You’re broke, I get it. You’re in college, the economy is in the crapper, that work study job is not exactly a six-figure salary (or five for that matter), and let’s face it: tequila is just not as cheap as it used to be.
However, if you plan on claiming the “starving student” image, you best be ready to rock it with class. After all, this is still L.A., and a lack of funds is no excuse to be a bum.
Let’s start with the art of shopping: When it comes to purchasing clothes in L.A., we all know that this is a designer lovers paradise. But when you’re shopping on a limited budget, there needs to be a certain level of discernment: Do you really need those Tory Burch rain boots? (More importantly, does it really ever rain that much here?) Is that Marc by Marc Jacob keychain absolutely vital? This does not mean that a 20 percent off sale at Urban Outfitters or a 13-hour clearance on Gilt Groupe are reasons for you to get crazy. Living on pennies is less about finding good markdowns and more about find good secondhand items, which can be a challenging endeavor when it’s hard to distinguish overpriced vintage from underpriced thrift.
Below are some of my favorite finds in the city, along with some specific treasures you might uncover.
Vintage Tribal Jewelry: Rose Bowl Flea Market
The phrase "the early bird catches the worm" will go far in your ventures every second Sunday of the month at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Arrive after 9 a.m., and the admission is $8, which is a little on the pricey side for a flea market, but there are so many vendors inside the grounds that your ticket becomes well worth the cost. Inside you will find everything from repurposed furniture to vintage clothing, street art to theater props and antique and cultural jewelry (my favorite). None of this stuff even slightly resembles the aluminum and rhinestone charade that lines Urban Outfitter’s walls – these pieces are the real deal, and some may come with a high price tag to match. Luckily, the organic beauty of the flea market allows for haggling, which I recommend you take full advantage of while perusing. Many vendors may also sell bits and pieces of older jewelry so if you’re feeling crafty, I suggest you fill up a bag of bohemian beads or vintage brooches and Pinterest yourself something cheap and unique.
A Destroyed Denim Jacket: Jet Rag Sundays
One needs to mentally prepare before attempting to shop the $1 pile sales at Jet Rag. My advice: Do your homework (which should include reading some pre-pile sale diving literature and searching for "Jet Rag sundays" footage on Youtube), bring a friend, and prepare for the frenzy. People will be rude, they will yell (I almost lost my hand while briefly feeling up a pastel Lacoste button-up, which apparently had already been claimed just moments before by a Perez Hilton look-a-like), but just remember - you are not there to make friends. You are there to snag as many vintage finds as you can in a short amount of time. Another thing to keep in mind is that the clothing options aren’t for everyone – most of this stuff is circa your mom’s college days, and it takes a pretty brave person to rock a floor length fur coat or a crushed velvet kimono. But if you’ve got what it takes, then I promise you you’ll be going home satisfied and only a few bucks poorer.
Designer Jeans: The Wardrobe Company
Upon stepping into this tiny boutique on Santa Monica in West Hollywood, you will find that the majority of the room is filled with waist-high piles of secondhand goodies. Ladies and gentlemen, this is pile-sale diving at its best, so roll up your sleeves and dig in. Although the store’s claim to fame is their stock of film and television wardrobe overflow, in reality, there seems to be a mix of the former plus garage sale rejects, boutique overstock and abandoned dry-clean items. However, it doesn’t seem like anyone’s complaining much on the origins of these pieces. When it comes to brands, I’ve seen it all here: Banana Republic, J. Crew, James Pierce, Free People, Rock and Republic, Armani, BDG, Kimchi Blue, Sparkle and Fade, even some Hollister and Abercrombie (in case you are still trying to channel Lauren Conrad circa 2005) all in pretty good condition, and all for just $2 a piece. Don’t forget to bring cash and arrive early – I don’t know about you, but being trapped in a 15-by-15 room with 20 other label-hungry hipsters under the glare of that L.A. sun is anything but secondhand retail heaven.
A Basic Black V-Neck: American Apparel Outlet
Located right on the Venice Beach boardwalk, this place might be just a tad bit out of your way when taking a trip to Third Street or even Abbott Kinney. But I promise you the short walk from the free parking east of Pacific Avenue is totally worth it. Here, you will find some amazing, durable basics at discounted prices. Although some of the stuff is warehouse rejects or damaged goods, if you do even the bare bones amount of searching, you can usually find something your closet is craving (basic black leggings for half off of the normal retail price – um, yes please). Also, when this outlet is having a sale, it’s pure bargain bliss but also a little infrequent. So make sure you check back often and don’t complain about the small trek to the boardwalk. I know you want an excuse to spend all day in Venice procuring sweatshop-free favorites and internally judging the eclectic crowd, so please – indulge.