by Ana Louisa Longley
Illustrations by Liana Jegers
My love of vintage started in middle school, when I would rummage through racks at Blue Velvet or Savers in search of treasure. I loved the meditative act of combing and then trying on tons of clothes in a cramped fitting room until I saw something that made me smile.
I left Austin for New York in 2004 and became much more aware of fashion — everyone in Manhattan looked so cool. Skinny jeans! The Olsen twins! This was the big time, y’all. I first saw a pair of Chanel ballet flats in my philosophy class and I had never seen a more perfect pair of shoes. I rushed to look them up online, but the prices on those labels were far beyond my means.
Around this time is when I started to appreciate Austin’s growing vintage scene. On trips home, I’d hit all my spots and walk out with armloads and a rush of excitement about returning to New York with my finds. I relished wearing my ’70s cowgirl boots in a class full of designer flats. Austin vintage helped me understand that fashion is less about fitting in and more about expressing yourself.
What follows is a guide to my favorite vintage clothing sources in Austin. My hope is that you’ll discover a new spot and get a chance to chat with the owner about her most beloved pieces. And that you’ll delight in squeezing into a dressing room, where you may meet the suede jacket of your dreams.
Brick & Mortar
My hands-down favorite vintage shop in Austin for its selection of ’60s and ’70s pieces and incredible price points (tons under $75). Some of my favorite finds here include a Sienna Miller-ish embroidered suede folk jacket, the perfect crushed-velvet holiday dress, ’60s Levi’s denim shorts and a ’70s sequined halter top.
The boot closet at Flashback is such a treat! I found the sweetest pair of ’70s butterscotch Nocona cowgirl boots in here for under $100. There’s tons of fun items packed into this little shop, but for me, the boot closet alone is worth the trip to South First Street.
Feathers put Austin vintage on the map for a more fashion-forward crowd. Before Feathers, Austin vintage was a bit of a grab bag, a rummage through giant bins of odd ’50s dresses and old T-shirts. It was also the first store to curate a specific vibe, ushering in the bohemian-style vintage that still feels so natural in Austin. I always find myself here looking for the perfect SXSW outfit, and I feel as though that’s its sweet spot: laid-back pieces with a few fun new labels to browse as well.
Big Bertha’s Paradise
This tiny shop is filled to the brim with fun and eccentric pieces. I loved coming here in high school; I would play dress up and talk to the store’s charming owner for hours while trying on all of his incredible finds. Big Bertha’s specializes in fancy-pants pieces to wear out. Case in point: I bought my prom dress here. Fashion, people!
I got the most stunning floral pink silk kimono here after a friend DMed me Revival’s and said, “You have to have this!” This store has something for most every style type. Bonus: This spot is also fantastic for housewares and furniture.
This little blue house is a must-visit, particularly if you’re looking for a pair of old Levi’s. An incredible curated selection of flattering vintage denim and perfectly worn tees.
MOSS Designer Consignment
The real-life RealReal. Amazing used designer pieces at great prices. Chanel! Valentino! Chloé! Whatever your favorite label, Moss likely has a piece or two at any given time. I particularly love it for handbags, shoes and jeans.
Charm School Vintage
Part vintage shop, part apothecary, Charm School has a great selection that includes many styles of vintage — my favorite find the last time I visited was an embroidered Woodstock-y poncho. I love this shop for its denim cutoffs, cute dresses and crystals.
City-Wide Garage Sale
When I was just out of college and had very little money but lots of free time on the weekends, this was my favorite place to shop. Some booths are more thrift shop (think mountains of clothing piled high on folding tables), while others are true curated vintage. Bargaining is fair game at most booths, so don’t be shy about trying to strike a deal. Go early if you want the best loot, or wait until Sunday, when many sellers reduce their prices. Held multiple times a year; check the sale’s website for dates.
Co-hosted by Passport and Pieceology Vintage, Laissez Fair is a pop-up at Native Hostel with about 20 vintage booths (many vendors typically only sell their wares online). The day-party vibe makes it a fun destination for shopping with pals. Because changing rooms are limited and lines get long, I recommend wearing something that works easily under clothes so you don’t spend all your time waiting for a fitting room. Held twice a year; the next one is October 27.
I am a big fan of the feminine blouses and knitwear from Seventh Row Vintage –think ruffled white tops and floral embroidered sweaters. The way Seventh Row founder Ruvarashe styles and photographs for her Instagram feed @seventhrowvintage is spot on.
At Pieceology’s last Laissez Fair booth I swooned over all of its white and cream bohemian blouses. The fabulous assortment of feminine pieces features lots of styles. Occasionally, Pieceology will have beautiful French and Italian hair accessories. While everything is available online, you can also shop in-person at their East Austin space shared with local retailer ARO.