7 Great Cities For Vintage Shopping — And Why They Rock

Vintage shopping is the ultimate treasure hunt. Here's where to hit the jackpot.

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How Sweet It Was Vintage store
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As any avid clothes hound knows, vintage shopping is about a whole lot more than just shopping. It’s a treasure hunt where the prize is a one-of-a-kind piece that you, and only you, get to take home. No wonder it’s so addictive! 

Vintage is the great equalizer. Many vintage purveyors aren't just passionate about clothing, they're committed to creating inclusive, positive shopping experiences for people of all sizes, genders and sexual orientations. No matter where in the country you travel, stepping into a vintage store will transport you into a world of local history, creativity and a whole lot of open arms (many of which are decked out in sequins). 

Ready to go shopping? These seven cities have amazing vintage scenes that are well worth planning a trip around.

1. Dallas, Texas

Dallas has always been a fashion-forward city, so it’s no surprise that it’s also a vintage lover’s dream. Shops like Dolly Python, Vintage Martini and Voodoo Chile offer a range of everything from "Mad Men"-worthy '60s looks to wildly quirky treasures that you’ll have to see to believe. Fans of all things ultra feminine will love Jack Retro, where shoppers come from far and wide to check out the shop’s closet of peignoirs. “It’s super dreamy,” says shop employee Kaitlyn Robertson. “Women love to come in just to play dress up sometimes.” 

While Dallas shoppers will have no trouble finding dresses galore, the city’s true vintage draw is vintage tees. Treasure hunters flock to Vagabond Vintage to sift through their racks of one-of-a-kind shirts. “We are unique because of the sheer amount of items we have in the store,” says owner Amy Marrs. The store is home to more than 10,000(!) items at any given time. “We specialize in vintage tees. We have people come from all over the world to shop with us.”

2. Ann Arbor, Michigan

This vibrant college town (and one of Livability's Best Places to Live in the U.S.) has been the backdrop for a lot of history over the years, and home to many fashion-forward students. That definitely shows in the selection of the city’s vintage shops. No matter which local favorites you’re shopping at (Dear Golden, Muse Atelier and The Getup are a few favorites), vintage here is about more than the thrill of the hunt — it’s an emotional experience.

Tanya Luz, owner of Muse Atelier, calls her work “ministry through glitter,” where everyone is welcome to stop by and sift through the racks. “The shop masquerades as a vintage store, but it’s a community hub,” Luz says, and visitors here are always encouraged to lose themselves in a few hours of dress-up. “I try to make a place that’s safe for people,” Luz says. “I do a lot of work with trans women who don’t have anywhere safe to shop. I do a lot of intimate fitting appointments with women who have had cancer and their bodies have changed.”

No matter where you shop in Ann Arbor, you’ll find that welcoming, inclusive energy. “We aim to provide absolutely killer vintage pieces for people of all shapes, sizes and walks of life,” says Kaylan Mitchell of The Getup Vintage. “We believe vintage is for everybody and that comes through in our shop. We hand-select every piece to ensure that [our clothing] is not only awesome, but fits a wide range of tastes, styles, budgets and bodies.”

The best thing to shop for here? High-end pieces like dresses, bags and shoes. In Ann Arbor, you’ll find gorgeous vintage designer wear at about a fifth of the price you’d find in New York or LA.

3. Columbus, Ohio

The Columbus creative scene is perpetually expanding, and the fashion scene is no exception. The city’s shops are especially great at sourcing unique dresses, so that’s the first thing to look for. One favorite spot, Flower Child Vintage, is a massive department store-style vintage haven. Owner Joe Valenti, who also runs a location in Cleveland, loves finding a new home for each piece. “I think it’s the up-cycling and finding a new home for something,” Valenti says. “I’m a caretaker. I take on that item and I find somebody who loves it, that’s my job … When I’m buying it I like to find out the story behind it.”

If you find yourself in Columbus, you’ll also want to wander through SmartyPants Vintage and Royal Factory Atelier for even more treasures.

4. Tucson, Arizona

Tucson’s vintage selection blends quirky, modern pieces with the city’s rich desert history. On Tucson’s iconic Fourth Avenue, you’ll see evidence on every corner of the city’s thriving artistic community. A great place to go if you're on the hunt for flowy prairie dresses, you’ll never have trouble finding a good textile in Tucson. Top shops like Desert Vintage and How Sweet It Was have received national accolades for their unique pieces and thoughtful curation. How Sweet It Was even doubles as a gallery, hosting art parties to promote works that complement the clothes on display. 

5. Austin, Texas

Austin’s continual influx of transplants bring the style influence of their previous homes along with them, so it’s no surprise that the city has a wide range of vintage offerings. And let it be known: the cowboy boot and denim cut-off selection here is second to none. If you’re overwhelmed by all the options, start your adventure in East Austin. There, you’ll find Charm School Vintage and Las Cruxes Vintage, which shares a space with a beloved local bookstore. You’ll also want to make sure you hit Laced With Romance and Feathers Boutique, a gem in South Congress.

6. Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu isn’t just the land of great beaches. (Though, let’s be real, most of us would be more than happy to “just” live on a beach.) The city is also a vintage paradise. A quick wander through town will reveal an epic selection of everything from dresses to hats to all kinds of treasures in between.

Of course, Honolulu has a particular specialty it rocks at: vintage Hawaiian shirts. It’s hard to envision any place with a wider selection of these babies. Each shirt tells a story of its own tropical past, and you’ll find one in each color of the rainbow. Shops like Bailey’s Antiques And Aloha Shirts and Barrio Vintage will have you covered with any type of Hawaiian shirt under the sun.

7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh loves vintage so much that the city hosts a bi-annual Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer, where dozens of vendors offer up their most beautiful finds. “The vintage and thrifting scene here has really taken flight in the last five years or so, which is amazing in its own right,” says Joshua Fedorski, owner of the shop Clothes Minded. “The green aspect of used clothing and accessories makes it even more special.” Pittsburgh vintage shops have an especially epic range of '50s and '60s rockabilly looks, so if you’ve always wanted to rock a sassy throwback dress, this is the place to be. 

“Many visitors from outside of Pittsburgh are thrilled to see the selection,” says Richard Parsakian, owner of Eons Fashion. He’s found that the vintage scene in Pittsburgh is deeply connected to the local arts community. “The store is a social circle for creative artists who continuously tell the truth through their work. I work with costume designers in films and TV who are using Pittsburgh as a location ... I have become a mentor and sounding board for many younger artists navigating their projects.” The Pittsburgh scene is also devoted to providing a welcoming and accepting atmosphere. “My store is known as a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community. This is a judgement-free zone for those exploring their gender and how clothing and costume can help express identity.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire Hannum is a writer and editor based in New York City. Her work has appeared on Self, CNN, The Frisky, Mic, YouBeauty, Racked, and other corners of the internet. more

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Mon, 12/16/2019 - 10:33