ONCE YOU'VE GRADUATED from college and immediately land that high-paying gig (snicker) you'll be able to shop the fantastic boutiques of Portland and have your duds done up by the city's finest designers and tailors. But let's face it: Until that day, it's going to be all about a clever combination of thrift and vintage (and free box) hunting with the occasional assist from American Apparel and your mom.
And you're in luck! Before this town was chockablock with curated independent stores, it was known primarily to shoppers as a vintage paradise, where pieces can be found for a fraction of what they go for in other picked-over cities. From North Portland yard sales to secret Lents basements full of unworn '60s-era shoes, secondhand shopping is like a treasure hunt—part of the point is to find your own way, and then closely guard information about your favored spots. But there are a few places you should know about to get you started outside of the standard Goodwill/Red Light/Buffalo Exchange/Crossroads information that's probably already listed in your school's student handbook.
• Rad Summer (1 SE 28th) is a good spot to begin your foraging expedition down E Burnside. Full of funky selections for men and women plus the odd extra—like a recently added essential oil made from Portland-grown tomato leaves—there's always interesting music playing and usually someone equally interesting behind the counter. And don't leave the vicinity without popping by Nationale (2730 E Burnside)—where you'll find tiny French imports like candy and toiletries, music and reading as well as a smattering of vintage shoes and scarves—and Smut (7 SE 28th) for old records, accessories, and assorted funky knickknacks and doodads.
• Hattie's Vintage (729 E Burnside, Ste. 101), Rock 'n' Rose (616 E Burnside), and Bombshell Vintage (811 E Burnside) are another great cluster on the Burnside strip. All three are gloriously crammed with good selections, but I look first to Bombshell for party clothes, Hattie's for shoes, and Rock 'n' Rose for casual menswear.
• Downtown, bypass the mall and head to Avalon Antiques (410 SW Oak), especially if you are a young man looking to add a touch of intellectual dandyism to your look; the impeccably preserved specimens at Decades Vintage (328 SW Stark); and the orgiastic costume jewelry offerings at Magpie (520 SW 9th). There are also a few notable treasure-hunting spots in the shoppy Nob Hill area, should you venture further west, like Keep 'em Flying Clothing (510 NW 21st) and the William Temple House (2023 NW Hoyt).
• Back on the Eastside, the Clinton/Division neighborhood is also peppered with choice spots, like the longstanding Xtabay Vintage (2515 SE Clinton), filled with beautiful occasion pieces and affordable-luxury bonuses like good soap and nail polish. And if you want to take all guessing out of the equation, The Sixer (3611 SE Division) is stocked with salvaged goods that are all priced across the board at $6. SIX dollars!
Now, go forth and plunder!