There are 8 million New Yorkers, which means around 8 million closets that get regularly purged. After they come off the hanger, some of the best garments end up in the city's vintage stores. But buying secondhand clothes in New York City presents a challenge: some shops have an affected air at odds with the very concept of clothing reuse, and it can take serious digging to find quality pieces that don't cost top dollar. For those who enjoy the hunt, here's the best place in each Big Apple borough to rediscover some great old threads.
Tokyo 7 (Consignment)
64 E. Seventh Street
For 11 years East Village hipster Makoto Watanabe's shop has held steady in a neighborhood quickly dissolving into Everyman's suburbia (think Starbucks as far as the eye can see). Why? The high-end stock always outlasts fickle trends. Look for Diane von Furstenburg wrap dresses ($80), and the occasional Dior or Vuitton treasure. You'll spend more here than at other secondhand boutiques (a Marc Jacobs bag may cost $250), but it's worth every penny. tel: (1-212) 353 8443
Loveday 31 (Vintage)
3306 31st Avenue
Walk into Loveday 31 and you're likely to trip over the low coffee table covered in a circular rainbow pattern of vintage pumps. You've just entered a shrine of '60s-'80s clothing, where chunky plastic bracelets find their place alongside original Donald Brooks shift dresses ($75). The '60s theme makes way for even older items: beaded handbags from the roaring '20s would look gorgeous with the handsomely displayed "estate" (pre-owned) jewelry. tel: (1-718) 728 4057
Everything Goes Clothing (Thrift)
140 Bay Street
Cross over to Staten Island on the ferry and your effort is rewarded by this maze of rooms in a stand-alone house filled with, well, everything. The small bedroom upstairs is stuffed with jeans, the front bedroom with well-chosen men's clothes. But the parlor is the real gem this reservoir of clothing of all shapes, sizes and eras draws a regular crowd of Manhattan costume designers. The shop is run by the Ganas collective, a communal group numbering 100 that lives locally. tel: (1-718) 273 7139
Beacon's Closet (Thrift/Vintage)
88 N. 11th Street
Take your old clothes to Beacon's Closet (a favorite of the New York college crowd), and if they buy them they'll give you 35% of the soon-to-be tag price, or a 55% in-store credit. A tired London Fog jacket can turn miraculously into a Catherine Malandrino limited-edition silk gown you may have to throw in a few extra dollars, but at $130 it's still a steal. An oversized Pucci scarf recently sold for $45, but it's possible to walk out with an attractive vintage dress for $12. tel: (1-718) 486 0816
St. Mary Star of the Sea (Thrift)
595 Minneford Avenue
Finding good thrift in the Bronx means looking in some unusual places. As it happens, the basement of the rectory at this Roman Catholic church on City Island is filled with quirky tchotchkes (need a mini-lighthouse collection?), old albums (My Fair Lady, The King and I) and well-selected seasonal clothing. Sweaters (circa 1980s) and shoes (vintage Kix boat shoes) were each only $2 fashion so affordable, they might as well be giving it away. tel: (1-718) 885 1440
Thrift: Mostly donations, with the funds going to charity.
Consignment: Clients bring in their goods. If they sell, the client gets paid and the store takes a cut.
Vintage: Specialty shops with well-selected garments often representing a specific era.
Next Fast Fashion