Unlike the abundance of vintage shops in cities like Paris, London and Berlin, Buenos Aires has not quite embraced vintage shopping yet.
Many believe porteños view vintage less as fashion and more like putting on a stranger’s second hand dress, but some locals have begun moving away from the designer circuit on their search for something no one else has.
The city’s vintage shops are the most part, chaotic, whacky, diverse and random, but vintage is gradually creeping into wardrobes here in Buenos Aires.
With markets like the Sunday San Telmo market, and the weekend market besides Parque Centenario, vintage shopping here can be a rummaging paradise. This week’s Top 5 is your guide to the best places to buy vintage in BA.
Having grown up in West London, near the vast selection of vintage shops and boutiques in Portobello Road and Notting Hill, Argentine/English shop-owner Julieta Cameron arrived in Buenos Aires 11 years ago. After quickly noticing a shortage of vintage boutiques in the city, she opened Portobello Vintage Boutique – probably the best vintage shop in the city.
While its exterior may not suggest it, Cameron has, quite literally, imported a Portobello vintage shop into the heart of Recoleta. Once inside you’ll find the quintessential London road signs, newspaper cut outs and posters of iconic British figures among the selection of vintage and second hand clothes.
It’s also miles away from the average vintage shop you’ll find in Buenos Aires. While others can tend to stray into costume dress territory, Portobello Vintage has its head firmly turned towards vintage European style, with a range of different designers, prices and items for both men and women.
In one of BA’s most expensive barrios, the shop receives clothes bought by wealthy residents of the area during their travels to Europe during the 60s and 70s, as well as those sourced by Cameron on her own travels back to the UK. The shop is also orderly, meaning you can pop in here quickly and find something great. Find Argentine labels, as well as designs from London and Paris, ranging from bargain buys to more expensive, special pieces.
Paraguay 1554, Recoleta. Open Monday to Friday 11am-7pm.
Juan Pérez is one of the most well known vintage stores in the capital and stocks just about everything you can imagine.
Walking around the huge shop is an experience in itself, with obligatory lockers for your bag, a bizarre section of vintage ski-wear (including skis) woolly jumpers and fur jackets.
Crammed with clothes, Juan Perez offers hats, jewellery, bags and shoes for both men and women, and it’s easy to spend hours in here, rummaging through everything they’ve got.
The price range here varies: a beautifully intact vintage Louis Vuitton leather bag for $2000 hangs next to a range of other designer as well as far cheaper options.
Although Juan Perez is admittedly more expensive than most of the city’s vintage shops, the pricier items do tend to be worth the money; a delicate silk white shirt from 70s Paris will set you back $200, for example. Nonetheless, there are definitely bargains to be found here; such as a great selection of winter coats and jackets, which are probably nicer than what you’ll find in the average Palermo shop, and definitely a lot cheaper.
A red screen and a mirror alongside a cabinet of costume jewellery encourages all sorts of fun, so don’t be surprised if you find groups of wealthy 60-year old women playing dress-up during the day time.
M. T. de Alvear 1441, Recoleta. Open Monday to Saturday 11am-9pm.
Located inside the Mercado de San Telmo on Bolivar, this little-known vintage shop is just a step away from the busy San Telmo market on Sundays.
Open every day, Retro Vintage may be small, but there’s a lot to be found here. The stall is crammed with mainly women’s clothes, and items are sourced through donations from churches and local residents. The shop offers a whole host of items at reasonable prices, such as winter jumpers, dresses, skirts, shirts and shoes, which are all definitely worth spending some time rummaging through.
What really makes the stall stand out, however, is its wide selection of bags hanging from the outside walls. Ranging from backpacks to small purses to weekend bags, the prices begin at around $80 making them cheaper than most bags you’d find at the touristy San Telmo market.
The selection beats many vintage shops in the city, and what’s on offer is for the most part still in excellent quality. If $80 still sounds too expensive, haggling is possible and could save you around $20-30.
Mercardo de San Telmo (Local 37-48) Bolivar 970.
Talk to porteños about vintage shops, and most of them will mention Quinta Avenida Galería. Located among the numerous galleries that line Av. Santa Fe, Quinta Avenida Galeria looks like a normal gallery from the outside, but houses tiny shops all selling second hand and vintage items.
The shops are all run independently, and are full to bursting with clothes for both men and women. Interesting jewellery, one off jackets and blazers along with a selection of bags are just some of the items on offer.
Turning up at around 1pm will give you access to the best stock, and you could quite easily spend the whole day rooting around all the different boutiques in the gallery. Assisted by eccentric shop owners, you’re likely to leave the gallery laden with bargain buys.
The gallery is the perfect place for the dedicated vintage shopper or the rummaging expert as here persistence and patience is key. Particularly noteworthy is That 70s Shop, which specialises in vintage items mainly from the 70s as well as other eras.
Avenida Santa Fe 1270, Open 9.30am-8.30pm daily.
With probably the most ironic shop name in Buenos Aires, El Buen Orden has been at its current address in San Telmo for 17 years and is a local favourite.
Not just a vintage shop, it offers every type of antique imaginable. Come here to find vintage jewellery, bags, trinkets, clothes and hats among a whole load of other things such as dolls, pill boxes and doll houses.
More than the clothes or accessories, the best thing here has to be the experience: walking around the strange variety of objects all arranged in a random and haphazard way can be pleasantly surreal. Yet, this is another vintage experience where dedication pays off, and you’re sure to find some interesting pieces at fairly reasonable prices if you persevere.
Antique cabinets stuffed with purses, address books and sunglasses means the chances of finding quirky one off accessories you’re unlikely to find anywhere else are high. Stock changes almost daily, so if you don’t find what you want, you can come back another day and try again. Similarly, if you do want it, get it there and then, because it’s unlikely to be there when you come back.
Defensa 840, San Telmo. Open 11am-6pm daily.