Best Place to Buy Vintage Clothing 2015 | Antique Sugar | Goods & Services | Phoenix

A friend visiting from England whined, "Your vintage clothing stores are a downer. More like costume shops." So we took her to Antique Sugar and she shut the hell up. This is the place for fabulous yesteryear threads, and its expanded stock in its new location (Sugar recently relocated from midtown to groovy downtown digs) is even better than it once was — and that was pretty darn good. There we typically find couture attire, '70s garments perfect for those pesky disco parties people keep throwing, and the best selection of midcentury lounging pajamas you'll ever see. Recent impossible-but-true finds include 1940s still-in-the-box navy blue silk stockings, dyed-fabric pumps (in our size!), and a 1963 Elizabeth Arden frock coat with the tags hanging off. Also surprising is this boss boutique's wide array of men's duds, a rarity in any vintage clothing store.

We needed a 1960s Underwood typewriter (with intact ribbon), a wire dress form, and a set of French Saxon Star-Flower dishware, and we needed it now. We didn't realize, of course, that all this vintage stuff was lacking in our lives or that we could get it in one place and for pennies on the dollar until we found ourselves at Brass Armadillo, where all this and more lay in wait. Conveniently located just off Interstate 17 and chockablock with gorgeous old stuff, the Armadillo is open till 9 p.m. seven days a week, for those of us jonesing for a post-dinner hunt for a mint-in-box Howdy Doody rag doll or a pair of Everwood side tables in mint condition and priced perfectly. Nicely organized with street signs, the Brass boulevards of merchant boutiques are neatly arranged and frequently restocked, so repeat trips are a must. We love the rows and rows of glass cases full of rare and pretty small items (Hey, is that a 1959 Barbie doll?), and the friendly staff who wraps our purchases so carefully, too.

A Shawnee Farmer Pig cookie jar for 30 bucks. A telephone table painted turquoise. A lady-head vase with barely any chips on her hat. A mantel clock, a painting of a dog wearing a raincoat. An Oxfordware bowl with only a little crazing. We practically needed a wheelbarrow the first time we shopped at Ilona's, the stuff was so cool and the prices so reasonable. Did we need that mantel clock, that amber glass centerpiece vase, the Harker Corinthian gravy boat? No. But we had to have it, because who knows when we'll find such fun stuff at such low prices ever again? (Actually, we do — always, and always at Ilona's.

Scottsdale must be the place to go for big-ticket, high-style old furniture. Right? Nope. We head to downtown Tempe and Rare Lion, really the best place to find Napoleonic desks, a Virtuoso bookcase, or a pristine Paimio settee. Vintage smalls also are available at this superb shop filled to the rafters with exquisite old jewelry, super-collectible high-end ceramics, and even some vintage paper products. Rare Lion also offers appraisals of your collectibles, and its on-site gemologist can help you determine whether that 90-year-old cocktail ring is clad with gemstones or just pretty glass.

When it comes to Retro Ranch, the priority is given to quality over quantity. The store is not as big as some of the others in Melrose District, but that just means the midcentury finds are more concentrated. The staff fills the limited space it has with the best pieces it comes across when hunting for midcentury furniture, clothing, and accessories. But then Retro takes it to the next level by creating eye-grabbing displays with its wares. Its slogan is "Swagger on in . . .," but we think you'll be walking with more of a spring in your step when you're walking out with something you just can't wait for your house guests to ask about.

When you walk into Modern on Melrose, you may think you've walked into a midcentury design museum instead of an antique store. The staff has created such well-designed miniature room setups with all of its midcentury furniture that it's difficult to walk away from each one not wanting to purchase everything and re-create it exactly the same way in your own home. Because, c'mon! Would anything go as well with the pattern on that 1953 couch than those orange wool throw pillows? Plus the staff is helpful and knowledgeable without any of the pretentiousness too often found in high-end specialty stores.

Here is what you need to be happy (and to furnish that groovy Ralph Haver home you just closed on): Six Mario Bellini for Cassina leather cab chairs, an Adrian Pearsall walnut slate and upholstered sofa, and a Carpathian elm and brass sideboard designed by Harold Schwartz. In that case, there's only one place to go, and it's to Red. This longtime purveyor of high-end, pristine-quality midcentury furnishings and art has what you need if what you need is a little better than the stuff at the local antique mall. Beautifully restored sofas and chairs, still-perfect end tables and lanais, and that chrome bar you've always fantasized about. It's better to be Red.

When it comes to Midcentury Modern, Arizona is a gold mine of mint-condition treasures. Tapping into the retro resource is professional picker Dominic Fasano. The chef turned home décor hunter has an eye for all things Atomic Age and collectible, thanks in part to his job at vintage furnishings store Modern Manor. When he's not refurbishing products for retail or reclaiming them as his own in his 1965 Al Beadle Boardwalk condominium, Fasano finds an eager market on Instagram. Followers of Fasano are privy to his most recent finds: Eames chairs, Bitossi ceramics — pretty much anything that looks as though it came off the set of Mad Men. And though Fasano may never disclose where he gets such retro goods, he is willing to sell them directly to his social media-based customers. Midcentury without the middle man? We'll take it.

What should we do if bitten by a venomous snake while hiking? What if our car breaks down in the middle of the desert and we have no cell service? What wild plants in our backyard are edible and which ones will kill us? Well, you can learn the answers to these questions by taking any of Ancient Pathways' desert survival classes. The company is based in Flagstaff but teaches all over the state. You can sign up for a one-day course in primitive and modern desert survival tactics, and you'll learn about building emergency shelters and locating water. If you're more adventurous, you can sign up for a three-day intensive course and learn all about tracking animals, capturing wild game, and using the stars to navigate. There's plenty of outdoor hands-on experience, and head instructor Tony Nester has taught survival skills to Army Special Operations and U.S. Border Patrol agents. If you want to impress your friends — or just make it out alive should disaster strike — then Ancient Pathways has your back.

2532 North Fourth Street, Flagstaff

After stints working in nurseries and the Department of Agriculture, Michael Lanier couldn't contain his knack for raising plants to the confines of his home in downtown Phoenix's Garfield neighborhood. Lanier took his green thumb public this year, opening The Bosque inside monOrchid gallery on Roosevelt Row. Living up to its botanical name, the plant boutique offers apartment-friendly greenery with an assortment of cactus and succulents, as well as pothos plants. Though Lanier's focus is on low-maintenance desert flora, he also offers such non-native oddities as coconut trees and coffee plants and takes special orders. With a little water and some guidance from Lanier, aspiring horticulturists can go green with ease.

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