Back to SouthSoundland

Cheap thrills

For savvy improveristas, thrift stores rule

FUNKOMA VINTAGE: I need these platforms!

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

With rising numbers of foreclosures, credit card woes and layoffs, people are worrying about how much their wallets can take. In Tacoma, the attraction of the bargain is on the rise with many options for the thrifty consumer ranging from large stores such as Goodwill to small stores such as the ones I list below.


In urbanXchange — located at 19th and Pacific in downtown Tacoma — I found it nearly impossible to keep from taking my wallet out. I did find it impossible to keep myself from trying on a pair of fabulous studded boots (which, tragically, were too small). urbanXchange, to one whose heart has been stolen by clothes many a time, is one of the greatest things about downtown Tacoma. A consignment shop, it specializes in “ultramodern and vintage attire.” The store sells clothing in near-perfect to perfect condition at a range of prices.

“We have everything from $5 T-shirts to designer jeans that would usually run for $150 or $180 on sale here for $50 to $60,” says owner Julie Bennett. The jeans include brands like Seven, Lucky and Diesel — which, new, are ridiculously more expensive than the average college student (a big chunk of their client base) can afford.
Right now, urbanXchange has a multitude of coats for sale. Vintage coats, new coats, fur, leather, faux-fur and faux-leather for all you animal rights activists out there; they have an excellent selection. My personal favorite, a beautiful long wool and fleece-lined ‘60s-era coat that was in excellent condition, was selling for $60.
[urbanXchange, 1934 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.572.2280]


It is amazing how many items Melanie Peterson can cram into Vanity, her tiny fashion boutique on Sixth Avenue. Ladies, if you’re looking for that perfect, uniquely funky item at a great price, this is certainly the place to go. Peterson describes her women‘s clothing store as half vintage, half modern consignment.

Upon walking in, I made a beeline for the rack of vintage dresses. And the dress that yielded my most high-pitched and enthusiastic “Aw!” was a 1950s pink lace prom dress with flower detailing, size small and $98. And, as far as I could tell, in perfect condition. All right, so there are a very limited number of places you can wear a dress like that. Just watch television in it and feel like a Happy Days princess.

Besides the special-occasion styles, the everyday clothing is also rather unique. A blue wool miniskirt that looks like it came from Marcia Brady’s dressing room was $12; a size small or medium. An ivory, satin circle skirt with a diamond print, size medium, was $18 (another Aw!-inducing item). Tall, brown Bandolino boots were $34; fleece-lined tall rain boots (which are terribly difficult to find for under $65) were $20 in a size 9. Damn my size 7 1/2-or-maybe-8 feet!

Vanity, with its wide selection of unique, hard-to-find pieces (Peterson buys about 70 percent of the clothing from places like estate sales), is fun just to look through. I’ll bet it’s even more fun to watch television in that pink princess dress, though.
Vanity also has a second store inside Sanford and Son as part of The Middle Floor Merchants.
[Vanity Fashion Boutique, 3108 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.985.7845]
[Middle Floor Merchants, Sanford and Son Antiques, 743 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.272.0334]

Orange on Broadway

A couple comes into Orange on Broadway, the female half looking for a dress. She’s not in there five minutes before she pulls a short, hot pink, spaghetti-strap leopard-print dress from the rack. $15, Guess brand. Owner Laurel Lawson agrees to hold it for her.
But don’t be downhearted, dear bargain shoppers. Orange is chock-full of great finds like that hot pink leopard-print dress. Lawson shows me a beautiful vintage (1950s? 1960s?) white and yellow formal dress. “It’s $30,” she says apologetically, as if $30 is expensive for a vintage dress in that condition. Most of her dresses are about $15, some less, a few more. Only the coats were that much — a red leather-studded jacket that I would have died for when I went through my Michael Jackson phase is $15, and an absolutely unique green jacket with a boxy shape is $16. The tag reads, “Specially made for the Ryukyuan Gift Shop.” I don’t know what Ryukyuan is. But it’s a pretty cool jacket.

Other items included a pair of Banana Republic wide-legged black slacks, size 8, for $8. Men’s pants go for about $2, though a pair of pinstripe slacks, Kenneth Cole brand, is $10.

Lawson explains that she appeals “not just to the student hipsters, but anyone who wants to dress eclectic, to people who have a sense of style.”
[Orange on Broadway, 739 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.970.7080]

Second Closet

Though it’s geared toward working women, Junior League of Tacoma’s thrift store, Second Closet, has a variety of merchandise for both men and women (I have to add, I bought a fantastically slutty dress there last summer. It’s not all for the workingwoman!)
Steven Grant, who manages the store for the nonprofit group Junior League of Tacoma, declared that, “Everything is priced to go right out the door.” He’s not exaggerating. A BP (the Nordstrom junior clothing line) green cardigan, size medium, is $6. An adorable brown embroidered blazer, Autograph brand, is $9 in a size 8. A pair of size 6 pinstripe pants, The Limited brand, is $7, and Ann Taylor stretch khakis, also size 6, $9.50. There are some great dresses including brands such as Tommy Bahama and Ann Taylor.
Don’t miss browsing through the dollar rack, though. While, indeed, many items were priced at $1 for a reason, some were exciting finds. A ribbed Gap turtleneck and American Eagle turtleneck, both size medium, were in there, as was a Victoria’s Secret sweatshirt from their Pink clothing collection, a size small. The sweatshirt even had the $44.50 tag still on it.
[Second Closet, 1003 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.9269]

Funkoma Vinatge

Oh, God. How I want those platform shoes.

Those tiny, tiny, probably size 4 red patent leather platform shoes for $36. They’ve got to be three inches off the ground and were originally from Nordstrom — the label doesn’t look like it does now, though. Do I need red patent leather platform shoes that my foot couldn’t fit into even if it were bound?  Do I need a third pair of saddle shoes? But they’re only $10! Do I need orange heels? I almost buy them because they’re in my size. $21, Nickels brand. No. Leave the shoes alone.

I find a men’s blue suede button-up (or some kind of texture like that) shirt from the ‘60s for $30. And hey! They’ve got the bell-bottoms to go with it. I also love the leather vest with a mesh back for $15 (mostly because it’s hilarious) — oh, and no worries: it’s unisex!

I save the dresses-and coats-side of the room for last. A pink, formal floor-length dress (that I had a dream about last night, no joke) is $18. A white leather blazer that I’m finding impossible to describe but involves bows is $18, and a sheepskin coat is $29.
[Funkoma Vintage & Amocat Antiques, 712 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.830.4891]

Re-Fine Clothier

Re-Fine Clothier, on the bottom level of Sanford and Son Antiques, is “aimed mostly toward business ladies,” says Nanette Colby, the owner. I asked her what her favorite pieces were, and I was glad to see that she pointed to my favorite from my brief glance-around, a green, wool Lilli Ann vintage coat with a mink collar for $145. I also loved the second coat she pulled out, a long, red wool Ellen Tracy coat with gold buttons for $25.
All tall boots are $20, and I love the leather ones with big bows on the side. Vintage Pendleton suits on display are so darn cool, and the lingerie section is adorable. “I have a big thing for vintage lingerie,” Colby explains.

“My store is mostly upper-end designer and vintage,” Colby says. Brands like Nordstrom, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor are all prevalent.

Sanford and Son is a fun place to spend a day, with Re-Fine Clothier only one of the great vendors.
[Re-Fine Clothier, Middle Floor Merchants, Sanford and Son Antiques, 743 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.272.0334]

Read next close


Winners all

Comments for "Cheap thrills"

Comments for this article are currently closed.