Thrift, vintage, secondhand: what’s the difference and where can they be found? Prepare to be enlightened by our indispensable guide to sourcing the best secondhand clothing in Prague.
While many of us coming here from abroad have long embraced retromania, vintage fashion confuses most Czechs . Why would you want to wear something old? Isn’t that dress just like one my grandma had? Wouldn’t that fabric look better in a pair of curtains?
Newcomers can’t fail to notice that there are secondhand clothing stores on practically every street corner of Prague. However, what they offer isn’t really vintage.
Time to get technical. In order to be considered vintage, an item of clothing must be at least twenty years old. The stock of the average sekáč fails to qualify as it consists of used high street labels bought in bulk from abroad. Anglická móda doesn’t mean Camden cool but faded t-shirts, tired denim and bobbly sweaters in nasty acrylic. The chances of stumbling upon that quirky key piece from the past which will add a style injection to your wardrobe are slim.
However, there are treasures among the trash if you know where to look. Some sekáče do offer better quality threads. Prague has a handful of genuine thrift stores too. If you’re a true retro devotee, then there are also vintage boutiques aimed at fans of style from a bygone era.
The sekáč: style graveyard or fashion treasure trove?
It’s undeniably true that the average Czech secondhand clothing store is more style graveyard than fashion treasure trove.
Having said that, even the most unpromising sekáč usually contains a few gems if you hunt hard enough. It’s tough to generalise about where to head for, but secondhand shopping virgins could begin at Second Street Boutique on Jugoslavská. There’s no off-putting, overpowering musty smell, and the store has a decent selection of high street labels like Next as well as some new items. If you’re ready for some hardcore rummaging, they have a huge 50 CZK bin, where I found a cute floral print Primark summer dress. Mission accomplished.
Texile House has several branches across the city which are worth scouting out – there’s one tucked away behind the My department store at Národní třída and another at tram stop Nábřeží Kapitána Jaroše – so you can keep an eye out for their clearance days, when all stock is reduced to 75 CZK, 40 CZK or even 20 CZK. During one recent discount day I got my hands on a floaty lilac silk summer dress by Morgan for less than the price of a Starbucks mocchacino.
Another personal favourite source of bargains is at Na Knížecí. Wind your way through the Vietnamese market opposite the bus station and you’ll eventually find tables piled high with secondhand clothing priced from 20 CZK to 50 CZK. I recently scored some vintage tweed M&S culottes for only 20 CZK, a pair of Next trousers for 40 CZK and a fiery orange puff sleeved jersey top for 50 CZK. This kind of shopping is not for the fainthearted – be prepared to rummage – but you’ll feel super smug if you manage to pick out a treasure from the trash.
Thrift store: a win-win scenario
A sekáč is run for profit; a thrift store exists to make money for charity. Its stock comes from donations. As most Czechs are unused to giving things away, this means most of the items on offer come from expats, so you’re guaranteed to find a range of decent brands for a snip of the usual price. Grabbing a bargain while supporting a good cause: it’s a win-win scenario.
Sue Ryder has several charity shops which raise funds to support their work with the elderly. I frequently pop into the Štěpánská store located just off Wenceslas Square. It may be small, but is an excellent source of reasonably priced second hand threads. On a recent visit, I spotted a brand new Gap linen maternity dress for 300 CZK and pulled a tangerine cotton H&M sweater out of the 20 CZK bin: perfect for this season’s colour blocking trend.
Where to find true vintage
You’ll find most of Prague’s vintage boutiques in Old Town, which means you can combine an afternoon of browsing through the rails with a leisurely stroll around the prettiest parts of the city.
Start at Laly, tucked away in Štupartská, one of the winding streets behind Týn Church. The eccentric décor and period music make it a fun place to linger and browse.
Purists may be disappointed to find that not everything on offer here is strictly vintage – some of the clothes were modern high street labels rather than the real deal – but there are still some fantastic genuine retro pieces. I spotted a 1960’s scarlet shift dress guaranteed to transform the wearer into a Bond girl sex-kitten for an affordable 450 CZK.
Vintage on Michalská offers both new designer as well as retro pieces but often with a hefty price tag. Further along the street, Galerie Art Deco has some genuine vintage clothing amongst the bric-a-brac as well as a decent selection of hats and handbags. The recently opened Diva on Karolíny Světlé has transformed the premises of former vintage store Toilette into a space devoted to emerging Czech fashion designers and retro clothing. Don’t be fooled by the name — Nana Vogue is definitely the most upmarket, stocking vintage pieces alongside the designer labels you’d be familiar with after a stroll along Pařížská.
Expect its prices to reflect this. Nearby new kid on the retro block Origami is also worth a visit, stocking a mix of genuine vintage and contemporary high street brands.
Die-hard vintage fans must make the trip to Žižkov’s Bohemian Retro.
The shop is an Aladdin’s cave of sartorial delights with a huge range of both men and women’s vintage clothing. There’s also an impressive array of accessories to choose from, including sunglasses, handbags, badges and necklaces. On my visit I spotted a canary yellow silk shirt 1980s dress for 400 CZK and a zebra print kaftan. Spend an hour in the store and I defy you to fail to find the ultimate key piece that guarantees you’ll stand out from the fashion herd this summer.