No surprise here — I enjoy shopping whenever I travel. However, I always steer clear of the mall and the luxury mega-brands. (You can find all that stuff online or in NYC anyway.) Instead, I seek out the area’s consignment and vintage stores — the perfect way to discover the nuances of a city’s fashion culture. For example, Atlanta has the best prices, but the brands skew heavily toward preppy Tory Burch and Coach. Meanwhile Miami prices tend to be astronomical, the tradeoff being that you can unearth museum-quality vintage pieces.
While I was in Los Angeles last week, I Uber-ed my way across town to hit as many secondhand boutiques as possible. I was only in LA for 1.5 days, so this is certainly not a scientific sampling — but overall, I was pleased. Here’s what I discovered.
Buttons and Bows, Downtown LA
This little boutique is nestled in a stretch of downtown LA bursting with vintage and secondhand stores.
Pros: I loved the vibe of this place — from the eclectic artwork adorning the walls to the industrial-esque jewelry display. (Extra points go to the saleswoman, who was charming and impossibly chic in a floaty T-shirt dress and color-blocked booties.) The selection is curated and beautifully displayed.
Cons: For consignment nuts like me, there isn’t enough merchandise. Typically when I visit a consignment store, I budget at least an hour to paw through EVERYTHING and try it all on. In this store, you might need 20 minutes max. I expected to see more high-end brands, but it was a mishmash of luxury (like a navy Karl Lagerfeld skirt suit), mid-tier (a faded Betsey Johnson floral dress) and random brands I’ve never heard of.
Score: I purchased a lovely “Gucci” sweater in a deliciously soft gray-beige. I put Gucci in quotes because the sweater was $60, and I’ve never seen a designer sweater marked so low. (That kind of crazy-low pricing immediately puts me on high alert that something is amiss.)
Flamingo Vintage, Downtown LA
Despite its name, Flamingo Vintage is not purely focused on vintage. Instead, it’s a sprightly mix of kooky reproductions, novelties and aforementioned vintage (mostly from the 1970s).
Pros: The decor in this shop is incredible — including hand-painted mannequins, polka-dotted rugs, Skittle-neon walls and original artwork. The new clothes on display are vintage-inspired (think eyelet lace blouses and magenta swing coats) and completely affordable. Another favorite? A whole range of graphic socks, including these.
Cons: The vintage selection has a serious 70s flavor, which is REALLY hard to wear (for me, anyway). In 70s sizing, T-shirts are super tight, blouses seem enormous, and coats have a completely different shape and would need major alterations.
Score: I walked away with a 70s-esque yellow T-shirt screen-printed with “Come and Get It.” (For $25, I just couldn’t resist.)
3020 Designer Resale
By far, 3020 Designer Resale was my favorite LA consignment discovery. (It is no coincidence that it was also the most comparable shopping experience to NYC boutiques.)
Pros: The selection of brands was excellent, from Elizabeth and James to Manolo Blahnik to independent designers. There was also a smattering of vintage items that were astonishingly modern (including a dreamy, gauzy ruffled blouse piped with navy trim.) The selection was forward-leaning and curated to fit the current trend forecast, such as the oversized shearling jacket in the photo above. (Jacket is by Isaac Mizrahi.)
Cons: There isn’t an outpost in NYC.
Score: I walked away with a polka-dotted Moschino blouse ($89) and lizard Manolo sling-backs ($150).