Ruby and I visited New Orleans this past weekend to check out Tulane, her first choice school, and of course no visit to any city is complete without scoping out the vintage clothing stores and thrift shops. Here’s my review:
Royal Street, in the French Quarter, is lined with antique shops that look like they have been there for 100 years. By all means check them out for their excellent merchandise and charm, but keep in mind that these are upscale stores and their prices are quite high. Some have gorgeous estate jewelry, but none feature vintage clothing, just furniture, decorative items, lighting and lots of guns and other weapons (don’t forget, this IS the south.) Also in the French Quarter is the popular Garage, which (I guess on purpose) feels like you walked into someone’s dirty, disorganized garage. I recommend that you don’t touch anything in there (let alone purchase it.)
Magazine Street is totally hipster, and vintage row. There are 5-6 vintage stores and a few resale shops. And they all suck. Lili, which got great reviews on Yelp, was very ladylike, with a highly curated (translation: small) selection of clothing: Edwardian whites (pricey), a few 40s and 50s dresses (unimpressive) and costume jewelry (decent quality and prices, but again, a very small selection.) Funky Monkey called themselves “vintage” but actually was about 85% contemporary resale (this happens frequently) but it’s a very lively, enjoyable store.
I find Buffalo Exchange to be the most overrated store in the country and even though I’ve visited outlets in many cities, I’ve never found a single thing. Trashy Diva calls itself “vintage inspired” and seems to be something of a phenomenon in New Orleans, but unless you want repros, don’t go there. Same with Branch Out, which lures you in with its “vintage and sustainable” clothing…which turns out to be all brand new (and therefore not so eco-friendly.) The No Fleas Market is also quite popular, but wow, that place has an incredibly anemic selection of stuff nobody wants. RetroActive is by far the best of the vintage stores, but that’s not saying much. Although their purse and costume jewelry selection is decent, they mostly stock below-average vintage items like 50s tweed suits, 70s kaftans and beaded sweaters. And with their high prices, I just don’t get how they’ve been in business “since 1982.”
NOLA is a very special town (I’m from NY! Everything is a town!) and Ruby and I had a great time and ate some incredible food. So go there for the gumbo, oysters, crawfish and shrimp…the incredible jazz…the tropical weather…and the fun vibe…but not the vintage stores. Next time I go down there, I plan to drive from Nashville, and I have to believe I’ll find some great stuff along the way. Stay tuned!