Monday, January 4th, 2010
62

Manhattan's Vintage Stores Stay Eating It

OldsI know nastiness is SO 2009 because 2010 is going to be deep-fried rainbows in effusive sauce but I can't help but be anything besides pshaw at the news that New York City's vintage stores are going out of business. Hey, it's not like I don't enjoy other people's underwear, bias-cut velvet shit, and keen little heels in a women's size 4 AA but um, hi, as far as business models go, I just don't see the appeal of buying pre-owned crap at extortionate prices just because there's a hangtag that says all eight of the shearling vests are from the '70s. I mean, seriously, why so expensive?

I get that they "used to cater to fashion houses that need extensive inspirational period archivesblablabla" but if you're gonna put all your eggs in that fickle-ass basket then maybe you don't get to be allowed to be so shocked?

GAH. I feel conflicted. I love small business owners and I actually love the idea of vintage clothing but I don't get when they pretend that the Internet doesn't exist, or that other customers have never been to the whole rest of the country where you can rummage around and buy the same dang belt for a buck-and-a-half. I also don't like when they pretend that I'm not deathly afraid of bedbugs and that I have sufficient space in my freezer to store every article of secondhand clothing for the requisite 3 months that it takes for all its passengers to die. And by "die", I mean sleep because I ALSO hate when they pretend like I don't know that New York City bedbugs and spores are really diesel and will just be extra well-rested, powerful and PISSED when they wake up to kill me slowly.

In short, I'm kinda thinking 2010 will maybe be a suck and until I get over 2009 I want all my clothes hermetically sealed in clamshells.

62 Comments / Post A Comment

HiredGoons (#603)

Everything about this post is true, correct, and awesome.

Bittersweet (#765)

Awesome, true and correct.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Correct, true, awesome, good and beautiful, especially the new definition of "diesel" as meaning not merely "something awesome" or "high-grade heroin" but more like "immortal gods" is awesome and from henceforth true and correct. Mr Funk, you have a wire from Mr Wagnall's.

NicFit (#616)

Funny, there was a time when these places were called "thrift shops". That time was the 1980s.

Those were really expensive to me in the 80s as a recent mid-western transplant used to paying fifty cents to a dollar max for anything. I used to love vintage and thrift shopping until then. After I moved to NYC I had content myself with Strawberry and my rich friends' cast offs.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

They still call them thrifts on Nolensville Road and Charlotte Ave.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Also, people already complained about the prices of used clothing downtown 25 years ago, so you know what? Everything in New York was always pre-fucked; there is no past.

BadUncle (#153)

Even in the 80's, "Cheap Jack's" wasn't cheap.

Maevemealone (#968)

I got totally hosed on my last minute Halloween costume vintage dress idea. I paid more for that outfit that I'd let myself pay for a new nice outfit. They are OLD clothes that SMELL old. And don't act shocked SHOCKED that I won't buy the matching metal mesh handbag for $100 that you bought from some Vegas convection of vintage weirdos.
The best vintage piece I ever bought was from a little store in Ocean City NJ run by a teenage girl who dropped out of high school. She had no idea of what she was selling. I almost felt bad that I knew I was basically stealing grade A shit from her.

HiredGoons (#603)

I will say this for vintage clothing stores: I cannot find pants that fit me the way straight-leg corduroy pants made in the '70s fit me.

Mary HK Choi (#1,469)

You are right about this. They did do and dye fine-wale corduroys in great silhouettes back then. Also, you must be THIN.

HiredGoons (#603)

*snaps fingers

Maevemealone (#968)

I hardly fit anything in vintage stores (I'm tall). I always tell the saleslady that if I had lived back in the day, I'd have worn potato sacks and kleenex boxes on my feet. Invariably, she turns to me and says "well, you need to wear a corset". As if she means NOW I need to wear a corset. Vintage is best for the petite waifs of the world.

propertius (#361)

Nothing like the colors back then either. We were not afraid of color.

HiredGoons (#603)

SOMEbody needs to stop in a UNIQLO! (like, now MAD SALE!!!)

Flashman (#418)

There used to be a store on Queen West in Toronto that seemed to sell nothing but those old Levi's in corduroy. They had rack after rack of them.
And indeed I don't think I've ever had a pant fit as well as my old grey Levi's cords. Like a glove.

HiredGoons (#603)

Brings all the boys to my yard (read: alley).

Mary HK Choi (#1,469)

@Maeve: OMG. I JUST bought a set of Bill Sienkiewicz-illustrated trading cards (circa 1990) back from when HBO had that Comedy Channel special and the girl at the store sold them to me for the MSRP originally printed on the box. It was such a thrill!

@Flash: You know what I miss? The corresponding vintage cord Levi's jackets in all the beautiful colorways. What happened to those?

Flashman (#418)

What colorways! Luscious berries, and sundry hues of autumn. And the hand of that cloth, its kind, reassuring drape.

