A tour through fashion emblems of the past century—and where to find them now
IT’S BEEN SAID (by Budget Travel, Thomas Cook Travel, and the like) that Portland has the most vintage stores per capita in the US. We couldn’t find any evidence to prove this one way or another, but with 40 vintage stores and counting we’re inclined to believe it. This is, after all, the city where one can source a red-carpet-premiere vintage outfit (thank you, Carrie Brownstein and Portlandia) or a vintage dress for dinner with the president and chancellor of Germany (you’re welcome, US Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall). With so many options, though, finding just what you want—be it a 1920s evening gown or ’50s-era couch—can be daunting. So we’ve narrowed the scope for you, hitting the streets, braving musty racks, and digging through questionable bins, to unearth the places where you’re most likely to find exactly what you seek.
BEST PLACE TO BUY
A FANCY PARTY DRESS
2515 SE Clinton St; 503-230-2899 xtabayvintage.blogspot.com
If Xtabay’s fleet of dresses is good enough for the red carpet and the White House (both outfits mentioned above came from here), it’s good enough for us, too. Full-skirted taffeta darlings, swingin’ sexy ’60s cocktail frocks, and curve-hugging “wiggle” dresses fill Xtabay’s four racks. Not sure what suits you best? Owner Liz Gross is on hand most days to help you decide what’s more fitting for your fête (and you): that 1940s Ungaro silk number or the ’70s Bob Mackie floor-length gown. Answer: both. You just need another night out.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: Coral Vintage
BEST PLACE TO BUY VINTAGE PENDLETON
429 SW 10th Ave, 503-241-5427
4000 N Mississippi Ave, 503-249-4000 animaltrafficpdx.com
Oregon doesn’t have an official state fabric (yet), but we’re pretty sure that if we did, it’d be Pendleton wool. The homespun 103-year-old company’s unmistakable plaid and jacquard prints now stand as stylish signposts of Portland hipsterdom. And Animal Traffic’s two shops maintain extensive collections. Their new downtown location even maintains a separate Pendleton rack, making your search for something that screams “NATIVE” almost as easy finding a Portlander who isn’t.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: Red Light Clothing
BEST PLACE FOR CLASSIC MENSWEAR
410 SW Oak St; 503-224-7156
For men whose style is more Frank Sinatra than Frank Zappa, Avalon is the place to be. Established in 1976, Avalon credits its well-preserved classic menswear to its collection methods. Eschewing “bulk buys” (vintage stores often purchase large mixed-bag inventories, by the pound and from random walk-ins), Avalon amasses its menswear one loving piece at a time, combing through estate sales and making appointments with sellers. The result: a store full of immaculate, chic suits, hats, watches, cuff links, and tie bars that would turn even Ol’ Blue Eyes’ peepers green.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: Hollywood Vintage
BEST PLACE TO OUTFIT
YOUR KITCHEN LIKE GRANDMA’S
1960 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 503-736-3326 decotodiscopdx.com
Step inside Deco to Disco, among the mountains of Pyrex bowls, Dansk cookware, and ’70s Hamburglar Happy Meal glasses, and you can practically smell Nana’s chocolate chip cookies. That’s because one of the store’s vendors—a Portland couple who go by the name Sputnik Housewares—has spent nine years amassing vintage items from all over the country and vetting them with a midcentury collective for authenticity. So you can be sure that Atomic martini glass you found among the shop’s impressive barware selection is genuine kitsch. Just like you remember.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: Stars Antiques Mall
BEST PLACE TO BUILD UP
YOUR VINYL COLLECTION
3130 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 503-232-1767; xro.com
At 20 years old, Crossroads could almost qualify as vintage itself—at least by Portland standards. Two decades have given the narrow but jam-packed record store ample time to stockpile more than 35,000 records from 35 different vendors, reaching as far back as 1950s recordings of Dizzie Gillespie. Whether you’re a seasoned spinner seeking to fill that one remaining hole in your “lounge exotica” set or a vinyl grommet looking to grow your collection with classics like the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, you’ll find what you desire.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: Mississippi Records
BEST PLACE TO SCORE
MAD MEN FURNITURE
4722 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 503-230-2620 hawthornevintagepdx.com
Little-known fact: Don Draper keeps a satellite office on Portland’s Hawthorne Boulevard. OK, maybe not. But it’s not hard to imagine when you’re walking through Hawthorne Vintage’s rows and rows of low-backed couches, peg-leg tables, and no-frills upholstered chairs. The sheer size of this 7,000-square-foot ode to the midcentury, coupled with a collection that’s renewed daily, makes it the mod mecca for furniture addicts. The most popular styles—Scandinavian contemporary, Danish, and teak—disappear quickly, so you’d best put a two-hour hold on that Herman Miller coffee table you’ve been eyeing. Otherwise it might not be there by the time you get back from your oysters and three-martini lunch.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: Lounge Lizard
BEST VINTAGE EYEWEAR
2757 NE Pacific St; 503-233-1890 ? hollywoodvintage.com
You wouldn’t put the Mona Lisa in some cheap plastic frame. So why treat your own masterpiece—your mug, that is—any differently? Find what your face deserves at Hollywood Vintage, where an inventory of 1,000 frames awaits to delight your inner Clark Kent (horn-rimmed), John Lennon (wire-rimmed), or librarian (cat-eyed, of course). The carefully sourced selection holds both reruns and new-old stock (read: vintage but never worn) from the 1920s to today. Plus, a registered optician is on-site five days a week to ensure you get the perfect fit for your face and prescription—all in about three days.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: Decades Vintage Co
BEST PLACE FOR VINTAGE KICKS
Online at solestruck.com/vintage-shoes
For those with a fetish for old shoes but an aversion to digging through “ripe” piles of kicks, there is the Solestruck Antiquities Department. An offshoot of the brick-and-mortar shop in downtown’s trendy Blackbox building, this e-store lets you surf by size and color for old-school Stuart Weitzman kitten heels or toughed-up Frye boots without having to remove your slippers. Don’t see what you want today? Check tomorrow. Solestruck’s online inventory of about 300–500 is updated weekly with new finds from its scouts based in New York and LA. And if it turns out your glass slipper isn’t quite as magical as it appeared, you haven’t lost a thing: shipping on exchanges inside the US is free.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: Rock n’ Rose
BEST PLACE TO MAKE YOUR OWN COSTUME
3590 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 503-963-8888 redlightclothingexchange.com
Not only do Red Light’s two huge rooms of quirky clothes take up an entire half block, it’s one of the only places in town with a dedicated, year-round costume section. Two 10-foot-long racks of clothing separated into decades from the Victorian age to the 1990s, plus an additional rack devoted entirely to Titanic-era ensembles, hold the answer to your costume conundrum. And if you’re still coming up empty-handed, turn your attention to the rest of the store’s racks, which hold more than 10,000 items, or the walls, where everything from sequined ’80s dresses (hello, Tiffany) to gaudy vintage western wear will make you the center of the party.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: House of Vintage
BEST PLACE FOR PERIOD JEWELRY
520 SW Ninth Ave; 503-220-0920
Tucked behind the delicate lacy dresses in the back corner of this downtown delight sits a treasure chest of vintage jewelry. Even better, it’s affordable. Owner Todd Wooley has a trusted network of (secret) “little old ladies” he taps for one of the city’s most eclectic collections: Victorian lockets, 1920s dress clips, and even antique handpainted portrait pendants, with most items under $100. Add to that Bakelite beauties and a staggering assortment of shimmering ’40s rhinestone costume jewelry, and you’ve got the ingredients for turning that little black dress into old-school Hollywood chic.
ANOTHER GOOD BET: AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium