Seven months ago, Connie Roberts never dreamed she would buy someone else’s used clothes.
But that was before she discovered a resale shop while she and her husband were out for a walk. When he sat down to catch his breath, she went into Cherie’s Secret, a resale boutique in Studio City.
“It took me more than 10 minutes to realize that the clothes weren’t new,” Roberts said. “There were no size tags. That was the tip-off.”
Roberts, a former wholesale representative for Zanelli at the California Clothing Mart in the Los Angeles garment district, knew a good bargain when she saw one.
“Now I go out looking as many as three to four times a week,” she said. “It’s almost an addiction.”
By strict definition, vintage fashion is anything more than 50 years old. But usually such shops stretch the definition and concentrate on styles from the 1920s to the 1950s, with some early 1960s stuff thrown in.
Resale clothing stores, on the other hand, carry strictly contemporary clothes, name brands like Norma Kamali, Adolfo, Yves Saint Laurent and Anne Klein.
In both cases, merchandise is purchased from individuals, either on consignment or outright. A few stores, like Aaardvark’s in Canoga Park, buy exclusively from warehouses known as rag mills, where clothing is obtained through probate sales. Thrift shops, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, receive clothes through donations.
“After wholesale fashion, why should I pay retail?” said Roberts.
She says that, for the most part, vintage fashion just isn’t for her. She prefers contemporary pieces from a more traditional and well-organized boutique. For her, Cherie’s is like home.
Betty Berkeyto, 33, is at the other end of the spectrum.
“I love to dig. I don’t know what I want until I see it,” said Berkeyto, who considers herself a lifetime student and will study history at California State University, Northridge in the fall. “I used to only wear black. Now I like colorful hats. Big ones like Hedda Hopper’s.”
She frequents LaRue’s and Ragtime Cowboy, both on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood. But it was Claudia’s, a small and slightly chaotic shop just east of Laurel Canyon, where Berkeyto first discovered vintage clothing.
She was drawn into the shop because of what she describes as its funky feel. Berkeyto says the place still has a slightly off-centered quality, almost a throwback to a time seven or eight years ago when that section of Studio City wasn’t so trendy.
“There used to be punks and mods and the prostitutes,” said Claudia Thompson, the owner, who’s been in the location 10 years.
She unwrapped a submarine sandwich and offered half to a customer.
“I guess it’s for the better. Cleaned it up. But the kids don’t dress as wild as they used to. Do they?” she said somewhat sadly from behind her large desk piled with clothes.
Claudia dresses like many of her customers--young and always fun. With her tan skin and stringy blond hair, she’s easygoing like the sidewalk merchants in Venice. KRLA plays the old hits in the background, and sometimes she turns on the small black-and-white TV to watch the soaps. Everyone from school-aged kids to mothers and professionals seems to enjoy rummaging for the perfect treasure.
It is the owners who make resale and vintage boutiques different from Bullock’s or The Broadway or Robinson’s.
“When women get together, we talk. We have to stick together,” Thompson said, pulling out photos of her children and grandchildren.
Owners grow to know the likes and dislikes of their regular customers.
“I’ve got a friend in my corner,” Connie Roberts said about Cherie’s. “She’s someone who will call me and say ‘I’ve got a style that would look perfect on you.’ ”
What follows is a sampling of resale and vintage stores around the San Fernando Valley:
Amazing Kate’s, 28317 W. Agoura Road, Agoura Hills. Owner Lois Flaherty believes that thrift shopping is a “woman’s sport.” Her store reflects an element of fun, designed for shoppers who like to take their time looking. In other words, don’t always expect a neat rack. She buys only on consignment, and clothes are marked at half price if they haven’t moved in two months. If they still don’t sell, Lois donates them to the Salvation Army. A Liz Claiborne shirt, oversized and brightly colored, costs about $8 here. Open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, until 7 p.m. Thursday; (818) 991-5148.
Reruns, 11626 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Pam Holdridge, 24, has never been conventional. She has a flair for the theatrical, and her favorite look is the late-1940s. So she and Mike Gilchrist began Reruns, which caters to other “young and eclectic” people, mostly from 14 to 35 years old. She recently opened another store at 4625 Van Nuys Blvd. in Sherman Oaks that specializes in clothing and furniture of the 1950s. Poodle skirts, which Holdridge says are very popular with her customers, cost $30 to $38. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday; (818) 506-4399.
Kids Closet, 5316 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. This shop was opened by Jamie Goodard six years ago because thrift stores primarily focus on adult needs and she had a “garage full of infant clothes.” She offers clothes for newborn to size 14, along with some children’s toys. She buys her items outright, no consignments. A pair of size 6 boys’ pants would cost from $2 to $5, a size 8 girls’ dress from $3.50 to $6. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; (818) 505-8555.
Stars and Debs, 12424 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, has been owned by Rose Polinsky for 21 years. The store earned its name because it once sold clothing purchased from celebrities. Today, however, Rose features current fashions that she buys from a variety of women, including the very wealthy. Most of her name brands have only been worn a few times and tend to be casual wear. She buys all items outright. Rose says her best customers are business and professional women. An Adolfo dress, which costs $800 to $1,000 new, sells for $100 here. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; (818) 980-7433.
Resale Chic, 14106 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, is owned by Valerie Kinnis and Marga Karkenny. They have just opened another store in Sherman Oaks at 13753 Ventura Blvd. Both locations specialize in resale clothing. They offer casual as well as elegant selections. Their specialty is furs. Kinnis buys on consignment or outright. Open 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; (818) 783-2442.
The Ragtime Cowboy, 5332 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Pat O’Hara, like many of his customers, has worked in the theater as a singer, dancer and actor. The store got its name from the song “Ragtime Cowboy Joe,” and at one time specialized in denim. But over the last seven years, his inventory and 1,500-square-foot building have expanded to include anything from the 1930s through the 1960s. O’Hara buys only from warehouse dealers. He says pink bustiers--long-line bras--are extremely fashionable right now. They sell for $12.50. Open 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; (818) 769-6552.
Jean’s Stars’ Apparel, 15136 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, was opened in 1958 by Jean Harding. The first boutique was located in a corner of the Sportsmen’s Lodge. Now, her daughter, Janet Snyder, runs the business while Harding, 80, acts as a silent partner. As the name implies, most items are purchased from “stars” or “socialites.” Everything is contemporary, and arranged according to color and style. Alan Austin gabardine pants can run up to $225, but at Jean’s they’re $34.95. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; (818) 789-3710.
LaRue Vintage Clothing, 5320 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Joan LaRue Lussier has been in the fashion business 10 years, and started by doing patchwork designs on jeans. Today, she carries a large volume of clothing. Lussier has cocktail dresses from as low as $14. Men’s baggy pants from the 1950s are $22. Open 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; (818) 762-2072.
Cherie’s Secrets, 12522 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Owner Cherie Willis says Valley women prefer casual and fun styles. Her store reflects that attitude, while maintaining a middle-of-the road quality. She buys only contemporary clothes on consignment. Cherie’s customers range from teen-agers to women in their 70s. A David Hayes’ women’s three-piece suit will cost $98. They run $500 new. Open 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; (818) 508-1628.