Flashman (#418)

Also probably the emergence of Value Village has something to do with it. I'm a big fan of VV, not because I'm poor but because there's such a huge choice of random things and you can satisfy the urge to buy things without spending a great deal of money.
I'd never heard of putting old stuff in the freezer for three months though! Would overnight in the fridge plus a blast of Raid do the trick?

Rod T (#33)

Don't look at me for an answer. I can barely bear Neiman's Last Call in Westbury. (Ralph Lauren Home Store though? And William's Sonoma? Holler at your boy.)

Rod T (#33)

William's what? (It's like typing is this new and challenging thing after the break. I did all my writing with pens on pads of paper. It was … beautiful. Little fluffy clouds ….)

jolie (#16)

Apparently reading is this new and challenging thing too since I just read that as "I did all my writing with penis on pads of paper." which, you know.

Mary HK Choi (#1,469)

Nieman's Last Call is strictly for the furniture and shoes. Off 5th for their fur boutique on clearance. YES. FUR. WHAT?

jolie (#16)

Oh God, I want to pet you.

Rod T (#33)

I want her as a pet. I put my cat Sybil in leopard skin dresses with gold sequined tutus. Imagine what I could do with a Mary.

jolie (#16)

YES.

Choire, please ship Mary over to Rod's and include a video camera along with her litter and catmint so he can film them when they play dress up. THANKS!

penelope_pitstop (#2,859)

This is so true. I've been buying in thrift stores for years and have practically been priced out of the New York market. I blame Rachel Zoe and Chloe Sevigny!

When I visit the inlaws in Michigan and Florida I go nuts rummaging for stuff. Example: bought a vintage cardigan for $30 bucks at a flea market in Florida (which I actually thought was a tad overpriced). Saw the exact same on in a vintage store on 23rd Street for $130.

I say bring back Domseys.

HiredGoons (#603)

The trick is go to locales where a large percentage of the population wear clothes from 30 years ago unironically.

penelope_pitstop (#2,859)

True that. Florida is great because all the snow birds keep dying off and their heirs end up donating everything to the salvation army.

Years ago, there was a vintage store in the west village that I frequented. One sunday I was in Domseys checking out the $1 shirts. Next thing I look around and the owner of the vintage store was there, laden down with shirts. Next time I went into his store he was selling them for $30 each.

There's money to be made if you don't go nuts.

Maevemealone (#968)

Pittsburgh is pretty on target for this stuff. I still wear a cardigan I bought for 25 cents at a thrift shop back in college.

HiredGoons (#603)

Vermont is very crunchy and the irony factor is low so it's a goldmine.

LondonLee (#922)

I spent Xmas with the in-laws in rural North Carolina and bought a pile of 60s-70s jazz and soul albums for $1 each at a second hand shop in the local town.

I'm always shocked at the prices NY record shops charge for old vinyl. As you said, they must think I'm stupid and have never been online.

I almost always buy online now. LA prices are just as bad as NYC.

Rod T (#33)

Bonus: This boy I had over for dinner last week (I made a white chili with corn muffins. He brought Modelos.) works for a company that sources out thrift clothing from all over the world to be used as reference pieces for fashion design houses. His work takes him all over the place, traveling the heartland for goods and selling them in Paris, Milan, etc. It is such commerce that probably also drives the pricing of vintage goods in Manhattan.

jolie (#16)

Chili on a date, eh? Risky choice, Rod.

Mary HK Choi (#1,469)

What is it about this exact paragraph makes this boy sound SO HOT? Does he have amazing accessories? He must. Also, do you add things in your corn muffins? Niblets/cheese/chiles? THIS IS A TEST. Remember big "E" vs. little "e" Levi's and how EVERYONE made a killing selling them shits to Japanese people before they all just went and bought old selvedge denim looms? I am pretty sure I peaked then.

Rod T (#33)

1. Corn and diced jalapenos.

2. And he has a boyfriend. Who was out of town. Squawk!

Jasmine (#8)

Re: bedbugs…don't even ask how I know this, just know that it works…toss the stuff in the dryer for 10 minutes on high heat. Kills bedbugs every time! Of course, a lot of crazy synthetic vintage materials will combust in the dryer so, you know, use with caution.

(You're right re: freezing. Does not work.)

Mary HK Choi (#1,469)

ahahahhaha. I just totally imagined you throwing piles of stuff in the dryer and getting a little multicolored bead at the end with little bedbug legs poking out.

hockeymom (#143)

This is true. Our local paper had an article just this weekend about how heat kills. If you can get the room (or dryer) to 120 degrees, those bugs are dead.
I wonder if you can put the clothes in the oven, if you don't have a dryer? Or would that just burn down your house (getting rid of the bugs, but also, leaving you without any clothes).

propertius (#361)

Has anyone tried microwaving?

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Microwaving kills bedbugs but does not make them crispy.

