Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Non-New Yorker's Guide to: Thrifting the East Village

I was inspired to write this post after having brunch with my one and only friend who I knew before moving to NYC. She is somewhat of a marketing/PR/social media guru so I really value her insight, opinions and guidance. She told me that I should focus some of my posts on being new to the City because this is something that is unique to my blog, a fledgling little fashion blog swimming in the sea among many, many more experienced and polished fashion blogs. She told me it was cool to hear my first impressions of places and experiences in NYC because I was seeing or experiencing them for the first time. With a brand new, un-jaded set of eyes. So, I had plans after our brunch to explore the East Village as I made my way from thrift shop to thrift shop. Which I did, keeping her wise words in mind.

Coming from the Upper West Side, I grilled my friend for step-by-step directions and manically and compulsively consulted my iPhone for the best route to take. I took the red line (this is how New Yorker's refer to the subway) to 14th Street, walked the underground tunnel (best not to really think about it when you're down there) and transferred like a pro to the L line towards Brooklyn. I hopped off at 1st Ave., before crossing the East River into Brooklyn. I had previously mapped out my thrift adventure (thank-you Yelp) and could easily walk to all four stores from this subway station. I am cordially inviting you to come thrift the East Village with me, with the disclaimer that this is going to get long (sorry in advance).

Thrift Stop #1: East Village Thrift Shop

The first store I entered was fairly large, had a decent selection of women's apparel, a plethora of leather jackets and did not prompt me to hold my nose the way Value Village does (sorry VV Boutique). A quick scan of the racks showed me far too many "mall brands" for my liking (ie. H&M, Target, Forever 21). The price tags were on the moderate to high end for thrifted items, not high enough to send me running but not low enough to make me buy everything I tried on without a second thought. I persevered, perusing through the mall brands that I will not try on merely for principal's sake. I ended up with about five items to try on, a really nice Kenneth Cole striped sweater that I had high hopes for and several wool skirts. 

For various reasons - an ill fit, the unreasonable price tag, the anticipation of better (and cheaper) things to come - I left empty handed, much to the shop keeper's dismay. On to store two!

Thrift Stop #2: No Relation Vintage

The second stop on my thrifting tour brought me to this gem of a store. It was huge, by thrift standards, and boasted an impressive shoe section and array of 70's garb. I was happy to find out the price tags were lower than the first store, although still not low enough to make me exclaim, "Shut Up! $2 for a silk shirt, that's basically free!". But we were moving in the right direction. I only tried on two items and ended up buying one. At first glance I thought the below was a skirt. Once in the change room, I decided that no it was probably a poncho so I tried it as such first. That looked right. I took it off and feeling somewhat devishly I thought, why not try it as a skirt. After skillfully shimmying my booty through the neck hole trying not to stretch it out, opening the door of the change room and peeking out to make sure that no one would notice this possibly horrendous fashion faux paus, I checked myself out in the mirror. It worked as a skirt! And a poncho! And was only $5. Now, that's what I'm talking about.

Moments before paying, I was distracted by shiny objects in the display case at the register. Damn you impulse buys - you get me every time! A woven rattan clutch and bronze necklace were mine.

Thrift Stop 3: AuH2O

By far the smallest thrift store I've ever been into, AuH2O is as charming as a high-end boutique. A very minimal selection makes this store hit or miss, I'd say. I tried on a pair of patterned palazzo pants, which I liked, but the price tag (only $12 but still...) and the current season stopped me from purchasing them. They did have a decent selection of really cute vintage jewelry. And I'm a sucker for jewelry. I bought a long necklace with a scissors pendant on it for entirely too much money but I HAD to have it. Also found a bracelet with jewel-toned stones around it for a reasonable price. The clasp was loose at first but the girl working there fixed it up for me with a pair of pliers.

Thrift Stop #4: Village Style

Arguably my favorite stop of the day - I saved the best for last, unbeknownst to me! A similar size to shop number two, Village Style was full of vintage outerwear and a hat selection that would make even the most seasoned chapeau lover weak at the knees. Even with all the beautiful vintage gems around me I had eyes only for one. It was love at first sight. I saw the cream colored wool and stripes of teal, purple and blue from a mile away and knew - just knew - that I had to own whatever it was. It was a love affair fit for a made-for-TV movie. It was indeed the wool coat that I donned in my last post. I picked it off the rack and tried it on immediately. I was in love. Deep, soul-churning love. The price tag told me $40 and I was okay with this considering my feelings. But then I saw it. When I turned a certain way. There was a slight water mark down the right-hand side of the coat. It was hardly noticeable but still, it was there. So I did something that I never do. I took the coat up to the register and told the man I loved it but there was this large stain on the front. He asked me how much it was (my insides starting doing somersaults - my plan was working!). I told him $40. He inspected the coat and told me $35. I countered immediately with $30. He inspected it some more. He told me it was a nice coat. I silently agreed but stood there waiting. He said $35 again. I told him I would have to pay this much in dry cleaning (which I don't know is true and in all likelihood I will probably not have it dry cleaned). He was firm at $35. I told him I would look around the store and think about it. Which I did, half-heartedly, thinking of my one true love the whole time, making sure no one else was about to try her on. I went back to look at her again. The man walked past me so I gathered my courage one last time and told him to look at it in this light where the stain was (slightly) more visible. He inspected it again. Told me it was a nice coat, again. I had nothing to lose so I played my ace. I looked at him with what I hoped were pleading (not crazy) eyes and told him I was a poor student (which is true). He was silent, probably trying to figure out how to get rid of me, then he sighed and said Okay! I looked at him and repeated, just to be sure, $30. He nodded. I refrained myself from running to the register and knocking down people in my way. I had just had my first successful bartering experience. I paid and quickly left before he could change his mind, being sure to thank him profusely and leave him with the biggest smile ever (which wasn't hard considering I had a big, goofy grin on my face for hours afterwards). Thank you Village Style, I love my wool coat and will be back, along with all the other thrift lovers who I will send your way.

I hope you enjoyed this little thrift adventure with me (I warned you it was going to be lengthy). This was only a fraction of the thrift shops in the East Village so I can't wait to go back. Definitely a different vibe in this district compared to the rest of Manhattan. Described to me as the Brooklyn of the City, I knew I was going to like it here. Definitely a bit rough around the edges. Grungy but in a trendy sort of way - but not too trendy. You see more punks than princesses. Chains and mohawks versus Gucci and Prada. And after shopping in SOHO for a couple days running, I was happy to be away from the stiletto-clad bean poles for just a few hours.

Until next time,



  1. I ADORE the jacket and the skirt... did you get the skirt? I hope so... and I also hope you are prepared to lend/ will it to me... xo

  2. Ah....the scissors necklace! :o)

  3. Thanks loves! And yes Sue - you know I HAD to buy the scissor necklace when I saw it, they don't move but it's bigger than the last. I call it an improvement!


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