On the Racks: There are some one-of-a-kind items and a few luxury pieces, but Buffalo Exchange is best for basics: tees, sweatshirts, jeans, and sweaters. The Melrose store has the trendiest stuff. Why buy $200 new jeans when you can get fab faded ones with real rips and pulls—not manufactured—for a measly $15? The Money: Average price tag is in the $20 range. 7912 Melrose Ave., 323-938-8604, buffaloexchange.com.

Catwalk

The Vibe: Catwalk is an L.A. institution (its name pays homage to the shop’s landlady, Julie Newmar, the original Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV series). The pieces inside are purrr-fectly curated items from different designers and decades. On the Racks: A fashionista fantasy with iconic styles from Rudi Gernreich, Courrèges, and Yves Saint Laurent. On a good day you may even find the ever-elusive vintage jumpsuit. The Money: $200 to $10,000. 459 N. Fairfax, 323-951-9255, catwalkdesignervintage.com.

Crossroads

The Vibe: The hum of hangers slapping as shoppers quickly flip through racks never ceases at this popular resale chain. They have eight locations throughout the city, but the Weho branch is known as the best of the bunch. On the Racks: Gucci slides for men for $60, Theory T-shirts and Mr. Turk shorts for under $30. For women: Mother, Rag & Bone, and Isabel Marant jeans for under $40. The price goes up for designer goods from names like the Row, Saint Laurent, and Stella McCartney. The Money: From $18 to $350. 8315 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-654-0505, crossroadstrading.com.

Decades

The Vibe: One of L.A.’s OG vintage shops—it opened in 1997—it’s still a thriving thrifting palace filled with collectible “pre-loved” designer clothing. On the Racks: Pieces from back collections of Dries, LaCroix, McQueen—even original Halstons. They’re best known for gowns and other high-end garments and jewelry purchased from the richest women in America. The Money: From $175 up to $15,000 for the serious stuff upstairs. 8214 Melrose Ave., 323-655-1960, decadesinc.com.

Fred Segal

The Vibe: L.A’.s long-time fashion mecca teamed up with Max Feldman, the vintage pop-up entrepreneur, to begin offering high-end resale ware at their Sunset Boulevard location. On the Racks: You can find a pristine 2003 Dior jacket from the days when Jean-Paul Gaultier was at the helm (there are even photos of a model wearing it on the runway). Right next to it, a tweed Chanel jacket like the one Alicia Silverstone wore in Clueless. The Money:  $350 to over $10,000. 8500 Sunset Blvd., 310-432-0560, fredsegal.com.

Buffalo Exchange

Courtesy Buffalo Exchange

Golyester

The Vibe: Owner Esther Ginsberg never met a sweet print dress or offbeat hat she didn’t like. She goes for novelty first, color second, and then print. Her vintage pieces go back to the 1920s and all the way up to the 1990s. That’s why Hollywood costume designers—and British fashion star John Galliano—pay her frequent visits. On the Racks: ‘50s poodle skirts, beaded paintings on clothes, sequin jackets, leopard prints—you might even find a skirt with Josephine Baker’s face embroidered on it. The Money: “I can sell one thing for $50 and another for thousands,” says Ginsberg. 450 S. La Brea, 323-932-1339 (best to make an appointment), golyester.etsy.com.

Paper Bag Princess

The Vibe: Elizabeth Mason opened this boutique in 1995 in Weho. It has since moved to Melrose, where it’s become a favorite with both costume designers and stylists. On the Racks: The boutique specializes in designer vintage evening and cocktail dresses from names like Bill Blass, Balmain, and Halston. But you can also find over a thousand handbags on the floor, from Judith Leiber to Botega Venetta. The Money: $200 to $10,000 (for couture Dior). 8050 Melrose Ave., shopthepaperbagprincess.com. 

The Real Real

The Vibe: You’ve heard of the website (maybe even shopped there), but be sure to check out the brick-and-mortar shop on Melrose, where designers such as Gucci, Hermès, and Chanel are prominently placed throughout. On the Racks: You can find killer designer-label clothing and accessories—like rare handbags from Hermès and Chanel in exotic skins and colors—in addition to a resale home section. The Money: From $20 to $205,000 (for a crocodile Himalaya Birkin.) 8500 Melrose Ave., therealreal.com.

The Way We Wore

The Vibe: Since 2004, Doris Raymond has been curating one of a kind collectible gowns, dresses, hats, purses, and jewelry from each decade starting from the turn of the twentieth century. It’s two floors of fashion history. On the Racks: Everything from a 1970s Jean Muir maxi dress to Chanel brooches and pearls, to Holly Harp’s ’70s dresses. But the real standouts are the gowns going back to the 1920s and the brightly colored earrings from the 1960s. The Money: It might be $95 or more for a purse, $200 for a necklace, then $4,500 (on sale) for a midcentury fuschia Chanel haute couture ensemble of dress and evening coat. There is also a $99-and-under category. 334 S. La Brea, 323-937-0878, thewaywewore.com.

Left: Vivienne Westwood jacket, $120; Topshop turtleneck, $16.50; Liz Claiborne skirt, $18.50; and Zara boots, $24, from Crossroads | Right: Chanel jacket, $4,500; Off-White crop top, $410; Loewe pants, $425; Hermès purse, $9,050; diamond necklace, $6,695; Cartier watch, $3,845; Celine sunglasses, $365; Gucci purse (on table), $1,925, from the Real Real.

