The heyday of thrifting — and scoring great clothes for super-low prices at vintage shops — was supposed to be over, due to the rise of internet shopping sites like Etsy and eBay.
But nobody told Pittsburgh. There are more vintage shops now in Pittsburgh than ever before. (The prices, well … they’re not as cheap as the old days).
Of course, checking out the vintage/used clothing shops for the first time in a while was a bit of a shock — I’m still not over the fact that the ’80s, ’90s even the 2000s have become “vintage.”
For this story, I got some extra help from NEXT’s own Jennifer Baron, a vintage-everything collector (and the longtime marketing director and a co-organizer of Pittsburgh’s giant cutting-edge craft fair Handmade Arcade, plus founder of the band, The Garment District).
There are also a slew of special events for the vintage shopper (as well as online vintage sellers), including the excellent Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer (profiled by Rick Sebak), the Neighborhood Flea in the Strip (next one is Sept. 12), and the Made + Found Market.
Those events aside, here are the best places to buy vintage clothing in Pittsburgh. We’ve organized the list by neighborhood, so you can check out more than one at once.
Mello & Sons, Lawrenceville
Lawrenceville is pretty much the perfect place for a vintage clothing shop, with its gigantic, bustling Butler Street business district and diverse mix of (still) mostly non-chain stores and restaurants. Neal Mello moved here from Brooklyn and set up the best place in town for vintage denim — jeans, jackets, even cutoffs, distressed or not. There’s also a great selection of T-shirts, jackets and even kids’ clothing.
Phoenix Boutique, Lawrenceville
This is a consignment boutique where old clothes rise once again to new life like the mythical Phoenix. Lots of high-end designer labels, with everything from dresses and handbags to boots and sunglasses.
A sizable thrift shop run by the National Council of Jewish Women, this store helps support efforts to meet the needs of the vulnerable in the region, and to improve the lives of women, children and families. They’re always looking for clothing donations of all kinds, and for volunteers.
Clothes Minded, Bloomfield
Best store name pun, bar none. Clothes Minded buys, sells and trades. High-end dresses, handbags and accessories dominate here: Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, etc. “NO HOLDS,” says their Instagram, so make your choices boldly.
Kula Industries, Bloomfield
A new spot featuring distinctively stylish women’s clothing from the ’40s through the ’90s. The mission: “Hand chosen for their happy-making quotient, mix-and-match-ability and enduring appeal.”
Second Harvest Community Thrift Store, Sharpsburg
This brand-new thrift shop replaced a much beloved, now-closed shop run by The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Sharpsburg. It’s bright, clean, modern and quite large, at 6,500 square feet. There’s every type of clothing, jewelry, even furniture and musical instruments. It’s quickly become a favorite neighborhood meeting spot, and a way to help low-income residents fill basic needs.
Vintage 416, Millvale
As Lawrenceville rents climb, Millvale across the river has started to get a nice cluster of used clothing stores. Vintage 416 bills itself as a sustainable, affordable alternative to fast fashion, the wasteful and environmentally harmful current paradigm for new clothing. The store sells clothes from the 1920s-90s, which is quite a range — from a gray striped, 1960s Nancy Greer shift dress, to a purple Gloria Vanderbilt swan handle umbrella. The votary candles of Mister Rogers and Mac Miller are pretty sweet, and there’s a Marky Ramone T-shirt on their Instagram page that I sort of need.
House of Thrift, Millvale, Ross
With two locations, this shop will take almost anything — from shoes (boots to heels), dresses and kitchenware to power tools, tape players and typewriters. Come for the bright floral pattern scrubs or inexpensive jewelry, leave with a 1960s wood stereo cabinet.
B-Sides Vintage, Millvale
This is a hip spot with walls covered in weird posters and a chair shaped like a giant hand. The T-shirt selection here is wild, everything from concert tees (The Cure, AC/DC, Neil Diamond) to cartoons (Ren & Stimpy), to sports (Barry Bonds-era Pirates and Mario-era Penguins).
