The Best Vintage Boutiques
We hesitate to call this a vintage guide because it doesn’t capture the essence of what the shops we’ve gathered below are. They are so much more than that. They are run by true obsessives, scholars, men and women who can spot a 1966 vs. a 1968 YSL women’s tuxedo on the street, who can call out a fake Chanel jacket from a sample of thread.
9044 Burton Way, LA | 310.724.5757
Lily et Cie in Beverly Hills may just be the original fashion archive, the store that made vintage acceptable, wearable, and cool. Owner Rita Watkin, known to be notoriously prickly (to us she was a peach), is a true character with encyclopaedic knowledge of fashion. Her story: before founding Lily et Cie, she worked at Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Valentino, and YSL. One day, she inherited a prestigious collection of 20th Century fashion (that today rivals that of the Met and the Louvre) from a close family friend. She stored it for years until word spread and she finally opened up shop in the 80’s. On a visit years ago, we spotted John Galliano and his entourage (circa the Christian Dior years) taking notes and seeking inspiration.
Lily et Cie’s Picks
8214 Melrose Ave., LA | 323.655.1960
Cameron Silver and Christos Garkinos, aka The Dukes of Melrose, run a vintage store so revered in Hollywood that it had its own TV show on Bravo. In fact, Cameron has literally written the book on fashion. It’s name? Decades. Hand-picked items are displayed in their deluxe boutique in such a way that customers can truly see each piece for what it is—vintage couture. Cameron says it best: “When Decades opened in 1997, vintage was still rather socially unacceptable and people were turned off by wearing something ‘used.’ However, Decades educated the savvy fashionista that vintage is a modern way to differentiate your style and the edit has always been about ‘vintage that looks modern.'”
60’s Norman Norell
“There isn’t a season that goes by that a designer doesn’t reference the iconic Norman Norell mermaid gowns of the 1960’s (Marc Jacobs recently showed several variations). Whether fully covered like a second skin or a more bare halter style, the flat paillettes look magically applied to the body in a very sensual manner that remains timeless nearly 60 years after this dress was designed. This is pure glamour.”
“One of the big trends this fall is the introduction of the oversized bold pattern coat. Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo have both proposed this fresh silhouette in recent collections. This is a late 70’s Courreges check coat that has the spirit of the current runway looks.”
Early 80’s Kenzo
“Everyone’s mad for plaid this season, and the grunge-redux look can easily be luxe’d up with a vintage Kenzo shirt. I love this worn casually with jeans or a leather legging. Don’t be afraid to wear it tied around your waist with a tank top for a rocker-chic vibe.”
8006 Melrose Ave., LA | 323.651.5516
217 Mott St., NYC | 212.625.1374
Resurrection’s stores in LA and New York are whitewashed, airy spaces with mid-century furniture scattered throughout. And then, of course, there’s the clothes, which you can check out on 1st Dibs. Owners Katy Rodriguez and Mark Haddawy gather all the greats like Lacroix, Valentino, and Westwood with an eye for some of their more colorful, over the top designs—true standout pieces you’d get props for wearing.
2265 Market St., San Francisco | 415.437.2265
Together, the words “San Francisco” and “Vintage” conjure visions of Haight Ashbury—thrift stores and marijuana memorabilia shops alternating endlessly. Sui Generis is not this. First an upscale vintage men’s store, they now also cater to women with a taste for classic pieces they can wear to the de Young Museum gala or the San Francisco Symphony.
Sui Generis’ Picks
90’s Richard Tyler
This is simultaneously classic and modern, bringing to mind a time glamorized by the likes of Josephine Baker.”
“From early on, and throughout his career, Courreges was recognized for his quintessentially modern designs. Simple in design and classic in cut with its sheer sleeves and French cuffs adding just the right amount of detail.”
519, 900 N. Michigan Ave., 5th fl., Chicago | 773.859.1493
Stuart Mesires’ Ladybug Vintage is Chicago’s best vintage business. Without a brick and mortar store of her own, she sells at several boutiques (including space519 for her jewelry finds) and is available by appointment only. When you’re lucky enough to book some time with her, you will find a trove of bright (she loves color) pieces from Schiaparelli to Lilly Pullitzer. Her real passion, however, is jewelry. Bright, playful, statement pieces from Ciner, Yves Saint Laurent, and Kenneth Jay Lane at prices that are fair to say the least.
Ladybug Vintage’s Picks:
“Perfect for this fall’s trend for long chains and coin jewelry. The length makes it very versatile and it can be worn alone or layered with other necklaces.”
1972 Napier “Fox in the Forest”
“I love not only that it is fall-themed but that it is so whimsical and unique. It was designed by Eugene Bertolli for Napier in 1972 as part of their ‘Endangered Species Series’—this is a Grey Fox.”
“This necklace (and matching bracelet) is great for fall not only because of the trend for colored gemstones but because it’s the perfect complement to fall’s mid-century fashion trend: Nipped-waist coats, skirt-suits, and full skirts.”
351 W. Broadway, NYC | 212.343.1225
This go-to for the city’s top stylists and vintage collectors was recommended to us by Alice + Olivia’s Stacey Bendet Eisner who says, “It’s your absolute every day vintage with amazing rock and roll details at every turn!” Beyond clothing, it’s a resource for vintage lovers with furniture, styling, and prop services too. If you just like the look, they also carry heritage brands like Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Miansai.
48 Lexington St., London | +44 20 7434 4086
Founded originally by Sarah Owen and her sister Lily Allen, the store has made a name for itself for excellent vintage pieces from the 20’s through the 90’s. The store updates on an almost daily basis (they have a fleet of hardcore buyers). Sarah organizes the shop by trend and occasion; right now it’s mainly plaid, grunge, and a gradient of pinks. We recently spotted an Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell print silk dress. (We are in England, after all.) There’s also a salon at the Lexington Street store if you’re looking for the appropriate decade’s makeup to complete the outfit.
8 Golborne Rd., London
This is Kate Moss’ favorite vintage shop in London. Owned by Fiona Stuart, Claire Stansfield, and Steven Philip, the three co-owners of this hideaway started out trading on Portobello Road, giving them some serious street cred. It’s worth a visit for all the classics plus some pretty UK-specific 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s pieces—from old-school Ossie Clark and Vivienne Westwood to a great selection of rock T’s.
“I chose this piece because it’s the ultimate cocktail/party dress. It’s rock chic and once on the body it becomes very animated and sculptured in all the right places.” —Claire
“This is the perfect jacket for the Christmas party season. Wear with jeans, or a dress, it makes an outfit. And nothing beats Tom Ford at Gucci for glamour. Party on …” —Steven
80’s Yves Saint Laurent
“This YSL dress with a theatrical harlequin print takes me straight back to the height of the 80’s party days.” —Fiona
19 Kensington Park Rd., London | +44 20 7229 9006
Owner Sophie Merchant was, until recently, a well-kept industry secret, helping designers (of brands we couldn’t possibly out) build their vintage archives for runway inspiration. In 2007, she took her skills in-house and opened her own, appropriately named Merchant Archive. At the store in Notting Hill, you’ll find her immaculate vintage trove from Chloé, to Ossie Clark and more along with her vintage-inspired line upstairs. She has some exquisite finds for wedding shoppers as well.
Merchant Archive’s Picks
“I am a 20’s fan, I love the decadence of the era and this jacket has it in happy abundance but is still perfectly wearable. Wear with skinnies and a court shoe. Great for the sparkle of the coming season.”
70’s Yves Saint Laurent
“Fit and flare is so popular this season. It’s a bit of a 50’s trend but this 1970’s skirt is a great shape and perfect when worn with a simple sweater.”
This dress from Sophie’s line is a perfect example of her vintage-inspired yet perfectly current designs.
Ruth Myers’ Top Vintage Sources
Ruth Myers, a true vintage fiend and the costume designer for movies like L.A. Confidential, Emma and The Addams Family, gives us her top list of vintage dealers in the two cities she calls home: LA and London.
“In London, I love the stalls in Alfie’s Market. Tintin is incredibly classy, and the owner Leslie is a font of knowledge and has wonderful treasures, as does June Victor on the top floor. I also love the basement at Gray’s Antique Market off Bond Street, Portobello market on Saturday mornings and Annie’s, Cloud Cuckoo Land and Dreamtime in Camden Passage, Islington.”