BEST HIGH-END BARGAIN CLOTHING 2006 | Last Chance Bargain Shoes & Apparel | Shopping & Services | Phoenix
This category was created and has been sustained for Last Chance by a certain New Times writer so thoroughly addicted to the store that he now has 13 barely different pairs of top-shelf Italian ankle boots. This writer wonders, as does his wife, if Last Chance itself has made this man gay. No, no, on further thought, this is simply an asexual get-rich-quick obsession like gold fever. The shopper here is prospecting, digging through the ripped Pure Stuff short-staple cotton shirt that should cost a buck to find the perfect 100 percent cashmere Clan Douglas sweater for 98.2 percent off. For the persistent and studied, there is gold in them thar hills. For the green, more often fools' gold and frustration.
The best thing about resale clothing is that you can get a Marc Jacobs blouse for less than $100 and True Religion jeans for about $150 less than full retail price. The worst thing about resale clothing is that the blouse you just dropped $85 on isn't exactly your size, and those jeans are two inches too long. Don't even get us started on the hell of vintage clothing. We love it, but our closet's packed full of "project pieces" that we never got around to working on that dress that would look adorable if only it was shorter; that vintage tee that we were totally going to turn into a hot tank two summers ago. Which is why we're in love with Sunset Clothing Xchange for inviting tailor Karen Mealey to set up shop in its break room. Mealey has years of experience she's one of those I-used-to-make-outfits-for-my-Barbies kind of people. We're convinced she can do anything, from fixing a zipper, to hemming our pants (keeping the original seam!), to creating a jacket out of toilet seat covers. Really, she has one. And it looks great. We were already delighted with Sunset for supplying us with designer clothes we have to dig for hours at other resale shops to find. The fact that we don't have to pay full retail prices, and can have our clothes tailored exactly to our bodies all in one stop, is the reason Sunset makes us swoon.
With the asphalt melting under our soles in the triple-digit summer, shoes start to seem less like a fashion statement and more like a necessary evil. Those cool-looking Chucks and Docs give us sweaty toes and stinky feet, but walking around barefoot just isn't an option. Fortunately, there are flip-flops, and for the fashionistas who won't settle for some boring brown sandals, there are funky flip-flops at Go Kat Go. Whether you want to stand on some skeleton feet all summer long, or walk on some wicked-looking tiki heads, there's a pretty pair waiting on the racks here, from colorful polka-dot designs to classic black-and-white checkers. And you won't break the bank trying not to burn your feet, either there's not a pair on the shelves that costs more than 20 bucks. They'll even look good in winter, we promise.
Don't try this at home, kids. Every little girl wants pointe shoes as soon as she sees her first Nutcracker, but not every little girl will have them not if she has a good teacher, that is. Pointe is only for the right feet, the right body and the right student. If you're lucky (and hardworking enough) that your teacher says, "En pointe!" then hope she or he takes you nowhere but Barry's, where ballerinas big and small have been fitted for pointe shoes for decades. Barry's is also the one-stop shop for tights, leotards, lamb's wool all the accouterments a ballerina could ask for, except perhaps for the Band-Aids she'll no doubt need, after some time in those pointe shoes.
You can buy your jeans and flannel at Wal-Mart, cowboy, but when it comes to boots, you'd better find the best around. And we've found them for you, at David Espinoza's shop. It will take months, and it'll cost you almost $500, but you'll walk out of Espinoza Boot Maker with a pair of boots custom fit to your feet, with a one- or two-inch heel and the same attention to detail that the bootmakers of the 19th century turned to their craft. We know some picky cowpokes, and they say Espinoza is the place to go.
We don't recommend many chains in Best of Phoenix, but here's one we can't resist. Any time we feel our lives falling apart (and that's often), we head over to Cost Plus to find something to hold the pieces. We're never disappointed, particularly when there's a clearance sale. Even at full price, the enormous selection of imported baskets (big and small; rough and soft; colorful and earth-toned) makes us feel like we really can hold the whole world in our hands. Or, rather, our baskets.
When you walk into an antique store and dust doesn't fly, you know you're not going to score any rusty tin signs or Beanie Babies. So it is with Antique Gatherings, an 18,000-square-foot mall that's packed to the rafters with high-end goods. Though the dealer wares are constantly changing as with any antique mall this is a great place to start if you're seeking something on the order of a well-preserved armoire or fainting couch, a Tiffany lamp, Capodimonte porcelain figurines, Villeroy & Boch ceramics, or china/glassware by the likes of Hadley, Limoges, or Royal Daulton. Antique Gatherings also has a dealer who specializes in rare books, and there's a large booth in back where you can buy (non-vintage) incense, candles and other aromatic delights.
We hate the "retro" look. We're gonna hold out for the real thing. This is why we love Retro-Redux. It's not an Antiques Roadshow owner Beth Lipham is much more fun than that. Specializing in mid-century antiques, the store caters to the mod squad; lacquer lamps, laminate tables and fondue pots abound, without a Victorian armoire in sight. Not only that, Lipham keeps her prices well below book, so those of us without trust funds can afford to feel fancy. On a recent visit, we spotted a dining room set by mid-century furniture god Haywood Wakefield priced hundreds of dollars below its normal list price. Our favorite find? A black velvet picture of Saint Peter's crucifixion. It goes great with our new chartreuse sofa and bitter sense of irony.


Antique Outpost

Claustrophobics beware; this quaint little shop is so overstuffed with goodies that the merchandise overflows into the aisles, making patrons hold their breath, pull in the paunch, and scooch along sideways to navigate. The Antique Outpost is a throwback to the days when there were no such things as antique malls, just mom-and-pop shops like this one, which has been owned and operated by Winn and Frank Green since 1967. Pa Green is nowhere to be seen not that there'd be any room for him but Ma rules the roost from behind a tiny counter that's only slightly bigger than a breadbox. Like the Outpost itself, Winn's a real time-travel trip, chatting up customers with her bone-dry wit and sharing her intimate knowledge of, well, just about everything except eBay, an outlet she adamantly refuses to utilize, bless her stubborn heart. We say hurrah for her, though being eBayers ourselves we can't help salivating over her treasure trove of hard-to-find collectibles, which includes an offsite collection of 200,000-plus vintage postcards that's probably worth a cool mil all by itself.
This place used to be tied on our list with the Florence Crittendon Thrift Shop on Central Avenue as our fave odor-free find-a-bargain hot spot, but now that Flo has closed, Assistance League tops our list solo. Roomy, well-organized, and always chock-full of fabulous finds, Assistance League is the cleanest secondhand store in town. Its recent expansion has added another whole room of high-end, low-priced goodies; there's no crap to wade through to get to the best stuff. On our last visit, we bought a still-sealed Andy Williams Christmas album; a '50s chrome-and-plastic kitchen canister set; and a never-used electric pizzelle iron, all for just $16. But beware: This chic shop shuts down at 3 p.m. every day, and the blue-apron-clad workers begin advising customers of this fact about an hour before. We like to think that's because they need to get back out into the world to find us some more great stuff for next to no money. For which we're thankful.

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