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Reality of Thrifting in LA

By Gib Manrique

Paying a steep price is no new concept when it comes to finding vintage clothes. Before buying clothes secondhand from Goodwill became mainstream, people had been purchasing decades-old clothes from stores deemed as “vintage” for many years already — but how has this concept begun to change?

For a clothing item to be considered “vintage” it only had to be made 20 years ago. Due to this, vintage clothing shopping has gone from buying wedding dresses from the 50’s to purchasing a T-shirt from 2003. This has led to an influx of “vintage markets” throughout the United States. These markets tend to be vendors setting up shop outside and selling clothes that are “vintage” for widely different prices.

So what does all this mean? Essentially, if you combine the rise in popularity of purchasing clothes secondhand with the title of “vintage” now being applicable to so many T-shirts, also combined with vendors being independent businesses and being able to price items however they want, you get a bunch of the same goods at different markets priced incredibly differently.

This issue can be seen especially in markets within Arizona and California, both states in the southwest of the country, but with very different cultures.

“In California, the market is just so oversaturated,” Katy Cummings, a student originally from Arizona now studying in Los Angeles, said. “Everyone has so much access to vintage clothing, and everyone wants to profit so much off of it…so everyone has it but no one is buying it because they are selling it for $60.”

Cummings has seen the change of culture within thrift stores over her years of shopping secondhand, and her recent change in seeing how thrifting stores are run in California versus Arizona.

“There’s not as many locally run thrift stores, they’re all very corporate… there’s not many cheap clothing options,” Cummings said. “In Arizona, there are more independent thrift stores, meaning the prices tend to be lower.”

Some evidence is a pair of Revolt branded jeans found in a vintage market in Los Feliz in Los Angeles. The pair of jeans were being sold for $50 at this particular market in L.A. An almost exact replica of these jeans found at the Second Saturday market in Downtown Phoenix was being sold for $20. The same exact jeans were found on sale on Poshmark for about $10. All vintage Revolt USA branded jeans are being sold for widely different prices.

Another example of this was a blouse being sold at the same L.A. market from the brand Feline for $48. The blouse was made with mixtures of spandex and polyester and had small flowers made of beads littering the front. A similar type of blouse was found at a market run by Phoenix Vintage at Khavi Coffeehouse, also in Downtown Phoenix, for $30.

It would seem that the issue of over-saturation in the market of Los Angeles is one main cause of this influx in prices, as well as the thrift stores the vendors purchase from, have a higher price, causing the necessity to resell for more in order to make a profit. While understandable, the consequences of this are inconvenient, as prices continue to rise in clothing that used to be worth it. A $60 price tag on a T-shirt or jeans from the Bush presidency era is a hard pill to swallow, so make decisions carefully, especially in sunny L.A.


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