Sorry, but no boys are allowed in here!” a salesgirl shouts, shielding a half-naked woman from the view of a man entering the warehouse.
“Go wait in the car, honey,” yells his girlfriend. She has deserted him to wriggle into a cloud of yellow chiffon.
Welcome to Shareen Downtown, a depot for hardcore vintage aficionados. There’s no sign out front. In fact, there’s no out front, only a pitted gravel road leading to a staircase braided with red tulle.
“I figured that my customers would find me here,” says proprietress Shareen Mitchell. “Anyone into vintage loves the hunt.” She parlayed her popular vintage booth at a weekly Melrose flea market into this 2,000-square-foot raw space in November. Her own original designs, like seersucker rompers, draw customers, too.
On a recent Saturday, about 20 women browsed racks that were sorted by style and color. A few girls crouched over a pile of shoes like hungry cheetahs pawing at carrion.
“The Edie Sedgwick look is going to be so big when ‘Factory Girl’ comes out,” exclaims Mitchell, holding up a Mary Quant-inspired mini shift dress. Women pounce on the rack, where shifts sell for between $28 and $45.
Part of the appeal is rock-bottom pricing — nothing is marked with a tag, but everything costs between $18 and $150. (Mitchell assesses each item’s worth in the moment.) That’s a pittance compared with prices at Paper Bag Princess in Beverly Hills, where a vintage couture party dress typically goes for about $1,000. Mitchell’s racks may not be dripping with Courreges, but the items are curated and clean.
“You have to get out of L.A. to get a deal on vintage these days. The prices are so inflated,” says stylist Nicole Chavez, who dresses Rachel Bilson in bygone designer pieces. Chic types like Kirsten Dunst and Zooey Deschanel also have been spotted here.
Mitchell, too, is a stylist-in-residence. She gently sizes up each woman and then presents a selection of items. “I look at her hips and her waist to see which style will work best,” she says.
There’s only one unspoken rule among clientele: Don’t shop and tell. “My friend made me promise that I wouldn’t tell anyone else about this place,” says a patron, who, for obvious reasons, asks not to be named. “She, like, threatened me.”
3294 26th St., (323) 264-3294.
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Look sharp: There are no dressing rooms. Wear first-date underclothes and bring a strapless bra.
Snap up: Ferragamo wedges, eyelet frocks and slinky pantsuits by Shareen.