Orange National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) jumpsuits, 1920s sequin dresses, and red cowboy boots are some of the gems you can find at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California. Open every second Sunday of the month, the market features over 2,500 vendors that offer everything from vintage phonographs to tarot card readings.
Starting at 9 a.m., admission tickets are $9 each (early admission tickets are sold at higher prices for those who want first bid on all the items). The vendors that circle around the stadium mainly sell new merchandise, so it’s the large open area next to the stadium that I found myself most drawn to. There, antique and vintage merchandise dominate the racks and setups, which is heaven for dedicated vintage and thrift shoppers.
There’s certainly something for everyone, though patience is key to finding beautiful items to take home. Maybe it’s a pair of white vintage Gucci jeans with beaded flowers running down the legs, a 1960s embroidered camera strap, or a $10 puffy bright yellow jacket that looks exactly the same as the one you saw grace the Fenty x Puma runway last season.
That’s why it’s important to arrive early and set aside a good amount of time to look through every piece. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and do adopt a “buy-it-now” mentality to avoid losing out on what could be a style-defining piece.
However, if your style is more muted and casual, the racks of vintage jeans and $5 tees are surely calling your name.
Denim, in particular, is abundant at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. High-rise, low-rise, cropped, flared, straight-leg, ripped, and boyfriend styles are all available in short and long lengths. Overalls and jean jackets also make many appearances, in the form of vintage brands like Levi’s and Wrangler.
These pieces are often sold elsewhere for more than $50. But at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, you can get them for $20 or less if you find the right stall. Whatever your style or choice of clothing, it’s definitely sold cheaper here than the average vintage shop.
Smaller, unobtrusive fashion finds include silk scarves, pins, and funky patches that you can seamlessly add to your wardrobe for that pop of color. Remember that you can always bargain if the listed price isn’t ideal — vendors are almost always open to discounts if you are polite.
And if you’re not looking to buy clothing?
Music fiends can buy vinyl records from the 1950s and photographers have an array of vintage Polaroids to choose from. Ceramic tableware, (faux) fur-covered stools, and woven hammocks can also be bought as dorm essentials and accessories. Many flea market go-ers even bring carts and suitcases along.
Raji Rajkumar SC ’21 recommends looking at the stalls that sell handmade items.
“The creativity and level of artistry of all the people there is pretty incredible,” Rajkumar said.
One final tip: Bring cash! Although many vendors accept debit or credit, cash is the fail-safe method of payment to ensure that you can buy your one-of-a-kind item. Sunglasses and a hat are also useful for shielding the California sun.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your shopping goal is. What’s most important in thrifting or flea market shopping is that you have an open mind — you really never know what you’ll find.
Mabel Lui SC ’21 is a media studies and art major from Hong Kong. She previously served as TSL’s managing editor, life and style editor, life and style associate and life and style writer.