Sunday, January 26

Cents of Style: Five tips to help navigate the bustling Melrose Trading Post

(Photo by Kristie-Valerie Hoang/Daily Bruin, photo illustration by LeAnn Woo/Graphics director)

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.

A trip to the Melrose Trading Post requires a comprehensive road map and an ample amount of time.

The outdoor flea market runs every Sunday, and vendors sell everything from vintage clothing to oil paintings in the open courtyard of Fairfax High School.

Working around my schedule, I attempted to fit a day’s worth of shopping into two hour-long treks. I did a quick walk-around when the market opened at 9 a.m. and returned just before it closed at 5 p.m. Vendors began packing up their wares and organizers started announcing last-calls.

[Last Week: Cents of Style: Nonprofit Stray Cat Thrift offers feline finds among vintage gems]

However, a full day is necessary to truly soak in the booths and root out the best prices. New items are sold each Sunday, but after a few visits throughout the year, I’ve started to pick up on a couple of habits that make navigating the market a little easier.

Tip 1: Bring cash.

Entry is $3 and bringing cash is handier than having to swipe a card, which can be pesky and time consuming.

Tip 2: Go early.

The last time I visited the Sunday market, I went around noon and entered into panic mode. I repeatedly got lost among a midday throng of people. This time, I arrived in the early morning and experienced a much more laidback trip, without the pressure of a hundred people sifting through a single rack of clothes.

I walked among the casually hip patrons who sauntered around the tents in Adidas slides, periodically taking a sip from boxed waters, perusing through shelves of succulents and carefully examining pairs of vintage Levi’s.

Many of the booths catered to the trendy elite. I surveyed a countless supply of high-waisted shorts and distressed band tees, which I found pretty unremarkable.

Instead, the beauty of the market lies in the miscellany of its vendors. It’s not only a place to shop for clothes, but also a stop for antique furniture, vegan skincare and $15 shiatsu massages.

Why try on 10 iterations of the same mom jeans when I can look through brooches from the 1940s or old books that have been turned into clocks?

Although I’ve been to smaller residential flea markets, I’ve never encountered such an extensive selection in the heart of a bustling neighborhood. But in true flea market spirit, the real fun is scoring the best deals.

Tip 3: Don’t impulse buy.

Although many vendors sell the same type of clothing, they often sell them at very different price points. It’s advantageous to do a quick walk-around before hastily making a purchase, since many vendors don’t allow refunds or exchanges.

For example, I saw a vendor selling racks of high-waisted cutoff shorts priced at $35 each, while another tent on the other side of the courtyard had a bucket of similar styles for $5.

[Read More: Cents of Style: Wasteland’s steep prices overshadow eclectic offerings]

I have often fallen victim to buying an expensive, cool flannel without realizing there were a hundred more I could’ve bought for much cheaper.

Tip 4: Watch out for moving vehicles.

I almost got run over by a snow cone truck. Keep your eyes up.

Tip 5: Keep an open mind.

All in all, it’s difficult to leave the market without buying something – at least one tent will cater to you. Perhaps it’s the steampunk booth that sells pink bondage harnesses, or maybe the booth that only carries vintage typewriters.

Whatever you’re looking for, I’m sure it can be found.

As for me, I left with a pair of sunglasses with questionable UV protection, a blouse, a body scrub and a delicious almond croissant.

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