As any proprietor will tell you, there is a world of difference between a vintage shop and a thrift store. The former is curated and choosy, a representation of a tastemaker’s vision. The latter is frequently a junkatorium that accepts whatever people happen to drop off. Certainly many a brilliant find has its origins on the miscellaneous shelf, but San Francisco’s best vintage shops are a rare breed, each worthy of attention for its unique wares. Be it vintage Levi’s or hard-to-source Burberry, Painted Bird in the Mission is the first choice for a statement garment that hits the nail of good taste square on the head. There are some fun wacky finds, but this label-heavy, unisex boutique’s ethos of keeping San Franciscans looking effortlessly cool is just about perfect. The return of Victoriana and 1920s Flapper dresses to the scene has been a boon for Decades of Fashion, home to professional stylists whose in-depth knowledge spans a full century, from the 1880s to the 1980s. The space is so full of period finds that it’s almost more costume shop than vintage store, with heavy museum tendencies. In a high-ceilinged former bank in the Haight, Decades of Fashion is a marvel to browse, from stunning beaded gowns that your grandmother would have received as a birthday present to immaculate cases of Art Deco jewelry. Another option for opening a vintage store is to simply accumulate a lifetime’s worth of ephemera, and then find a retail space to house it all in. That’s the idea behind the Tenderloin’s Handsome Oxford, a small men’s shop that’s heavy on U.S.-made retro wear. Women can still find pieces to fit any nationalistic outfit, and many of the wares are priced competitively enough to almost count as a thrift store, but with an attention to detail that stands alone. Then there are consignment stores like Carousel Consignment SF, which trades in the gently used goods from estate sales and beyond. This often-overlooked species of vintage store stocks all manner of furnishings, housewares and miscellany, and is often a fine place to pick up accessories, many of them handmade locally. You might swing through Carousel one day to find the perfect felt hat, then emerge another with a fully-intact set of vintage curlers. That’s the greatness of vintage shopping: there’s always something fantastic to discover.Read More
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When it comes to shopping in the city, the Sunset is the district that seems to be often overlooked and underestimated. It’s quite a shame, really. This foggy district that I call home is one of my favorite places to shop. Here is a list of boutiques that give you every reason to make the trip to the other side of Golden Gate Park. Need a throw pillow to dress up the digs? How about a beautiful vintage turquoise bracelet? Take the N Judah to 46th Avenue and pop into the General Store. Don’t let the name fool you. You won’t find groceries and hardware here! Bright and inviting, the General Store has so many offerings. Their beautifully unusual home decor items along with an array of truly unique clothing and accessories are symbiotic with their contemporary country decor. Clean, white walls and simple, rustic fixtures make a perfect canvas for the General Store’s carefully curated selection of home and fashion items. When I’m at this end of the Sunset, I stop in here to browse the racks or pick up an out-of-the-ordinary hostess gift. In addition to their great selection, their employees are friendly and never pushy. Located at 4035 Judah St. Your next stop is Irving street, the inner sunset’s bustling street full of fun shops and good eats! Want a gift that has something a little extra special? Stroll into Wishbone, a quaint boutique on the corner of Irving and 7th Avenue. There is certainly no missing that bright green shop! Voted the best gift shop in San Francisco by the Guardian, this shop has a little bit of everything for the person who has, well, everything. As the lively decor would suggest, expect to find novelty gifts, funky home decor, tounge-in-cheek birthday cards, children’s clothes and toys, and candy bars that will bring you a sense of nostalgia. In addition to hosting some of the most entertaining nicknacks, Wishbone carries a number of locally produced t-shirts and accessories for women, men, and children. A personal favorite baby gift of mine would have to be their onesie sporting a T-Rex attacking the Golden Gate Bridge. Shoppers tip: eat before! You will definitely need a good 30 mins to take in all the weird wonderfulness that is Wishbone. Located at 601 Irving St While you’re on Irving, peek