According to Kenny King, the eccentric manager of Frock You Vintage Boutique, fashion connoisseurs come to San Diego from as far as New York, Tokyo and London to buy quality vintage to add to their collections. (Doubtful.) Regardless, even though some of the “best buys” seem expensive, the designer labels that San Diego offers, coupled with the quality of the majority of the clothing, allows for great items to be snapped up at first-rate prices. My search to find the top vintage stores in the area resulted in a tough choice in deciding which to pick; below are four shops with both a vintage and a thrift feel to them, where any student is guaranteed to find something to satisfy their tastes and pick up some cracking Christmas gifts.
It’s always a good sign when you see a man in period costume outside a vintage store. Welcome to Frock You Vintage Boutique, without a doubt the quintessential vintage store in the area. Located in northern Hillcrest, it is 20 minutes from campus by car and is also accessible by the Hillcrest (marked ‘H’) weekday campus shuttle that picks up at Gilman and Myers. The front of the store is dedicated to more expensive designer and one-off vintage items, whilst a tent out back has items all for under $20. An impressive collection of both male and female clothing, shoes, hats, gloves, ties, jewelry and handbags can be found from all time periods — Kenny the manager is keen to look for 1920s pieces which are becoming increasingly rare. Check out their “Frockin’ Sale” in December to snap up some vintage bargains.
Flashbacks is in Hillcrest at the top of 5th Avenue and is a blend of a thrift store with a few vintage items. Doing my research here damaged my bank balance. Not that it is expensive in any sense — quite the opposite — but it just has a wonderful collection of shoes and clothing, particularly for women (however there is a great selection of men’s shoes, especially retro sneakers and Timberland boots). Though Flashbacks lacks the authentic vintage of Frock You, I found the exact same sequin evening top I had seen in Frock You for a fraction of the price ($22 instead of $44). There is also a designer rack behind the counter with unique pieces and an extensive formal dress selection. The store is huge, the staff is kind and the racks are clearly labeled with time periods and styles of clothing ranging from the 1960s to contemporary.
At first I was apprehensive about choosing My Sister’s Closet as one of my top four vintage stores in the area because of its almost clinical appearance; nevertheless, once you get over the impersonal interior of the store you will actually discover some amazing buys. It lacks the authenticity of Frock You and the friendly staff of Flashbacks, but it does have an array of designer goods, and one corner of the large store offers a commendable selection of designer handbags (Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton, to name a couple) carefully chained to the shelves. The name of the shop suggests its slant towards female style although there is still male clothing to be found, particularly suits, shirts and leather jackets. If you are not against animal cruelty, you can pick up some great fur bargains here along with some great business outfits and designer sets from the likes of Oscar de la Renta and Diane Von Furstenberg.
Buffalo Exchange can be found in two convenient locations: Hillcrest and Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach. It is a brilliant place for the average student shopper. It lacks on designer items and genuine vintage yet it has a vast selection of everyday clothing, shoes, bags and even racks of fancy dress clothing. It’s more thrifty-fashion than up-market fashion, and although the quality of some of the items are questionable, the prices are pretty acceptable, allowing you to buy more eclectic and unique items. You do have to dig around though, so don’t make this your last stop as the layout of the store is a bit of a muddle. Persevere and you are sure to find some cheap and cheerful gems.