Avalon Exchange, Squirrel Hill
If you want to look like you just stepped off a yacht in 1982, like a long-lost Rose relative on “Schitt’s Creek” or just go full-denim Canadian tuxedo, you can probably find the threads to do so at Avalon. The signature shop recently moved a few doors down into a gigantic new space. Avalon is probably not going to take your grubby, unwanted old T-shirts (unless, of course, they’re old and weird enough to be hip) for resale; they just want the good stuff.
A Child’s Wardrobe (and Adults Too), Squirrel Hill
This spot has been buying and selling children’s clothing since 1994, from a weird little nook most of the way down Murray Avenue. You’ll find lots of stuff for toddlers, juniors teens and some adult fashions too. Brand names like Ralph Lauren, American Eagle and Vera Bradley are preferred if you’re selling.
Retro on 8th, Homestead
Along the Mon, don’t miss this cornucopia of wild, kitschy mostly-‘70s style goods — everything from a twin Barcelona-style chair, to a 1930s bakelite Kodak Baby Brownie camera, to Muppets lunch boxes. They feature some clothing too, but be prepared to have your eye drawn away by everything else.
Freshman Vintage, Homestead
Eighth Avenue in Homestead is ready to pop (any decade now), but for the moment, it’s just the right price for a shop like Freshman Vintage. Under the watchful eyes of Tupac and Biggie, this bright, clean white-walled spot curates an urban streetwear aesthetic with stuff from the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s. If you want a satin Lakers or Celtics jacket, or a DMX tank top, or Ozzy T-shirt, this is your place.
East End Community Thrift/Thrifty, Garfield
Run by the social justice activists at the Thomas Merton Center, Thrifty is a volunteer shop selling low-cost used clothing to the neighborhood, which still has many pockets of poverty despite the revival of the Penn Avenue business district. A portion of the donated clothing goes to resolve Crisis Services, Sojourner House and Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.
Eons Fashion Antique, Shadyside
One of Pittsburgh’s landmarks of vintage clothing, this small store is curated by Richard Parsakian like a movie set, with everything from men’s leather shoes to a 1960s pink chiffon and lace dress, to a wild selection of one-of-a-kind rings, apparently sought after by costume designers for movies.
Hey Betty!, Shadyside
Another place that’s been around forever: Hey Betty has curated an amazingly eclectic variety of clothing from many eras, from a 1980s silk coat to a 1970s floral maxi skirt. This place digs a little deeper and goes back a little further than most — you’ll find plenty of shoes and dresses from the ‘60s and earlier.
Fifty One Ten Vintage, South Side
It was the era of oversized sweatshirts emblazoned with outlandish graphics … why does it feel like I walked back into middle school here? This shop specializes in laidback vintage gear, especially from the ’70s to the ‘90s. I’m a sucker for odd T-shirts, and the 7-11 Slurpee Brain Freeze shirt and the Cat Neuter & Spay T-shirt on the website are wondrously weird.
Three Rivers Vintage, South Side
A mainstay on the vintage clothing scene, there’s a century of changing fashions here, from 1870s accessories to a recent, big haul of ‘70s disco shirts, mini-dresses and bell-bottoms.
Zeds, South Side
A streetwear specialist, this boutique boasts lots of footwear for the sneakerheads especially. You’ll also find plenty of vintage ball caps (like a West Virginia University corduroy snapback hat), jackets and a wild collection of T-shirts, from a vintage Pizza Hut shirt to a 1991 Pens Stanley Cup Champs shirt.
Buffalo Exchange, South Side
A chain of vintage shops? Sounds blasphemous. Yet, this $100 million company with dozens of locations nationwide seems to do good business on the South Side, and it’s very big. Prices are all over the place, and so is the selection. To sell “closet clean-outs” you’ve got to book an appointment.