Vintage and secondhand shops thriving alongside the latest designer boutiques and chain stores are evidence of our yearning for that distinctive piece of clothing that will make us feel unique.

Although some Tel Avivians have always been vintage addicts, the vogue has gained rapid popularity only in recent years among the “Bobos,” or bourgeois-bohemians.

Store-owners say the craze is a manifestation of nostalgia mixed with the desire to be original and edgy.

Some aficionados are merely mimicking celebrities who have latterly been spotted wearing vintage clothes – such as American actress Drew Barrymore, who recently sported a $25 vintage metallic frock on the red carpet.

The illusion of affordability is what turns some on to the trend; but vintage, while chic, is not always cheap.

Those on tight budgets will opt for the more recent, more affordable secondhand choices, since only ensembles from the early 1900s to the 1980s are considered true vintage.

Store owners will travel abroad to find that unusual piece, but most of the items are collectibles, especially the popular designer ones.

Eager to acquire that Audrey Hepburn look? Start your hunt at one of these three stores: Hamachteret, Daffodil 11 or Eshet Hayil.

Hamachteret, Simtat Almonit 5.

A vintage aura surrounds owner Tali Kushnir, who has been collecting garments and reading about art and costume since childhood. “It’s interesting to learn history through fashion,” she said.

According to her, the first vintage stores started popping up in Israel at the beginning of the 1990s.

Hamachteret, which opened in 1991, offers an extensive assortment of vintage clothes and accessories from cities such as New York, Berlin and London, where Kushnir scouts around flea markets, collectors’ shows, vintage sales and auctions that specialize in fashion items.

“Whenever I travel, I shop till I drop,” she smiled.

Although people are still not used to paying lots of money for used items, they are starting to be more and more open to it.

“Vintage used to be for the artists, now it’s for everybody,” Kushnir said. “In Tel Aviv, it has become almost mainstream, but some people are still afraid of it.”

She herself loves to wear a piece of fabric that already has character and has been thorough lots of laundry cycles.

“It’s the excitement of having someone else’s energy,” she said.

The fashion-nostalgic can buy a vintage dress for NIS 80 to NIS 2,000 at the store.

Among Kushnir’s favorite items are a handbag from the early 1900s (NIS 1,000) with matching gloves in Scottish crochet (NIS 500).

Want to know more about the beginnings of Israeli fashion? Ask Kushnir about her private Maskit collection – not for sale – which she started at age 12, when her grandmother gave her a piece of Yemenite jewelry.

As far as she knows, she has the biggest collection of Maskit in Israel.

The fashion house was founded in 1954 by visionary Ruth Dayan, ex-wife of the late defense minister Moshe Dayan. Maskit was started to provide a livelihood for immigrants arriving from North Africa, Yemen, Poland and other places in the Diaspora.

“The idea of the company was to make Israeli fashion that combined the heritage and style of people coming to Israel,” Kushnir said.

Today, Maskit garments and jewelry are collectibles in the US and elsewhere.

Daffodil 11, Rehov Dizengoff 101.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction novel Slapstick, American citizens are provided with new middle names in an attempt to end loneliness. The names are created by pairing random natural objects with random numbers, which are then assigned to random people.

Whoever ends up with the same name belongs to the same extended family.

Daffodil 11 is one of these vast families.

Although her customers do not know one another, said Gabriella Donati, they come together in her store as part of the same “family” who all love secondhand clothes. She opened Daffodil 11 just six months ago.

“Secondhand is very popular in Tel Aviv,” she said, “and I love to shop at secondhand stores whenever I travel because I find great deals and get to see what people are really wearing.”

Donati hand picks all the garments for sale at her shop, digging through flea markets and thrift stores in Israel and abroad.

“I love to find things,” she said. “It’s like a treasure hunt.”

Daffodil 11 offers mostly “pre-loved” modern-day wear, together with a few vintage accessories, mixing unusual pieces with classic items – such as a timeless skirt from Zara and a Ralph Lauren velvet blouse; or a Thai silk dress and a pair of cowboy boots.

Tops sold at the store range between NIS 35 and NIS 50; skirts between NIS 40 and NIS 70; dresses between NIS 50 and NIS 80; and jeans and pants between NIS 50 and NIS 70.

One man’s junk is another man’s precious find, said Donati, who made aliya from New York City in 2003. And recycling clothing is a way to be stylish and green at once. By buying secondhand, she points out, consumers reduce the need for new products to be manufactured while reusing items infused with a unique history and style.

Even though she worked as an administrative assistant for a media software firm in the US, Donati has been designing clothes ever since her mother bought her a sewing machine when she was a young girl.

Soon she will be launching her own exclusive line at the store, characterized by colorful and funky garments which she dubs “gypsy-style. Every piece is going to be one of a kind,” she said.

Her attitude to recycling is visible in her Bobo-chic line, where she has created items by taking parts from different garments and turning them into something else, combining a skirt and a top into a funky dress, for example.

Eshet Hayil , at Rehov Almonit 1 and Tchernichovsky 3.

This store is named after the hymn that concludes the book of Proverbs and describes the woman of valor – eshet hayil – as one who is capable, energetic and righteous. However, the name notwithstanding, both men and women can shop here for that piece of clothing which will make them feel unique.

Store manager Lior Zamir said that celebrities such as model Anna Zaikin and singer Efrat Gosh snap up stuff at her shop, which received the TimeOut shopping award 2010 for best vintage store.

Go in and you’ll see a gaudy swirl of patterns and fabrics, from stripes and flower-collar shirts to animal-print pants and white lace tops.

Colorful American T-shirts with slogans such as “Hard work never killed anyone but why take a chance on being its first victim?” can also be found.

T-shirts cost from NIS 50 to NIS 150; jeans range between NIS 100 and NIS 150. Women’s shirts are from NIS 90 to NIS 250, dresses between NIS 140 and NIS 300, and skirts between NIS 70 and NIS 120.

The style nowadays, Zamir said, is to mix new and vintage garments to create a distinctive outfit. Youngsters are going for this trend, she said. She puts new items up for sale every couple of days.

Her extended selection of accessories is imported from European “dead stocks” prior to the 1990s, she adds, calling earrings and sunglasses “the new vintage.”

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