Vintage Shopping in San Francisco

I’ve asked Mai Le–the street-style blogger and photographer behind the Fashionist–for some advice on shopping vintage. Mai and I met at Camp Mighty, where I found myself wanting to start every conversation with that cliché phrase “I love your shoes!” Her travel stories were as interesting to me as her gorgeous eye shadow and I was so happy when she agreed to school me in vintage shopping–with specific recommendations for San Francisco. 

I don’t shop often, so when I do, I’m careful about what I buy and where. When I proposed highlighting my three favorite vintage shops in SF, Ashley suggested I provide tips for vintage shopping (which is different from thrift shopping, since items are already carefully chosen by the vintage shop). If you’ve never shopped for secondhand clothes, but are interested in affordably adding one-of-a-kind items to your closet for the new year, choosing a nearby vintage shop is a great idea.

Before I go shopping, I often look at magazines or to check out silhouettes and colors of the current or next season. It’s a small thing, but knowing what fit and or color palette you like will help guide your eye when deciding what to buy. Sure you won’t be able to find an Acne cocoon coat in this season’s brown, but it may be possible to find a lovely heather gray cocoon coat with the same silhouette (and pairing it with your Acne boots–you’re golden).

Beyond that, look at a vintage just like you would a new item: fit, no stains, well made, could wear as is (unless you sew, but try to not buy anything at a vintage shop that you have to work on extensively), and fabric. Ask yourself if you will wear it and if so, do the math needed for how many wears for it to be “worth it.” And remember to factor in if the item needs drycleaning. My amount is usually $2/wear or less (only for clothes though, I do different math for shoes).

Hopefully these tips will help you find many wonderful new items in 2013. You look gorgeous already!

no shop
389 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 252-9982

Amber and Leah and their consignors do a great job of staying ahead of the fashion curve in this cute shop located on Valencia Street. I was going in there so much, I started consigning as well. Most clothing items are in the $15-$40 price range.


651 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 795-3633

Kristin finds designer items from the 80s and 90s mixed in with clothes that are vintage in modern silhouettes. Located in the TL, she also hosts art shows in the shop and live music shows downstairs. She hosted my photo show in August and I’ve borrowed items for styling in the past. Items can range from $10-several hundred for her vintage designer goods.

Clothes Contact
473 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 621-3212

Clothes can be bought by the pound ($12/lb.) and specific decade. More digging has to happen here than at no or Vacation, but in 2009 I was really into 80s era Laura Ashley dresses and no other vintage shops carried them. So, if you know that you want a specific vintage item that is not fashionable (at all) you may be able to find it here. Also, if you’re into vintage gowns a la the Golden Girls, this shop might be for you. They have a lot of clothes by the pound and some have price tags that hover around $10-18.

Thank you, Mai!

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