Justin Bettman

Burbank

It’s a Wrap!

The Vibe:  This shop isn’t selling gently used clothing but rather barely worn items—many of them imported straight from the studios’ discarded wardrobes. Wanna wear Tom Cruise’s shirt from Mission: Impossible? Or maybe Julianna Margulies’s blouse from The Good Wife? If you’re going to find them—and a slew of other barely used items from film and TV sets—anywhere, chances are it’ll be here. On the Racks: Tons of sports coats and suits, garments from Banana Republic, Hugo Boss, and Armani. Most items are 75 percent off. A practically new jacket by the Row was recently discovered for around $100. The Money: $20 to over $1000. 3315 W. Magnolia Blvd., 818-567-7366, itsawrap.com.

Pickwick Vintage Show

The Vibe: The Pickwick Vintage Show takes place every third Saturday of the month with around 65 vendors peddling secondhand jewelry, clothing, and accessories from just about every era. But don’t expect flea-market prices. Here, it isn’t about the hunt but the highly curated edit. Entrance fees start at $5 and goes up to $20 for first-look early access. On the Racks: One woman recently bragged about snagging a vintage Gaultier net blouse from the ’90s. Another raved about a Chloe jacket she picked up. There’s also an awesome collection of vintage tees, but they can cost upwards of $200.  The Money: $25 and up. 1001 West Riverside Drive, pickwickvintage.com.

Playclothes

The Vibe: A 4500-square-foot retro fantasyland—stocked with vintage furniture, bric-a-brac, and clothes from the 1920s to the 1990s. Playclothes started at the Rose Bowl flea market in the ’80s, then morphed into a major fashion destination. Julia Roberts, Taylor Swift, and George Clooney have all reportedly browsed there. On the Racks: Hats, purses, and lingerie from various periods. Woven floral basket bags, Rudi Gernreich pantsuits, Miriam Haskell jewelry, Pucci dresses. Or how about a neon 1970s swimsuit? You can also rent your Halloween costume here, but call and reserve early. The Money: You can pick up a dress here for a mere $50, while a 1940s pantsuit goes for $135. 3100 W. Magnolia Blvd., 818-557-8447, playclothesvintage.com.

Boys Lie shirt, $55; Dr. Martens shoes, $95; Dickies pants, $24; and vintage Alaska T-shirt, $28, from Crossroads.

Justin Bettman

Westside

Timeless Treasures

The Vibe: A nonprofit run mainly by volunteers. The store has a smattering of everything, but people come mostly to browse through the Gold Room, where the designer goods are stashed. On the Racks: The thrift shop is known for their $6 jeans and monthly sales, when prices drop as much as 50 percent. The Gold Room carries Fendi, Prada, Gucci, and many more designers. A pair of trendy $400 Moussy jeans recently sold for $20. The Money: $4 to $200. 9441 Culver Blvd., 310-559-8338, nclla.org. 

Hidden Treasures Vintage

The Vibe: Housed in a 1930s building on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, this magical shop is filled with movie props and caters to the neighborhood’s upscale boho-bourgeois types. On the Racks: Mens, womens, and childrens clothing, shoes, and purses dating from Victorian times to the 1980s, along with festival wear and costumes. The Money: There’s something for any budget. 154 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd., 310-455-2998, hiddentreasurestopanga.com.

National Council of Jewish Women

The Vibe: Granted, the name doesn’t sound all that trendy, but thrifters flock to this chain’s Westwood branch (the others are in West L.A., Mar Vista, and Fairfax) for its massive inventory. Regulars know shopping here is all about timing, as people patiently wait for trucks to pull up with what insiders call the three mega-drops: divorce, death, or downsizing. On the Racks: On the right day, you might find a Bottega handbag for under $100, beautiful glassware for $20, or a cool piece of art for $25. The Money: Prices range from $2 to $250. 10960 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-852-8535, ncjwla.org.

Surfing Cowboys 

The Vibe: Donna and Wayne Gunther were both fashion photographers before opening up Surfing Cowboys in 1995 on Abbot Kinney. They moved the store to Malibu two years ago but still carry highly curated vintage with a nod to the California lifestyle. On the Racks: Not surprisingly, they excel at surf culture: surfboards from the 1930s and up, tees, Western wear, sophisticated, long, beachy vintage dresses, and thick handknit sweaters. The Money: $50 to $15,000. 3848 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu, 310-915-6611, surfingcowboys.com.


Top image fashion credits: From left: Thea Porter dress, $1,995, from Decades; peplum dress, $100, from Paper Moon; vintage Alaska print T-shirt, $28; boys Lie shirt, $55; Dickies pants, $24; Dr. Martens shoes, $95; and sunglasses, $22.50, from Crossroads. Miscreants jacket, $350 for complete suit; For Love and Lemons top, $78; and mermaid pants, $98, from Wasteland. Yohji Yamamoto jacket, $645; Off-White crop top, $410; Loewe pants, $425; Hermès purse, $9,050; diamond necklace, $6,695; Cartier watch, $3,845, and Celine sunglasses, $365, from The Real Real.


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