Managing expenses in New York City using anything less than a small fortune is a constant juggling act. A night out at the movies can cost as much as your share of the electric bill, a $16 cocktail could mean you’re stuck with dollar slices for lunch all week, and the rent, as always, is too damn high. When it comes to dressing well, though, you can save some major dollars if you’re willing to spend some extra time searching through pre-worn gems at one of the city's many excellent secondhand shops. Whether you’re in need of some basics to boost your wardrobe or have expensive tastes but not the budget, here are our favorite thrift stores in town; as always, leave yours in the comments.
HOUSING WORKS: A beloved New York non profit dedicated to helping those suffering from homelessness and AIDs, Housing Works has a dozen upscale thrift stores around New York City selling clothes, furniture and books. If you don’t mind laying down a bit more dough, though, at the West Village location you can consistently pick up items like an Eileen Fisher blouse ($15), Steven Allen sweater ($45) and Donna Karen dress ($55), along with other true vintage finds. And if you’re ready to throw out your old Target plates and cups, Housing Works boasts wallet-friendly upgrades like a beautiful retro china and kitchenware sets ($3-$6 per item), or you can spring for a Schulze Pollman piano ($1,165).
Housing Works' West Village location is located at 245 West 10th Street between Bleecker and Hudson Streets (212-352-1618, housingworks.org).
DUSTY ROSE VINTAGE WAREHOUSE:
You’ve heard the phrase, “digging for treasure," and at this Greenpoint vintage store, you will do literally that. Instead of hangers, the clothes are kept in giant plastic bins, and it’s up to you to rifle through to find the best stuff. But don’t let that deter you. These bins are organized immaculately and slapped with labels like “Metallic Beaded Sweater,” “Neon Mix,” “Polka Dot Mix,” “Cocktail Party Prom Dress” and “‘60s/‘70s tops,” so you know exactly what you’re in for, along with the price range (usually below $16), before you dive in. The sweet and stylish owner, Maresa, is often found behind the counter and she's helpful if you're feeling overwhelmed by the options. The store is only open to the public Thursday through Sunday—on its off days, it's open by appointment-only for wholesale buyers, film and television rentals, and other services.
Dusty Rose Vintage Warehouse is located at 251 Greenpoint Avenue between Newel and Provost Streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (dustyrosevintage.com).
NO RELATION VINTAGE: The East Village is home to some of the best high end vintage stores, but if you can’t afford a $200 classic Chanel dress and really just need a new jean jacket, look no further than No Relation. The bi-level store has quite the inventory, so prepare for a long haul when you go, though luckily, specialized items like jackets, flannel, denim shirts and tie dye (there is so much tie-dye) are well organized. You’ll rarely see a price tag higher than $12 on a dress or shirt, and the shoe section has tons of great finds, including mint-condition leather dress shoes ($15-$30).
No Relation Vintage is located at 204 1st Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets in the East Village, (212-228-5201, ltrainvintage.com).
URBAN JUNGLE: This Bushwick staple shares the same owners with No Relation (L Train Vintage) and boasts a similar vibe, but there's much, much more room to spread out. Like No Relation, its leather jackets, Hawaiian shirts, American flag windbreakers, and large selection of fur and faux fur coats and vests are divided into a few clear sections. Outside of those distinct realms, however, it is a bit of a free-for-all, which means serious thrifters should expect to spend hours scouring the packed racks for unexpected finds.
Urban Jungle is at 120 Knickerbocker Avenue between Thames Street and Flushing Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-381-8510, ltrainvintage.com).
UES GOODWILL: With locations across the city (and world), Goodwill is a pretty solid bet for good bargains no matter where you go. But thanks to all the rich folks that donate their stuff on the Upper East Side, the 2nd Avenue location is jackpot for both designer digs and professional clothes. Like most branches of the charity mega chain, you'll find a fair amount of H&M, Forever21 and Urban Outfitters, but you won’t be searching for long before spotting practically new dresses, sweaters, buttondowns, blazers and pants from the likes of Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, and Marc Jacobs for less than a Jackson.
The Upper East Side Goodwill outpost is located at 1704 2nd Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets (212-831-1830, goodwillnynj.org).
SUNNYSIDE THRIFT SHOP: A favorite among Queens bargain shoppers, this place is a true thrift store, right down to its hefty collection of VHS tapes for sale (Austin Powers or The Wedding Singer, anyone?). Though it's not as meticulously organized as some of the others on this list, this is that rare New York gem where you’ll find some true steals in the $8 to $12 range. It’s the sort of place that warms the heart of penny-pinching label-conscious dressers, where you’ll find a Free People frock ($8) or a Calvin Klein knit dress ($10) for less than a Kmart-brand polyester number ($15). Don’t question the methods, but embrace the savings.
Sunnyside Thrift Shop is at 45-14 Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens (718-785-7780).
CURE: Though Cure is one of the more expensive options on this list, it can’t be beat when it comes to style. The store itself is decked out in a quirky, fresh decor and one look at the store’s active Instagram account—where special one-day-only deals are often posted—will have you rethinking your whole wardrobe. Best of all proceeds go to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes, with which owner Liz Wolff was diagnosed when she was 11 years old. The last time I shopped at Cure I was lucky enough to spot a Diane von Furstenberg dress ($36) and beautiful Alice + Olivia top ($42). I'm not sure if it was the surprise 50 percent off sale or the Les Misérables soundtrack playing in the background, but I definitely got misty eyed.
Cure Thrift Shop is at 111 East 12th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues in the East Village, (212-505-7467, curethriftshop.com).
Courtesy Beacon's Closet
BEACON'S CLOSET Brooklyn-based and female-owned Beacon’s Closet is one of the most popular buy/trade/sell consignment chainlets in the city, and hip enough to get mocked in a Broad City episode for its policy of offering a 35 percent retail price in cash or 55 percent store credit for folks selling their old threads. While the finds are not the cheapest, the stores carry a large selection of trendy and high-quality options and a shoe collection that's near impossible to beat. The inventory is constantly changing, so you'l likely find something at any of the four locations, though I've had the most luck at the Bushwick branch, most recently scoring a Betsey Johnson dress ($15.95) and a Marc Jacobs sweater ($39.95).
Beacon's Closet has four locations in NYC; visit their website for details.
: Imagine a massive outdoor flea market condensed into one 5000 square foot garage and you've got Williamsburg secondhand mainstay Junk. This store is so eclectic that they've probably got an assortment of whatever oddity you collect, including postcards (.65 cents), Beanie Babies (99 cents), match box cases (25 cents), or, my personal favorite, corks (25 cents). Clothes fiends will find a fair number of offerings, but the real draw here is in the furniture. The dressers, desks, chairs and cabinets all hail from various decades and come in various conditions, but they've got far more character and design detail than anything you’ll find in Ikea. Plus, they're already all put together, so no need to suffer when you accidentally lose a washer while assembling your dresser.
Junk is located at 567 Driggs Avenue between North 6th and 7th Streets in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (junk11211.com).
Tolly Wright is a writer and editor in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @tollyw.