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How to Shop Thrift, Consignment & Vintage Stores in NYC

Learn how to shop NYC thrift, consignment, and vintage stores from fashion editor Verena von Pfetten in this Howcast video.

Transcript

New York City is known for its shopping, for the big boutiques and the brand names, but one of the things that it really does best is vintage or thrift and consignment shopping. Let's be clear on what the difference is. So vintage or a vintage shop means pre-worn clothing that's typically from another era. So at this point, yes, maybe 90's counts as vintage, but we're talking early 90's and before that. Thrift and consignment can be more contemporary clothing. So consignment means that someone's dropping it off at the store, and they'll get paid once it gets sold. So that's usually where you're going to find something that's something in-season or maybe a season or two old. Someone bought it, they spent a lot of money on it, they wore it a bit, and now they're done and want to get a return. So it really depends on what you're looking for. If you want to get some current clothing maybe a little cheaper, then you want to look at consignment, and if you want to get some super individual one of a kind pieces, that's when you want to look at vintage.

A few things to keep in mind when you're shopping in either of these stores is fit. You can always get something tailored to be smaller. You're never going to get it bigger. So you can definitely go a size up, or if something feels a bit loose or baggy, you can definitely purchase that and then get it tailored. If it feels too tight, you're never going to be able to fix that. That's the same thing with shoes. So anything with vintage or thrift or consignment, when you're looking at it, it's not size the way when you go into a boutique and you say, "I'm a size 10 or a size 4". You're just going to have to try things on and then use your imagination to think, "What can I do to make this work?" And the plus side is, you're getting this on discount, so it's worth spending the money to tailor it. Take a dress that's maybe a little looser, and bring it to a quality tailor, and spend 20 or 25 dollars getting it fit perfectly to you. That's the benefit of vintage or thrift. I mean, you're not going to get a contemporary piece of clothing that's one of a kind and custom measured to you. If you go vintage, you can find something maybe from the 70's like a cool Maxi dress, and maybe it's a bit big, but you spend another 20 dollars getting it tailored and you have a one of a kind piece that you got for under 50 dollars.

Another thing to keep in mind is digging. You've just got to put in the time. Most vintage stores and thrift stores in New York are merchandised pretty well. They put things in certain styles, certain colors and certain eras. You definitely want to take the time to go through every piece because you never know what's going to be hidden. A lot of the times, there's a lot of people in there and they're moving things around. It's worth spending that time to find that hidden treasure that no one else saw. The one thing you never want to do is buy something that's stained. It may seem like a good idea because you're going to get it for a really cheap price, but it's not worth it. You're not going to be able to get it out and you're never going to wear it. So if something has a red wine stain or if something even looks like it's just got a mark on it, it's probably been washed a few times. Someone's probably also taken it to the dry cleaner's, and if they didn't get it out, you're not going to get it out.

So definitely look for clean things first and foremost. Then make sure that if it doesn't fit you perfectly, it's on the bigger side, and then just make sure to dig. If you're in the SoHo area, I love 11 on Prince Street. They have a great mix of sort of consignment, definitely some vintage, sort of 70's Americana style, and then some current products that they've designed as well. For really good consignment and sort of current season stuff, you should look at like a Tokyo 7 in the East Village, or Closet in Brooklyn. Those are places that just everyone in New York uses them, and you're going to get the mix of the high and the low, and it's going to be contemporary and from current seasons, and you're going to save so much.

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