into Ambiance’s newest location. Ambiance is the award winning women’s boutique centralized in San Francisco. Ambiance currently has operates four different locations. Take a minuet before you shop to appreciate their charming and inviting window displays. Ceramic figurines from the 1960‘s peek around vegan leather tote bags while vintage lamps light up glittering shoes and flouncy dresses. Step inside and you will find that mixing the old with the new is a reoccurring theme. Persian style rugs cover the floors and colorful, crystal chandeliers add an air of vintage flair to your shopping experience. Catering to modern young women, you are likely to find the perfect party dress for a night on the town or that must-have winter coat with the help of their friendly staff. In addition to fashionable frocks, Ambiance also carries a wide array of women’s shoes, handbags, scarves, and accessories to finish off your look. Be sure to check out their amazing selection and don’t skimp on the sale rack! Located at 759 Irving St.Read More
For a recently graduated fashionista paying off loans, staying on trend on a meager budget is no easy task. It took me years to finely tune my personal style around my paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle and I owe a debt of gratitude to my favorite consignment shops. If you’re looking for some of the best resale and consignment shops in the bay area, here is a list of shops you cannot miss. In April of 2012, Crossroads Trading Company welcomed it’s very first designer consignment shop to the family. Refinery 29 has since dubbed Fillmore & 5th one of the best consignment shops in San Francisco. Their racks and shelves are easy to navigate and never messy. From J. Crew to Alexander Wang, every dress, shirt, and shoe is organized according to style, size, and color. The staff is not pushy and very knowledgeable about brands from the lowest to the highest end. Tip: Be sure to look for their sale merchandise. Items are marked down 20% after 30 days on the rack and an additional 40% after 60 days. Sometimes, it’s worth the wait, but as all things in consignment go, you never know how long it will be in the store. Located at 1775 Union Street. Since you’re in the area, make your way over to the corner of Fillmore and Union for more designer consignment goodness. Simply Chic welcomes you to sift through their racks of carefully curated designer pieces. Louis Vuitton and Chanel bags are shelved above their amazing selection of dresses, coats, skirts, and blouses. A clean, white interior serves as a backdrop to their jaw-draping, awe inducing merchandise. Be sure to take a look at what hides behind the glass case at their front counter. Chanel costume broaches, Hermes scarves, and other beautiful trinkets teasingly twinkle back at you. Can’t make it in? Check out their website for incredible pieces sold exclusively online! Now that’s très chic! Located at 3038 Fillmore St. Once you’ve seen the best of the city, make your way over to Berkeley. Solano Avenue is your next destination for easy-to-shop “style sharing”. Urbanity is Albany’s premier designer consignment shop. Behind the enormous, asymmetrical door, a treasure trove of women’s clothing and accessories awaits you. Their racks are conveniently color coordinated and ordered by size. The lovely staff members are happy to help you find the perfect blazer for work or a shimmery number for a night on the town. A word of warning: you’re going to want to load up with as many pieces to take to the fitting room as you can. Make sure you love that Red Valentino dress! As with most consignment shops their return policy is all sales final. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find something your first go round. New merchandise arrives daily and they even feature the best of the best on their web store. Located at 1887 Solano Avenue. Behind a quaint, Dutch door lies a consignment gold mine. Locally owned and operated in its Lakeshore storefront since 2003, Maribel offers consignment shoppers an array of designer, contemporary, and vintage clothing and accessories. Unlike the previous shops, Maribel has a more rustic motif, mom and pop general store vibe. If you have a little room left in your shopping bag, indulge yourself in a pair of vintage cowboy boots, a faux fur vest or jacket, or maybe a unique piece of jewelry. Their front counter jewelry case features incredible pieces designed by local jewelry artists. Be sure to sign up for their contact list! Maribel hosts amazing jewelry trunk shows and in-store shindigs for the locals. Located at 3251 Lakeshore AveRead More