This summer I had the good luck to visit the Marais District for several days—an area known for excellent second-hand and vintage clothes shopping in Paris.
Below, I’ll tell you what I liked about places I visited, along with some strategies for vintage clothes shopping in this city.
First, a word about language. The French word “fripes” loosely translates as second-hand clothes that tend to be of similar quality to what you’d find in an American thrift shop.
As in the U.S., the word “vintage” also seems to be used in France with some confusion.
Younger shoppers may use it the way we do in America, referring to clothes that are only twenty or even ten years old. But my friend Yseult, who’s over 50 and a former Hermes’ employee, told me “vintage” usually implies nicer, older clothes with an actual pedigree.
On my Marais shopping day, I basically wanted to go thrifting in Paris. I was looking for fripes.
At the shops I visited, trend-conscious buyers have curated mountains of second-hand clothes looking for current style value. The pieces cover a range of quality levels, and they may or may not be old enough to qualify as vintage in the U.S.
Prices at these “friperies” are higher than your average thrift shop, but still accessible (dresses run from 5-15 euros--approx. $6-20).
My destination: Free’p’Star and Vintage by Ramin. Both of these are on Rue St. Croix de la Bretonnerie—a tiny old street in the heart of the funky, historic Marais.
And so, one afternoon while my travel mates went off to the Champs Elysees, this mouse went out to play…
Free’p’Star, 8 Rue St. Croix de la Bretonnerie.
Free’p’Star is something of an establishment in Paris and has three boutiques in the 4th arrondissement. You could visit them all in one afternoon, although I only went to one.
KINDS OF INVENTORY: Cut-off shorts, lots of scarves, leather jackets, military jackets, and a great rack of white cotton blouses. Sale room in the basement—be careful on the teeny spiral staircase. Did I mention all the scarves? Prices: Moderate. Dresses regular prices are 10-15 euro ($13-20), with sale prices about 5 euro ($6).
Free’p’Star also has frequently updated stock. I went back a couple days after my first visit and found a lot of new things, all equally good.
Vintage by Ramin, 17 Rue St. Croix de la Bretonnerie.
This shop is newer than Free’p’Star and about the same size. It’s catering to a similar market and prices are about the same. Worth checking out.
KINDS OF INVENTORY: Along with the usual stuff, I liked the selection of lots and lots of shirts for men and women. Quite a few 60s and 70s-era vintage dresses. The 1-euro sale bin in the back was full of vintage (and I do mean vintage) Speedos on the day I visited.
STRATEGIES for THRIFT and VINTAGE SHOPPING in PARIS:
Avoid crowds. Especially if you’re used to American shops, second-hand clothes shops in Paris are tiny and feel cramped with even half a dozen other customers. Go early, late, or on a weekday.
Plan ahead for trying on. Recommend wearing a bodysuit or something else you can strip down to for trying things on—there’s not much private space for trying on.
Communicate. Know some basic French phrases. Be courteous. Although I’d bet a chocolate croissant you’ll hear American music, you’re on their turf. The customer is not always right.
Other second-hand and vintage clothing shops in Paris: See this excellent list from Paul and Sophie.