By Travel with Kate, on October 2, 2015

Legendary vintage finds in Los Angeles

Why vintage shopping you might ask? Because you can pick up unique pieces that set your look apart from the rest. Because you can bring home a timeless souvenir from your trip. Because it is an extraordinary way to explore the past.

Inside one of the most trendy West Los Angeles neighborhoods is a vintage shopper’s dream. Not far from West Hollywood, the boutiques and cafés of 3rd Street, and Melrose Avenue is a prized stretch of La Brea Avenue housing a handful of shops that can make for an entire day of vintage-shopping fun.

Of note, there is Golyester Vintage Clothing and What Goes Around Comes Around for higher-end vintage items. Also on the drag are Jet Rag and Buffalo Exchange for more budget-friendly finds.

However, the most revered vintage store in town is the cleverly named The Way We Wore®. It is a veritable palace of vintage garments. It is the place the fashion-forward locals of Los Angeles trust most for their signature vintage pieces, and is worth a visit for any vintage lover.

Viewfinder Tip: For speedy vintage shopping in Los Angeles, call ahead and have the staff pull items for you before you arrive.

The store’s decor sets an eclectic scene with ceilings draped in gold fabric, crystal chandeliers, shiny white pleather-cushioned walls, and leopard-print carpet.

On a recent visit, wide-brimmed hats, costume jewelry, ’60s swimsuits, and classic designer purses met me at the door. And as I dug deeper, I encountered a collection of museum-quality, expertly maintained and curated sartorial vestiges of times past.   

The beating heart and brainchild of this place is Doris Raymond. She is an inspiring talent with decades of experience in curating vintage clothing, costume design for movies and TV, and as a muse to many top designers worldwide.

Raymond’s collection of garments and accessories by notable and daring designers spans the 20th century. On my most recent trip into the halls of this fashion Candy Land, I found an ’80s cocktail dress that was beaded and decorated with geometric patterns by British designer Zandra Rhodes. There I am, holding it up in the picture while wearing another find—a 70s V-neck disco top in a shimmery gold lamé material.

The author impressed by an intricately designed dress

Whether you want to have a Marilyn Monroe moment, spice up an evening with a 1920s frock, or just acquire an outrageous retro accessory, The Way We Wore is the place to look. You never know what you’ll find.

Poking around one of the racks on the second floor I found quite the outlier, an 18th-century, French Revolution–era embroidered wool coat. Wow! That took vintage to a whole new level for me.

If you are a vintage shopping newbie, the staff at The Way We Wore is warm, welcoming, and helpful to all. One of the store’s knowledgeable employees explained to me that the woman who shops here for evening wear must be bold. And it is no wonder that celebrities and their stylists frequent this vintage clothing temple to purchase items for the red carpet.

Also, just next door to the store is Doris’s private inspiration room—a fashion library she curates, said to house over a million swatches, where top designers come to muse with Doris about their future collections and to buy prints.

Truth be told, I’ve never been admitted into this secret room. It is reserved for designers working on looks that will ultimately be sold. But lucky for us, there is a documentary series called L.A. Frock Stars featuring Raymond, her store, and her inspiration room on the Smithsonian Channel on which you can get an inside perspective on it all.

After I’ve had my fill of shopping all the fabulous vintage stores along La Brea Avenue, I need a pick-me-up. And for that, I easily stroll on down to the restaurant Republique. Happy shopping!

What’s your favorite city for shopping?