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Thrifting in Los Angeles: Doesn’t Get Better Than This

Fashionistas worldwide traveling to LA for the ultimate thrift experience
By Ashley Kuczenski
February 01 2022

An eclectic assortment of vintage-inspired looks spotted at Melrose Trading Post. (Shutterstock / Hayk_Shalunts) 

For me, thrifting in Los Angeles is personal. There are of course, the many L.A. flea markets I’ve visited over the years, and the various weird and wonderful finds I’ve picked up at each - from fabulous faux fur coats to kitschy midcentury tea sets. But my love for thrifting goes back to the start - to the very first year I lived in L.A. proper, having just moved to the city from the sleepier suburbs up the coast. 

I carry fond memories from my freshman year in college of my first visits to all of the greatest hits - Jet Rag, the Rose Bowl Flea Market, and of course, Melrose Trading Post. After experiencing some extreme FOMO upon seeing acquaintances’ flea market finds via MySpace (remember MySpace?), I finally decided it was time to visit the Melrose Trading Post for myself. Of course, I did not yet have a car and neither did any of my then-roommates, so we all piled into a city bus, and then transferred to another bus (and maybe even another? L.A.’s public transportation was not the best in those days) to make the long pilgrimage from UCLA to this treasure trove of unique local fashion.

The famed Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena. (Shutterstock / Kit Leong) 

This was a rare occurrence and felt momentous at the time - I was intrigued by the promise of thrifting to deliver something cooler and more unique than what one could find at the local malls, not to mentioned thrilled by the social aspect of shopping alongside so many likeminded people. But realistically, thrifting was a once-in-a-blue-moon occasion for me and my peers - at that time the mall was the be-all end-all for high school and college kids; the center of their social world. 

Today, though, things have changed. With the proliferation of online shopping, teens taking their style cues largely from social media, and the impact of the pandemic all converging, malls are fast becoming a thing of the past. According to a 2020 report by Coresight Research, 25 percent of the country’s malls are set to close by 2025, and many of the biggest-name department stores have gone bankrupt since 2020 or are on the verge thereof. So with indoor shopping on life support, where are teens turning? More than ever, they are frequenting a cheaper, safer, and more unique alternative - the flea market. 

Vintage cowboy boots are a hot item at L.A.’s Melrose Trading Post. (Shutterstock / Hayk_Shalunts) 

In the past several years, Gen Z has continually outpaced older generations in the growth of secondhand shopping. The curated, corporate mall aesthetic of the early 2000s has given way to a hodgepodge of more unique new and vintage finds recalling the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and, yes, the Y2K era. Of course, some of these looks can be found inexpensively via Amazon and the like, but many teens and twentysomethings are also eschewing fast fashion in light of its now-well-documented environmental impact – however, eco-friendly labels often come with a steep price tag. The result? Young people are turning more and more to thrifted and vintage fashion.   

Bargain hunters scour vintage hotspot Jet Rag’s famous $1 sale. (Shutterstock / Lofti Photography) 

In Los Angeles, a plethora of markets have stepped up to fill that growing interest. In addition to the old standbys like the Rose Bowl and Melrose Trading Post, there are local favorites like Silverlake Flea, Los Feliz Flea, and Venice Arts & Collectibles Market. Each carries its own unique style and personality to fit the flavor of its specific locale, truly showcasing the variety of styles, cultures, and neighborhoods of the City of Angels. If you’re new to the L.A. flea market scene, you can try each market on for size - you’re sure to find the right fit. 

Vintage Cadillac and Volkswagen cars cruise outside the Rose Bowl Flea Market. (Shutterstock/Angel DiBilio)
Melrose Trading Post  

7850 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046  

Rose Bowl Flea Market  
1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103  

Related: Cars Meet Fashion: Nobody Walks in L.A.​



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