If your closet is bursting at the seams with dust-collecting clothes that fit 20 pounds ago, there’s a simpler way of getting dough for your duds than advertising them on eBay or the sad shrubbery in front of your apartment building. Many of the vintage stores that dot our city are also great places to unload your undesirables for cash or a trade-in. Simply haul your junk in a trash bag or suitcase (presentation means nothing) to resale shops such as Crossroads, Wasteland, Buffalo Exchange or Squaresville any day of the week, no appointment necessary. The stores take whatever’s considered “sellable” and you get 35 percent in cash or 50 percent in trade. Easy squeezy. Sort of. Kind of. Not really.
Anyone who’s sweated the minutes it takes for a buyer to separate your merch into the winner and loser piles on the counter knows it’s a bit of an aggravating process. This sickly-looking queen is going to tell moi my clothes aren’t worthy? “Sellable” translates into hip, and determining what’s fashionable in L.A. is like trying to predict a cold front. You’ll probably have more luck getting rid of one of your mother’s old crocheted sweaters than a black Banana Republic turtleneck. Style is an undefinable category that falls somewhere between art and a scientific code that’s impossible to crack. Still, taking your castoffs to vintage stores that are conveniently popping up everywhere beats online selling (and the hassle of shipping and handling) or haggling with your neighbors.
The Fine Print
First, the best way to get the lowdown on what vintage stores look for is to comb the racks. Second, clothes must be in perfect condition. One pit stain and it’s into the reject pile. (Funny how that policy works — or doesn’t — when you’re doing the purchasing.) Third, buyers are finicky and fickle — like Cheshire cats who only eat Fancy Feast — and they take into consideration size, color, silhouette and season. So be prepared to hear excuses such as, “We’re not buying brown, open-toed heels made in Taiwan this week. Try us in April.” And last, we’re talking chump change here. You give them a Juicy hoodie that set you back more than $100, they tag it for $30, and you’re left with Happy Meal money.
No one ever walks out of a vintage store looking like an ad for Ann Taylor or Dockers. So keep the khakis, navy suits and other conservative office gear for when you’re forced to take that temp job. Prom dresses, bridesmaid gowns or anything that makes noise when you walk are ugly reminders of an embarrassing youth and uncertain future, and shouldn’t be in your closet in the first place. Resale shops are not costume companies, nor are they Goodwills, which means no undies, tube socks, cheerleader uniforms or 99-cent store fairy wings, please.
Gucci, Prada, YSL, Dior, Marc Jacobs, Fendi, Louis Vuitton — these are no-brainers. But what vintage stores really specialize in are funky- and cutting-edge-looking finds; Ferragamo or Forever 21, it’s all about style. So if you’re not Ivanka Trump, there’s an entire, lower food chain of fashion makers, from the more affordable, hip designers (Juicy, Armani Exchange, Ben Sherman, DKNY, Calvin Klein, Custo Barcelona, Free People, Lacoste) to the garden-variety (Gap, French Connection, Club Monaco and even Old Navy) that are never turned away. And certain classic items are always in demand: corduroys, one-button blazers, vintage concert T’s, Indian prints, Mandarin-collar choengsams, button-down Western shirts, zip-up jumpers (Puma and Adidas are worth gold), sailor pants and vests. As far as accessories go, think silver or gold clutches and pouchy, boho bags. (Some stores require proof of purchase when taking in logo bags such as Louis Vuitton, so don’t even.) And sexy pumps, platform wedges and pristine pairs of Dr. Martens never go out of style. Neither do, against the Gods of Good Taste, Uggs.
If Melrose is one of the epicenters of L.A. fashion, Wasteland sits on its biggest fault line. Just look at the glistening glass case protecting shoes from Michael Kors to Richard Tyler to Costume National. Or the dress section in the back that houses frocks from almost every decade, some of which you’d swear were taken straight out of every popular ’70s TV sitcom. (Leather Tuscadero must’ve donated that jump suit.) And where else can you find a purse with a handcuff for a strap or a Cabbage Patch doll on the pocket? It doesn’t look like you’d fare much better at the newer, smaller Wasteland just off Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. But if you insist . . . Buyers look mostly for vintage and/or very current trends.
PROS: Two locations. Ugly Dress Section in the back.
CON: No trade.
PROBABILITY OF BLOWING WINNINGS: High — a girl can never have enough practically brand-new, unlaced pairs of Pumas for $27.
If you’re turned away at Wasteland, the buyers will probably refer you to Crossroads, across the street. But there are five SoCal branches to test your luck at. So head first to the newly opened locations in West Hollywood, Santa Monica and even Costa Mesa, where the inventory is still growing.
PROS: Multiple locations. West Hollywood’s has on-site parking!
CON: Occasionally long lines.
PROBABILITY OF BLOWING WINNINGS: Even higher — the racks are over-stacked for a reason.
This is another chain, with four local stores. The emphasis here is more on casual and cool than on very high-end designers. The snobbage is served over a lower flame, too, and buyers are kind enough to explain why (for what it’s worth) they’re turning you away.
PROS: Multiple locations. Friendly staff.
CON: Hollywood store sits next door to Mon Atelier, couture house of the most beautiful gowns to the stars.
PROBABILITY OF BLOWING WINNINGS: Good; Red suede Docs bought for $30.
They look for mostly vintage, or vintage-looking, pieces (even lingerie, including old slips) here, though you could try sneaking in more contemporary items. The ’70s high-waisted jeans are to die for, and if your mother has a real or fake fur coat that looks more hip-replacement than hip, bring it here. Note: Owner Reiko Roberts used to manage Wasteland.
PROS: 40 percent in cash, 60 percent in trade. Ike and Tina over the sound system.
CON: Very hard to find parking.
PROBABILITY OF BLOWING WINNINGS: The highest — a $20 Pierre Cardin purse with the Broadway tag still hanging.
If at first (or second, or third) you don’t succeed in your selling spree, keep dragging that Hefty bag around, ’cause you will eventually get lucky with some schmuck buyer who should but doesn’t know better. Trust us. Target sandals. Been there. Sold that.