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Expert Advice: How To Find Vintage Clothing Gems

Fashion trends come and go, but we love going vintage for the best of past trends and making them just as fashionable in the present. Each vintage piece comes with a story of its own, whether it’s bell bottom jeans, Nirvana rock graphic tees or indigo coveralls and calico threads.

If you’re a vintage fan who’s lived in or visited Los Angeles, chances are you’ve frequented the Rose Bowl flea or the handful of vintage shops sprinkled all over the city. Among these, Raggedy Threads is a particular gem of a shop. Located in Little Tokyo of downtown Los Angeles, it’s tucked away in an alley off of Second and San Pedro Streets. We recently stopped in to talk to founder Jaime Wong—aka vintage fashion queen of the West—for some shopping tips for your next vintage discovery.

jamie raggedy threads

Photo credit Emily Knecht

1. Get there bright and early! Head out in the morning to beat the crowds before all of the best goods are long gone. Also note that vintage shops and flea markets tend to close earlier in the day and checkout lines can be slow, so give yourself at least another 15 minutes on top of browsing and shopping time.

2. Think and plan ahead. Make a list of what you want to purchase before you head out to shop, kind of like a grocery list. Otherwise, without an idea of what you’re looking for, you may feel overwhelmed and not get a chance to browse the entire flea market.

3. Bring cash, and make sure to carry smaller bills too, so you can better negotiate. Vintage shops and flea markets keep things old school and don’t usually accept credit cards.

4. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! If you see something you like that isn’t priced well, give a reasonable offer to the seller. You can go a little lower initially than you want to end up paying, but don’t insult with a truly lowball offer either.

5. Check for quality. No matter how beautiful the vintage item is, if it’s showing any signs of mold or appears rotten, move on to the next item. Once things get to that point, there’s no going back. Acceptable flaws include stains, holes, or tears, which adds character. If those particular characteristics are not to your liking, you can always take it to a dry cleaner or tailor to mend.

6. Don’t get sticker shock. If you’re dedicated to specific brands, it’s absolutely possible to track them down. Just know that the earlier they’re dated, the heftier the price tag—because of the increased value.

7. Bring your own shopping bags (or carts). Not only is doing so eco-friendly, but it will make lugging your purchases while looking for more goodies easier. If you forget, ask the seller if they can put your purchases on hold until you finish shopping.

8. Be patient. Some flea markets may require digging, but it’ll be worth every cent when you find the most amazing 30-year-old Harley Davidson leather jacket that turns heads more than any other jacket you own.

9. Enjoy shopping! Don’t worry about current fashion trends when shopping for vintage. Just have some fun with it.

10. Know where to go. Some of Wong’s favorite vintage destinations in L.A. include Mixed Business, Lock Stock & Barrel, Honeywood, Tavin, and Mr. Freedom. In New York? Try Front General Store, Stock Vintage, 9th Street Haberdashery, and 10 Ft Single.

Follow Wong on Instagram at @orangepancakes.

Header Credit: Ashton via Flickr

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