Bittersweet (#765)

This entire thread is enough to make me avoid trying to look unique and just shop at Gap and Kohl's the rest of my life.

Bedbugs in my clothes, *shudder*. Pure nast.

hockeymom (#143)

Here's my problem with vintage stores. They pay crap for the good stuff.

In my previous life (without kids), I used to go to events a couple of times a year that required dress-up clothes. So I owned a lot of good shit. Armani was my drug of choice because it fit perfectly, always. And once you get hooked on Armani, you can't stop. So in addition to 47 hundred versions of the same black dress (long, short, sleeveless, backless, etc), I owned a number of suits. And that stuff ain't cheap.

So once I had kids and moved to a job where I could wear tank tops and shorts if I felt like it (uh, no), I had a closet full of fancy shit and sparkly shoes. I also had a huge credit card bill, due to the fancy shit and sparkly shoes. I cleaned it all (even though some of the dresses had been worn exactly one time), brought them to the local vintage/re-sale joint and promptly was offered "top dollar". Which I think was like 75 cents. Seriously, nothing.

I ended up giving some of it away, but most of it is still stored at the back of my closet. Now I'm hoping my daughter can wear the stuff someday…..and when her friends ask about ensemble as she serves them at McDonalds, she can say with pride "these are the clothes my mom bought with the money she should have been saving to send me to college."

Try selling them on eBay. Having been through many careers and subsequent wardrobes I sold a lot of it for more than I could have got elsewhere. You can always list a reserve price if you are afraid to part with them for too little.

HiredGoons (#603)

Find some Drag Queens.

hockeymom (#143)

Love the drag queen suggestion. They can be Glenn Close, circa Fatal Attraction. eBay is also good. Should have thought of that.

Goons one of the first buyers to stiff me was a drag queen. At that time you could search what people were buying and how much they paid for things. He bought ladies platform shoes in size 12 and wigs and spandex cocktail dresses. I think he got a new credit card and maxed it out by the time he bid on my dress. He contacted me a month later but I had already sold it to the next highest bidder.

allyzay (#321)

What is the size of these garments, and how much would you want for them?!

How do you feel about McQueen, Pucci and Louboutin? One of each, each worn once. HIt me up on gmail (no terse) for pics and sizes. You can send whatever you want to pay to The Awl.

brad (#1,678)

jesus. in the late 80s i had the most impressive collection of old dead mens shoes in the world. all thrift store bought- allen edmonds, cole haan, john lobb…etc. all i needed was one well off old man to croak and the old lady to donate EVERYTHING to the sister's of the immaculate conception store i was hooked up. there were times, not often, but it happened, where i would walk out with a wardrobe that must've cost the old bastard thousands for around $20.

then old man chic hit. then the internet hit. now i'm lucky to find a cardigan without bugs in it.

shit.

HiredGoons (#603)

Anybody else think deep-fried rainbows sounds pretty fucking radelicious?

Tulletilsynet (#333)

I was waiting for the effusive sauce recipe.

iplaudius (#1,066)

The secret is to stir it with your dick.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

A cream sauce?

Bittersweet (#765)

Now I'm hungry.

In college (mid '90s) I bought 2 amazing '70s leather jackets at Urban Outfitters.
For $15 each!

What the hell happened there, I still wonder.

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

So a tad confused by this post. I generally think thrifts store (ie: Salvation Army, Goodwill and such) are fine. There are more designer/curated thrifts like Angel Street, Housing Works and such which are good as well, but clearly higher up in scale/quality.

Then there are buy and sell places like Beacon's Closet and Buffalo Exchange. I can't stand Buffalo Exchange but like Beacon's Closet (Park Slope store more than Williamsburg store).

But past all of that there are antiquey semi-vintage stores like Odd Twin in Park Slope and any number of others that are tiny overpriced boutiques that I can't stand. There's one that comes to mind near 8th Street and McDougal which is just piled on with smelly old wool junk… And it's been like that since the 1990s! Who buys there?

And not to mention the folks who show up at flea markets selling old army jackets and
Pendleton gear. They are hit and miss, but generally better and remind me of Antique Boutique, Canal Jeans, Unique and FLIP… Yeah, I am that old ;)

But seriously, who exactly gets the ire here?

It's not ire, it's fire. And I do, to a degree. The high-end stores buy for pennies on the dollar, treat mere mortals like bedbugs, and now expect pity from the very people they've ignored: consigners they've underpaid and the over-charged masses.

Now let's keep quiet and hope she tells us which Rick Owens jacket she got. I'm dying!

hanna (#644)

My advice to coastal vintage lovers would be to take a vacation to the Midwest. (Come on, everyone has a friend or relative to visit who is languishing out there.) And stock up on fantastic clothes for something like $3 a pop at the thrifts there. For your bedbug-squeamish pleasure/horror: I one bought an awesome vintage Ralph Lauren polka-dotted bathing suit for $6. Didn't even wash it! Splash! Into the pool!

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