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Fashion always comes back around: A guide to vintage clothes shops in New Orleans

New Orleans has always been a destination for great secondhand and vintage fashion, for both locals and tourists alike. Many people are making the commitment to shop secondhand to minimize the negative effects that the mass-market clothing industry has on the environment, as part of their New Year’s resolutions. For others, shopping vintage is about collecting favorite styles from different decades or finding unique items that stand out in a crowd.

by Aura Bishop
December 18, 2020

New Orleans has always been a destination for great secondhand and vintage fashion, for both locals and tourists alike. Many people are making the commitment to shop secondhand to minimize the negative effects that the mass-market clothing industry has on the environment, as part of their New Year’s resolutions. For others, shopping vintage is about collecting favorite styles from different decades or finding unique items that stand out in a crowd.

As a greater focus on sustainable fashion and accessories has become more common, new and exciting ways to shop for secondhand merchandise have been cropping up everywhere, alongside more traditional vintage boutiques. From indie Instagram sellers to porch pop-ups and vendor booths at local indoor markets, there’s an option for just about every kind of shopper and price point.

Often people wonder what distinguishes true vintage and antique clothing from what is simply designated as “secondhand.” Vintage usually refers to nostalgic pieces that are at least 20 years old and under 100 years old. Clothing and accessories closer to 100 years old are considered “antique,” while more recent items from the past 20 years are “secondhand.”

In this shopping round-up, we’ll take a look at a few of the best places to shop true vintage and antique clothes and accessories from local sellers online and in person.

Instagram & Etsy 

Individual collectors and resellers have been on sites like Etsy and eBay for a long time. Instagram has created a shift in this market, making it easy for sellers and shoppers to interact with each other more directly, creating a more personal experience. Some brick and mortar shops are also offering some of their inventory via Instagram and Etsy, making it easier and safer for shoppers wanting to adhere to COVID-19 safety measures while still supporting local businesses. Many of these same sellers also have pop-ups at in-store events and markets throughout the city and are able to promote these events to their social media followers. 

Clothes Party – Kate Farned has been scouring secondhand stores and thrift shops since she was in high school in a small town in south Louisiana. When she learned that big chain stores like Urban Outfitters often copied their designs from vintage fashion, she looked for variations of the real things for herself and her friends. Her passion for vintage led her to open her Etsy shop 10 years ago, then she started listing items on Instagram about 5 years ago. Her Instagram is especially fun to browse and shop from because she creates full looks and different characters to showcase various pieces. Farned has also donated portions of her sales to different charitable causes, such as Southern Solidarity and SBP USA. 

 

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In addition to her online shops, you can find some of Clothes Party’s selections at the Slow Down Collective in the Garden District Marketplace, Zele on Magazine Street, and at occasional pop events throughout the city.

Golden Levee Vintage – This newcomer to the scene has a well-curated Instagram shop featuring lots of big 60s and 70s colors and patterns, caftans, dresses, and some radical 80s sweaters. A creation of Seattle transplant Mia Goldsmith, a swing dance instructor and vintage enthusiast who had to change her plans when COVID-19 changed the social and business landscape earlier this year. 

Swamp City Vintagehas a young and funky vibe, with lots of pieces from the 80s and early 90s, different cuts and washes of denim and bright colors. In addition to their Instagram page and various pop-up sales, you can find their curated pieces at Slow Down in the Garden District Marketplace and at the Esplanade Avenue boutique C’mere

Vintage Boutiques

Magpie Vintage JewelryThis magazine street shop focuses exclusively on vintage and antique jewelry and accessories from a broad range of decades and styles. Owner Sarah Wheelock is a longtime veteran of the New Orleans vintage shopping scene. She previously owned vintage costume shop Funky Monkey, which she sold in 2011, and Rehab Furniture. Sarah started Magpie when she changed her focus to jewelry about eight years ago. “I love the history of it,” she says. 

Their specialty is Victorian and Art Deco jewelry, but they also offer costume jewelry and buy and consign fine jewelry from the public. Magpie also offers a great selection of items online via their Etsy shop. 

 

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Century Girl Vintage is a stunning vintage shop on Lower Magazine Street looks like something out of a dreamy magazine spread. “One of the reasons I named my store Century Girl was because I’m attracted to different styles and pieces from every era throughout the traditional vintage to antique period,” says owner Leah Blake, who worked in various vintage retail establishments throughout the city before opening her store. “I pride myself on selling items from the Victorian era all the way through to more modern fashions. That said, my favorites tend to be colorful pieces from the 60 and more elaborate couture statement pieces from any era. I think what sets us apart is our meticulous attention to detail and condition – so everything we sell is immaculate and has been cleaned and restored to as close to new as possible.”

 

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Bambi Deville Vintage has been in the French Quarter since 2002. She started off as a collector of antique and vintage clothing, then began offering services as a stylist and renting out her pieces for wardrobe in film and photoshoots, and her business grew from there. She still offers these services while also selling a fantastic array of hard-to-find and rare pieces alongside vintage classics. Her specialties are museum-quality antique and Art Deco-era clothing. “It’s exciting to me that younger people are being so receptive (to vintage fashion.) I call it the green carpet,” says Deville, who is now working on expanding her online offerings to make shopping more accessible post-COVID-19. 

No matter what your style, budget, or shopping habits, there’s never been a better time to shop vintage in New Orleans. These sellers are just the tip of the iceberg. Once you find one shop on Instagram, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of vintage sellers out there. 

“There’s great collectives of small vendors banding together like Slow down in the Garden District Marketplace and Shop Second Story in Magazine Merchant House, and Sweetwater Vintage does amazing pop-ups and home sales,” says Kate Farned of Clothes Party. 

Cover photo courtesy Bambi Deville Vintage

Aura is a writer, performer, and podcast producer loving life and drinking lots of coffee in the Irish Channel.

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