Wedged in between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, UCLA students have no shortage of places to shop for clothes. However, high price tags can limit shopping options for money-conscious students on a college budget. Each week, columnist Linda Xu explores different secondhand shops in Los Angeles and discusses her thrifty outfits.
Tucked away from the bustle of upscale clothing chains lining the Third Street Promenade lies Crossroads Trading Co., a shopping destination easily missed if not for a deep Google Maps search.
Growing weary from the noise pollution and tourist traps on 3rd Street, I turned the corner on Broadway avenue and found myself bathed in the glowing light of the storefront.
Unlike other thrift stores, Crossroads is immaculately organized. For customers who go in knowing exactly what they want, the search is short and sweet; for those who like to be surprised, it can be uninspiring. I wanted to leave with something unexpected, a rare piece I normally wouldn’t gravitate toward. However, the generic selection left much to be desired.
Each section of the shop is sorted with Dewey Decimal-like accuracy – first by size, then by a crisp gradient of color. However, the hospital-white walls and lack of any decoration made the space feel cold and featureless. The sterile atmosphere was augmented by the scant number of customers and employees, missing the quintessential clutter and coziness of the thrifting experience.
The racks were filled with basic options that seemed untouched from previous decades. Forgotten relics from the early 2000s, such as shrunken jean jackets and flowery chiffon blouses, mired the store in dated trends that haven’t made a comeback. Hangers displayed shirts covered in stripes or outdated patterns.
Growing up in Seattle, I had an early introduction to secondhand shopping. Thrifting was woven into the culture of the Pacific Northwest long before the Macklemore era, inspiring my desire to experiment with different trends.
I hoped to broaden my stylistic range, distancing myself from the familiar comfort I find in a pair of casual jeans and a men’s button-down shirt. I was looking to be delighted by eye-catching prints or eccentric silhouettes, something to flesh out my tiny dorm closet. Perhaps I set my expectations too high for this particular shop.
Even the T-shirt section, a go-to stop for casually offbeat designs, was ultimately fruitless. After rifling through one too many slogan tees bearing phrases such as “Célfie” and “Lay-Z,” I was too disheartened to continue.
Crossroads’ only redeeming points were its price points and quality.
The shop carried midrange clothing brands such as Zara and Topshop for around $10 to $20, less than a third of retail value. Considering the items were of retail quality – devoid of loose threads or concerning stains – the price was more than justified.
I’m a complete sucker for a good deal, and sales associates always seem to prey on my weakness – my frugal Achilles heel. After I was informed that the back half of the store carried half-price items, I was off to the races.
Scouring through literally every piece of clothing in the back end of the store and sifting through a remarkable number of ill-fitting blazers, it took me nearly half an hour to find anything that piqued my interest. I was missing the “love at first sight” or “You complete me” moment that usually strikes me when thrifting for clothes. The search was entirely emotionless – tedious almost.
The orderly tidiness of the store was a double-edged sword, and I had been slain. If I wanted to sort through racks of the same colors, I would have gone to a department store.
I finally found two pieces that I could rationalize buying – an airy black dress and a gray tube skirt to tuck it into. The cashier rang my total up to $14.25, a fair price for an elegant ensemble, one that I certainly did not feel bad about spilling maple syrup on at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles the following evening.
In my waffle-induced stupor, I had effectively ruined the top half of my dress, but I couldn’t have cared less about my sticky situation considering how little I spent on the fancy piece.
I was not in love with my purchase and even less satisfied with my experience at the secondhand shop. I left without that post-thrifting glow, the excitement from finding one-of-a-kind items in a chaotic mess of clothes.
Walking out, I spotted a couple of brightly dressed women in heels waiting to sell their used clothes, preening like fashionable peacocks. I couldn’t help but think that their trendy wares unfortunately wouldn’t end up on the racks at Crossroads, where stripes constituted the most daring pattern in the store.