To spend your time wisely shopping in Paris's Marais, pass over the French-brand chains you can find elsewhere in the city—at locations that are often larger and less crowded—in favor of vintage shopping at a friperie. What you'll find at these second-hand boutiques is anything but second-rate: some carry a mix of well-priced items to give your wardrobe a euro-touch, while others specialize in rare and exceptional stand-outs that would make a statement in Paris's chicest wardrobes. We hit all the charming side streets in the hood to suss out the top shops. Your best bet is to visit them Tuesday through Saturday, between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Best for Vintage Basics
The owners of Pretty Box scour Europe for unique pieces from the 20s through the 80s. Fashionistas love the super-stylish belts, shoes, and bags—many in reptile—for a fraction of what they'd cost new. A recent stop-in turned up a few finds in their varied men's collection, such as French military coats ($90), and '70s-era Pierre Cardin shirts.
Best for Haute Couture
The scintillating La Jolie Garde-Robe (15 rue Commines, 3e, 01-42-72-13-90), channels the spirits of Belle du Jour and Holly Golightly in a choice collection of ready-to-wear and haute couture from the '50s to the '90s. To give you an idea of the caliber of pieces they stock, we recently spotted a Madame Grès full-length black organdy gown from her '50s heyday, priced at $2,000.
Best for Sweet 70s Finds
If you're missing the heady days of Studio 54, sashay over to Studio W (21 rue du Pont aux Choux, 3e, 01-44-78-05-02), where a rare Loris Azzaro gold-chain top or a Guy Laroche beaded couture gown in red mousseline will satisfy even the most persnickety diva. This shop is also notable for its well-curated selection of jewelry, gloves, shoes, and bags to match.
Best for Budget-Savvy Fashionistas
Don't let the chaos at Free 'P' Star (8 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, 4e, 01-42-76-03-72) discourage you—there's gold to be found in bins and on racks. Determined seekers on a budget can reap rewards—at least according to the young hipsters that flock here. Our best recent find: a 70s calf leather and macramé skirt and top set ($40). For more leisurely hunting, check out the rue de la Verrerie branch (61 rue de la Verrerie, 4e, 01-42-78-00-75).
Best for Big-Name Designers
It's worth the detour to the Marais' outer limits in the 11th arrondissement to drop by Vintage Clothing Paris (10 rue de Crussol, 11e, 01-48-07-16-40), especially if the legendary designers—Yves St. Laurent, Hermès, Valentino, Lagerfeld, Mugler—speak to you. Come for the A-list clothes, but don't leave without taking a quick look at the handful of accessories. On a recent visit, we spotted an Azzedine Alaïa suede skirt, circa 1985, with peek-a-boo grommets, and a zip-up front ($200).
Taking a trip to Paris soon?
For up-to-the-minute hotel and restaurant recommendations, plus the best planning advice, check out our online Paris Travel Guide
Photo credit: courtesy Jennifer Ladonne