Vintage Clothing Shopping

During spring break I headed downtown with one purpose: To find a dress for the Museum of Art and Archaelogy’s Paintbrush Ball. My friend Karyn came along to zip and unzip.

We started at Absolute Vintage, located at 923 E. Broadway, the smallest of the three shops that we would visit. It’s all vintage, just as the sign states.  It’s a small shop, so we were able to look through everything.  We found some interesting dresses, including weird see-through and even weirder apron ones.  Those must have been short fads. 

At Absolute Vintage, everything is displayed nicely and easy to browse through, with all the full-length frocks hung way up high.  There was one that I liked, but it looked a little big.  There were no sizes to be seen, so we were guessing from the ground below.  We moved on without trying anything on.

Our second stop was Maude Vintage at 818 E. Broadway.  This shop has items for sale and items for rent.  I had intended to buy, but decided that renting would be a good option also.  I wanted something unusual, and there are only so many occasions to wear an odd full-length dress in Columbia.

There is a lot more inventory at Maude, but the shopping was a little easier.  Once again, the fancy stuff was up high, but at this shop they were all marked with sizes and/or waist measurements.  No need to try on the simple black ballgown because the waist was two inches too small for me.  After choosing a couple, the owner took us downstairs and showed us some rentals that she thought would work.  She was spot-on for size; I think that she’s been doing this for a while.

I tried on four dresses, from a giant red ballgown to a little brown velvet dress.  The velvet was my favorite, but a little too short for my super-long arms.  Knowing that it would have to be altered, we left it at the store, keeping it as a last resort.  Maude’s Vintage has a ton of inventory, but the help was excellent and it was easy to find what we were looking for.  Karyn bought a couple of rings and we moved on.

Our final stop was Leo’s Old Clothes, located at 9 N. 9th Street, above Dryer’s Shoes.  It was a little dark up there, and more than a little dusty, but we didn’t care because we had found a bounty.  There were racks and racks of evening gowns of all types.  Nothing was organized by size, but the clerk was working on that while we were shopping.  It’s not an easy job because sizing has changed over the years; give Leo’s some time to get everything organized nicely.

A few scarves at Leo's.

Karyn and I found at least a dozen dresses that were possibilities.  Like we found in the other stores, the clerk was extremely nice and helpful.  Since our shopping trip, I have heard some negative comments on Leo’s which I’ll address: Yes, it’s dusty, but both Karyn and I have actual dust allergies, and we were fine.  No, it doesn’t smell like cat poop at all, although I did see a cat.  No, the clothes do not smell musty. 

The winner, a superstar dress.

The winning dress turned out to be a rental, so for twenty dollars, I’ll look fabulous at the ball.  The fit is perfect, even long enough to cover comfortable dancing shoes.  The runner-up was hard to pass up though.  Someone sewed a bunch of peacock feathers on a blue dress and called it a day.

And the runner-up, Miss Peacock.

We enjoyed shopping at all the stores, but Leo’s was our favorite.  The prices are great and the selection is amazing.  I have plans to check out the more casual clothing when I pick up my fabulous rental for the ball.


  1. Mad props that you used the word “frocks.” It’s a favorite word of mine that I never get to use.

  2. You missed out on my favorite downtown secondhand store, New Beginning on 10th Street (little red door behind Poppy). They have a HUGEGANTIC GINORMOUS selection of formal wear, if you are looking for something they will open up the back room where it’s all stashed. They also have tons and tons of well sorted and reasonably priced daily wear clothes.

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