Secondhand, first class
It seems that clothes, like wine and George Clooney, only grow better with age. It should come as no surprise, then, that thrift and vintage stores have become increasingly popular among the hip and stylish. San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district and Philadelphia’s South Street are popular for their quality secondhand stores. Never fear, fashion lovers: Pittsburgh has plenty of vintage clothing to offer. Our guide can point you to some of the best places in the city to snag chic secondhand finds.
Eons Fashion Antique 5850 Ellsworth Ave, Shadyside. 412.361.3368.
The sheer volume of merchandise packed into Eons Fashion Antique is impressive. Although the cramped quarters and winding aisles make it a bit difficult to shop, clothing is organized by size and type of garment to simplify the process. Most of the store’s clothes are from the 1960s and ’70s.
The quality of the clothing at Eons is consistently high: The pieces are glamorous and well made. Unfortunately, the cost of the clothing is a bit steep.
Women’s dresses range from $20 to $95 in price and include frocks in fabrics from olive chiffon to white brocade. There are bunches of women’s ’20s-style cloche hats (think flappers) in bright colors. Necklaces average a $15 price tag, and are well worth the money. Other adorable accessories include vintage brooches, rings, sunglasses, and tiaras.
The vintage-interested man can find tuxedo shirts in every pastel color under the sun for just $20. Eons also sells a ton of men’s leather jackets, button-down shirts, jeans, and pants. Check out the printed neckties, too.
Highlight: Remarkable array of women’s sequined tops ($12 to $50). Average price of a mink stole: $60. Average price of a bow tie: $10.
Hey Betty! 5892 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside. 412.363.0999.
Hey Betty! sells vintage clothing, furniture, and housewares. The boutique has three roomy stories that are chock-full of mostly 1950s- and ’60s-era clothing.
The prices are less intimidating than those at Eons. A 1960s linen lime green and white belted dress, for example, will only run you $30 — and you can find several unique dresses for $20. Also notable in women’s wear is the large selection of belts, the beautiful cardigans, and cheap shoes (most are $20). If you’re searching for the 1940s schoolmarm ankle boots that are in vogue this season, Hey Betty! has a few pairs for around $30.
Menswear is also relatively cheap: Denim and printed pants are generally $20 to $25, but several pairs are even cheaper. The array of button-down shirts and bowling shirts (about $30 on average) includes several charming prints, the highlight of which is a long-sleeved button-down printed with an Old West-themed scene. Men’s vests and sweaters are a steal.
Hey Betty!’s merchandise includes a few vintage chairs and one table-and-chair set that looks straight out of a 1950s diner ($250). Housewares include plates and several sets of glasses and shot glasses. You can even buy vintage books at Hey Betty!, such as The Complete Guide to Disco Dancing (1978) by Karen Lustgarten for $8.
Highlight: Fist-sized owl charm necklace. Average price of a vintage saucer: $3. Average price of a vintage women’s bathing suit: $23.
Avalon Exchange 5858 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill. 412.421.2911.
Avalon Exchange is a popular destination for selling and exchanging clothes as well as purchasing secondhand merchandise. The store will buy clothing for 30 percent of its retail value (paid in cash) and exchange clothing for 45 percent of its value (paid in store credit).
In Avalon’s new Squirrel Hill storefront, clothing hangs from double-decker garment racks packed closely together, which makes searching for finds somewhat onerous. Unlike Eons and Hey Betty!, which specialize in vintage clothing, Avalon sells clothes you could easily purchase firsthand at retail locations. That is to say, the great majority of the clothing is contemporary rather than vintage. Prices, then, are appropriately lower than those at vintage boutiques.
Avalon has quite a lot of clothing and accessories to choose from, but selections can be hit-or-miss. If you’re looking for band shirts or ironic T-shirts and want to wade through less riffraff than you’d find at donation-based thrift stores, Avalon is a good choice. T-shirts average about $7 to $9. If you want a Van Halen OU812 shirt, however, you’ll be a cool $15 poorer.
Halloween costumes, interesting belts, and winter coats are among the choice finds at Avalon — and are reasonably priced. (Coats are all miraculously under $20.) Women’s dresses are as cheap as $9.50, and a cute tweed blazer is only $8. The selection of men’s button-downs, T-shirts, and polos is easily the cheapest and most varied in the city.
Highlight: Sale rack (50 percent off merchandise)! Average cost of men’s leather ankle boots: $15.
Goodwill 2600 E. Carson St., South Side. 412.481.9005.
Goodwill is a good old-fashioned thrift store. Items are insanely cheap, and the pieces range from vintage to contemporary. Like Hey Betty!, Goodwill deals in much more than just clothing. You can find everything from secondhand books to dining sets to couches at Goodwill’s South Side location.
If you’re willing to put in a couple hours’ worth of searching, you can find plenty of fashionable merchandise. Funny T-shirts cost $1 to $3 on average. Among all the Dragon Ball Z and Pitt shirts, you can find gems like rare band T-shirts for dirt cheap. A dining set complete with plates, saucers, and cups costs about $10 to $15, and there are plenty of vintage 1970s options to choose from.
The staff at Goodwill are incredibly helpful and kind, and Goodwill Industries is a non-profit organization that works to improve communities. Spend some time searching, and you’ll score sweet items for anywhere from a third to a tenth of the price you’ll pay at the high-end vintage boutiques.
Highlight: Neutral Milk Hotel T-shirt for $4. Average cost of a complete outfit: $10 to $15.