My closet is almost entirely secondhand. I nearly always travel with inconvenient vintage luggage (it has rapidly accumulated in my bedroom since the release of Moonrise Kingdom), despite my boyfriend’s gentle reminders that “there’s a reason luggage has evolved.” My shower rod is constantly draped with my drying vintage dresses because I don’t trust washing machines with them. A vintage wardrobe can be cumbersome, but it’s also environmentally friendly, relatively inexpensive and irreplaceable.
Within my first 24 hours of moving to New York, I had already Googled the closest vintage shops to my new apartment. I dropped pins on my maps app, eager to explore New York’s offerings of tulle dresses and high-waist jeans. What I did not know at the time was how the vintage shops of New York (and the people who run them) would provide me with so much more than gorgeous collections of clothing to sift through. In this sprawling metropolis, vintage shops have served as my oasis of comfort, proving that delicate things can be beautifully preserved and passed on between the strangers that inhabit this wild, wonderful mess of a city.
My archive of vintage havens has grown to the point where it can no longer fit inside a mental note, so I finally decided to write it all down in one place. Keep scrolling to read about my personal favorite places to shop secondhand in New York, and tell me your favorites in the comments.
197 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY
Every time I watch Sex and the City, I am inspired by Carrie’s commitment to dressing fabulously, even when she’s home alone. I find myself daydreaming about becoming the type of woman who wears vintage slips and long strings of pearls while lounging solo in my apartment. If you, too, have these sartorial fantasies, Le Grand Strip is your spot. It’s a lot like how I imagine the dressing room of a burlesque show might look: full of giant gold-framed mirrors, peacocks, chandeliers and other fancy delights. Whether it’s a cotton shift dress, a lace teddy or a double-breasted suit that makes you feel like your best self, this place has all the feel-good outfits perfect for wearing both inside and out of your apartment.
Williamsburg and Greenpoint
132 N 5th St, Brooklyn, NY, with one other location at 688 Manhattan Ave
Awoke is the holy grail of vintage basics. There are piles of denim, floral patterned skirts and a range of T-shirts. This is the place to go if you’re looking for layering staples and comfortable, everyday pieces. They also carry a few statement items, like the mint green suit I purchased a while back that is both comfy and makes me feel like Cate Blanchett. What more could I ask for from an outfit?
Thriftwares at the Artists and Fleas Market
Williamsburg and Soho
70 N 7th St, Brooklyn; other location at 568 Broadway St., New York
Thriftwares has two locations, both of which are permanent merchants in the Artists and Fleas markets in Soho and Williamsburg. Thriftwares has everything from classic white blouses to your dream Gatsby party dress. They also have a variety of unique outerwear and summer “It” bags I haven’t seen anywhere else. I purchased a vintage Burberry blazer there a while back, and my mother literally screamed in delight when I wore it home last week.
Although Thriftwares’ aesthetic varies from piece to piece, everything is both unique and well-kept.
Williamsburg and Chelsea
135 N 7th St Brooklyn, NY 11249; other location at 24 W 26th St
The majority of Crossroads’ wares are from secondhand contemporary brands. It’s one of those places that requires some scavenging, but the payoff can be huge. My best find so far was a Ganni sweater I had been eyeing online. I purchased it for a fraction of the retail price.
285 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
10 Ft Single by Stella Dallas consists of one large room of secondhand goods and another large room of genuine vintage goods. Next door, there’s Stella Dallas Living, which carries vintage fabrics, carpets, a wall full of buttons and some of the store’s finer vintage dresses and shoes. Everything is well-organized and reasonably priced.
320 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Known to Man carries dresses that range in formality from casual picnic lunch to swanky cocktail hour. The last time I went to this shop, my mom was in town and generously gifted me the most amazing vintage beaded backless dress I’ve ever seen. I wore it to an event in the New York Botanical Gardens, and it was possibly the highlight of my life:
The owner, Giselle, has a keen eye for knowing which items will pair well together, like these blue silk pants and this ‘60s beaded top:
137 Montrose Ave, Brooklyn NY
Olly Olly Oxen has the feeling of a well-loved home. There’s an old desk filled with vintage magazines and cassettes and dried flowers hanging above the entrance. It is also home to a collection of unworn 1971 India Imports of Rhode Island designer wear from Woodstock. If you’re looking for a unique outfit to wear to a summer music festival, this is your place.
232 Varet Street, Brooklyn NY
Risk is physically impossible to miss if you happen to walk by. It’s basically Barbie’s chic apartment, complete with Marilyn Monroe pillows out front, a spiral staircase adorned with beach hats and walls covered in spectacular art made by the owner herself, Lindsay Risk. Inside, there are contemporary goods seamlessly sprinkled among the vintage gems. If you’ve ever watched Uptown Girls and craved Molly’s wardrobe/accessories/apartment, Risk will easily satisfy those cravings.
Union Square, Park Slope, Bushwick and Greenpoint
A thrifting expedition would not be complete without a stop at Beacon’s Closet. When it comes to finding a good deal, this place takes the cake. Each of the circular racks is conveniently color-coded and chock full of vintage and consignment goods that vary in style, size and time period.
117 Wilson Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Based on the outfits of Worship’s clientele, it’s clear this is a favorite store amongst vintage connoisseurs — no surprise since the racks are constantly replenished with an abundance of statement pieces. From vintage couture to label-less handmade garments, everything is perfectly curated.
16 Wilson Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Collections looks like your quirky aunt’s hypothetical beach house and has the clothing to match. Whether you’re taking a weekend away from the city or just want to feel like you are, Collections has the goods to put you in vacation mode. The shop is an alcove of serenity, perfect for a leisurely browse.
Locations all over New York (favorites on 143 W 17th St, 157 E 23rd St and 130 Crosby St)
Housing Works is full of well-kept secondhand wares from a multitude of well-known brands. I once got a great deal on this white Armani dress:
It’s the perfect vintage stop for office-appropriate outfits, a dinner party dress or a pair of shoes from a brand you already know and love. If you’re in the mood to spiff up your apartment, Housing Works also carries home goods, furniture and artwork. Proceeds go towards fighting AIDS and homelessness.
240 W 10 St, Manhattan, NY
Madame Matovu is a quaint, tasteful and cozy gem located in the heart of the West Village. The curator and owner, Rosemary, is as warm and welcoming as her shop. Rosemary fills every surface with dainty knick-knacks, so although the shop is small, the sheer volume of uncommon items tucked inside make it well worth the trip.
Lower East Side
5 Delancey St, Manhattan, NY
Procell specializes in ’80s and ’90s streetwear, including rare T-shirts. The store has a clean layout and a deeply curated collection of contemporary vintage. If you’re not the type of vintage shopper who enjoys scavenging, the modern space with simple displays will help you narrow your search with its curated edit of collectables.
Lower East Side
204 1st Ave, New York, NY
111 E 12th St New York, NY
Cure Thrift Shop is a massive two-floor collection of vintage and thrift clothing, as well as some antique and contemporary homewares. The shop has a similar vibe to the Friends apartments and has the outfits to match. Whether you’re a Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey or Ross (no judgment), this place has effortless ensembles to fit your standards. There’s plenty to sort through, so set aside a good chunk of time for this one. All proceeds benefit Type 1 Diabetes Research and Advocacy.
What are your favorite places to shop thrift and vintage in New York? I’m always adding to my list.
Photos by Starling Irving.