By Tory Fine, 16, Marlborough HS
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Only $35 at Playclothes!
Photo by Associate Editor Sue Doyle

Vintage stores have always held a sort of magic for me. I walk in, assaulted by the smell of mothballs and old silk, a bit of dust, and maybe even the lingering scent of stale perfume. It is the scent of eras gone by, times of war and sit-ins and romanticized by the rustling of beads and crinoline.

Some may wrinkle their noses at the idea of sporting worn garments of bygone days, but for me, it’s like wearing a bit of the past, and perhaps it brings me closer to being a part of it. But I’m not alone. It seems that everyone is getting caught up in this spell. From 80s leg warmers to 50s polka dots, vintage clothing is taking the world by storm.

It’s also getting harder to separate the original from the imitation, the treasure from the trash. And so, I find it my duty as both inquisitive teenage girl and vintage clothing loyalist to get behind this facade of zoot suits and bell bottoms, and to get the lowdown on how to find the perfect vintage piece.

My first stop was at Playclothes, 11422 Moorpark St., Studio City. They’re open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and from noon -5 p.m. on Sun.

If Hollywood catered to vintage fashion fanatics, then obviously I had to talk to the people who catered to Hollywood. The store has provided clothing for several hot television shows and movies, and the owner travels across the country to find perfect clothes and accessories.

Playclothes specializes in the styles of the 30s through the 50s. The prices run a bit steeper than the average garage sale. Expect to pay $20-50 for a dress or skirt. But Maryse, the store’s manager, showed me why it was all worth it.

"We only buy things that look crisp," she explained. "We want our clothes to look vintage, but not like they’ve been worn to death."

And, she reminded me, "If nobody can tell that it’s not real, then that’s even better."

She had the same reasoning for redone outfits. "Things can look 10 times better when they’re redone. And that’s why we do it. If an outfit is redone well, nobody will be able to tell—and that’s how it’s supposed to be. But we always let the customer know what is redone and what isn’t."

My fave Spiegels catalog from the 1950s.

The atmosphere at Playclothes is a bit on the girly side, decorated with arrangements of hats, dresses, fabrics and jewelry.

The store, located on a corner, is fairly easy to find. Parking is on the street.

Next on my quest was Iguana Vintage Clothing, 14422 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. The store is open 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. Mon. – Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Fri. and Sat., and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sun.

Iguana’s funky merchandise ranges from the clothing of the 40s to the 70s, plus some older army surplus, wigs of a thousand colors, pins , funky sunglasses and classic Levi 501s.

This store has some good, some bad and some ugly and bizarre. The prices are around $30 for any article of clothing, and the accessories vary. When you walk in, you hear oldies playing and the store clerks say a friendly hello, then go back to whatever they were doing. It’s a laid-back kind of place, mainly because there’s so much space—first floor and a large loft upstairs! It would just be too much to try to watch you like a hawk.

Unlike Playclothes, most of the employees don’t have much knowledge of vintage. They’re helpful enough to show you something in the store, but any outside questions about fabric or washability, forget it.

My favorite part of the store is the giant wall of dresses. The dresses are arranged by color, and when I walk in, my fingers itch to start sorting through the endless fabrics and colors.

Don’t worry about finding the store. You can’t miss it! Look for the huge Iguana sporting a hat and jacket. Street parking is great if you can get it, but otherwise you have to park in the back.

Lastly, I arrived at Out Of The Closet, 360 Fairfax, Los Angeles. They have tons of stores all around the city. They’re open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sun. Parking is available behind the store. If the lot is full, there’s parking available on the street, but be prepared to parallel park and have some quarters to feed the meters.

This place isn’t a vintage store, but actually a thrift store that benefits AIDS research. The name of the store itself deserves some credit. In fact, that’s what made me go in there in the first place.

Again, like Iguana, this place is eclectic. It has furniture and knickknacks in addition to clothing, and all arranged without too much rhyme or reason. The clothes, like any thrift store, are a hodgepodge of styles ranging from practically new to early 40s. Most of the time these clothes are in better quality than many of the vintage stores. One time I bought a dress for $12, and another time for $15. Most dresses are under $20. The hitch is that you’ve really got to search to find what you’re looking for. Some of the shoppers, especially on Fairfax, are a bit out of the ordinary. In fact, I found myself searching for dresses next to a male cross-dresser.