Vintage of Columbia: Where to find your new favorite old clothes

Update your wardrobe with throwback pieces.

By Nat Kaemmerer | Oct. 5, 2016

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Vintage stores give old clothes new life, and Columbia has multiple places where you can find some great old fashions. Three downtown Columbia stores — Leo’s Vintage, Maude Vintage and Absolute Vintage — offer three slightly different takes on the trend. All the clothes are unique, so you can stand out from the modern crowd.

Check out these places, and remember: Everything was fashionable at one time. Don’t be afraid to get a little wacky.

Leo’s Vintage:

Going to Leo’s may take a while. Once you head up the squeaky, glittery stairs and get into the store, you’ll see why.

There are clothes, books, hats, costumes from every era, paintings, posters, boxes of records, puppets, dolls, postcards, typewriters and probably more that you’ll have to look around for. There’s also a cat. Her name is Erskine.

“It’s from everywhere,” longtime employee Sarah Billington said. “Flea markets, small town bazaars, garage sales. For the most part, we buy them, but some people donate.”

Prices at Leo’s run pretty low. You can get a good pair of jeans for less than $20 or T-shirts for about $5. The store has various price ranges for different items, and it judges what to charge for each item based on its condition and how replaceable the item is. Leo’s repairs things in shop, Billington said.

Leo’s doesn’t give plastic bags to its customers. Instead, they make their own bags out of old clothes or items that can’t be turned around and sold because of their condition.

There are some fascinating things sitting amongst the boxes and shelves and hanging from clothing racks, walls and ceilings. One dress, on the ceiling near the counter, is from around 1912, Billington said. As Halloween draws closer, they’ll get more and more costumes.

“It’s eclectic,” Billington said. “We have everything from truly vintage to modern. It’s just a little bit of everything, plus a cat.”

Find Leo’s at 9 N. Ninth Street and check it out Monday through Saturday from 1-6 p.m.

Maude Vintage:

It would be difficult to find replicas of what you see in Maude Vintage anywhere else. This chic store is the perfect spot to create a unique wardrobe.

“I work hard to select what’s in the store,” owner Sabrina Garcia-Rubio said.

Garcia-Rubio travels and has a network of contacts to find vintage clothes to sell at Maude. She works to find bargains and good prices on quality items.

“In the vintage world, they’d call people like me 'pickers,'” she said.

All the clothes in Maude are vintage or vintage-inspired. When Garcia-Rubio or her employees buy items for the store, they keep in mind the condition and wearability of the products.

“The vintage I try to buy needs to relate to current trends,” Garcia-Rubio said. “I’m not looking for many collectables.”

Though some clothes are from modern brands, the store is trying to get more actual vintage counterparts to those modern brands so they can be phased out. They want to stick to their brand, Garcia-Rubio said. All of what you’ll see, however, is definitely unique.

“We try to make the mannequins look awesome,” employee Gabrielle Parish said. “We change them once a week, and if you go around, you can tell who dressed which one.”

Maude always has elaborate, eye-catching window displays. Recently, it’s been a Roots N Blues N BBQ-themed window, and there have been True/False ones in the past. Garcia-Rubio has even done politically themed windows before.

“I do windows on things I 100 percent believe in,” Garcia-Rubio said. “My goal is a new window every month.”

Not everything in the store is used or upcycled clothing. Local artists can find a place to sell here. There are bowls created by Arlene Morris and made of old records, a rack of sparkly booty shorts called the “Booty Boutique” and jewelry by various artists. Toward the back, near the costume section, there’s a table with old magazines as well as local zines.

“It’s a very cool, fun, artistic outlet,” Parish said.

Find your style at Maude Vintage from noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday at 818 E. Broadway.

Absolute Vintage:

Inspired by the '70s? Head to Absolute Vintage, a store that focuses on stocking clothes from then and earlier.

Here you’ll find an eclectic variety of clothes, hats, dresses, jewelry, costumes and costume jewelry. Lining the wall near the ceiling is a collection of unique prom dresses from the 1950s. All of what’s in the store is vintage or vintage-inspired.

“We focus on the ’70s and earlier, but we do include some contemporary items that have classic appeal,” owner Jennifer Johnson said. “For example, we’ll include a ’70s-inspired cardigan.”

There are a lot of pieces here that you may not wear around campus daily, but could still add some uniqueness to your wardrobe or something that you could pull out in case of a costume or themed party. Get a little adventurous and try some of the loud print shirts or the dresses whose patterns have definitely seen different eras.

Prices here vary, but they typically run pretty low. Some of the more unique pieces might call for a higher price tag, though.

“It mainly depends on what I pay for it,” Johnson said. “I might do some research online and go for the midrange price of that.”

Now that Halloween is coming closer, the store will start pulling out more of its costumes. There are some to rent and some to buy. Johnson also stocks a fair amount of wigs, tights and accessories in Absolute Vintage. Add extra flair to a unique costume with some of the costume jewelry.

“Some are rent only, and some are purchase only,” Johnson said. “This year, I’d say it’s 60 percent purchase, 40 percent rent.”

Check out Absolute Vintage at 923 E. Broadway from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

“The more, the merrier!” Johnson said.

Edited by Katie Rosso | krosso@themaneater.com

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