Usually when we think of vintage, racks of old and dusty clothes come to mind. There is, however, the world of vintage couture — where the cast-off and the highly coveted are one and the same. As one of the world’s four fashion capitals, Paris abounds with boutiques that have dedicated themselves to preserving luxury brands, prestigious fashion houses, and the personal wardrobes of the rich and famous. Below, you’ll find five of the most high-end vintage shops in Paris, replete with dazzling designer items and custom-made creations that reanimate some of the most iconic eras of haute couture.
Les Trois Marches de Catherine B.
Address: 1 Rue Guisarde (6th district, Metro: Saint Germain Des Près)
Merchandise: Hermès Birkin & Kelly bags, Classic Chanel flaps & heart clutch purses, Hermès scarves & bracelets, Chanel coats, dresses, jewelry & watches
If Paris ever opened a museum of haute couture handbags, it might look something like Les Trois Marches de Catherine B. For fans of Hermès and Chanel, this vintage store is a veritable shrine. The owner, Catherine B., has dedicated herself exclusively to these two fashion giants, and with discriminating taste, has amassed an immense and matchless collection. This includes the very first bag that Hermès made for actress Jane Birkin, as well as an exceedingly rare Hermès lizard Kelly pochette. Uniqueness, moreover, does not come at the expense of range. Inside, you’ll find a whole spectrum of crocodile Birkins—in gold, Bourgogne red, blue marine, and Brighton blue—as well as a more understated, neutral-toned selection of vintage Kelly bags. For Chanel lovers, this boutique is likewise bursting with authentic, stylish finds: a Chanel hula-hoop bag, a 2008 “abstract art” Mondrian Chanel, and most adorable of all, a set of vintage patent leather heart clutches with the interlocking CC logo and a dainty gold zipper and chain strap. While handbags are its trademark, Les Trois Marches also houses Chanel trench coats and bouclé jackets, along with an alabaster array of Chanel jewelry: a set of pearl earrings, a vintage flower brooch, and a J12 watch. Hermès enamel bracelets are also sold to match with the shop’s ethereal cascade of silk foulards, where you’ll find Catherine’s most recent acquisition: a gorgeous Hermès Lilanga scarf patterned after the designs of Tanzanian artist, George Lilanga. As you’re perusing the store, make sure to consult Catherine. Her knowledge is encyclopedic, and she knows the year, collection, and designer for each and every one of her items. She can guarantee that anything you buy will be not just an enviable addition to your wardrobe but a rare artifact of the fashion world.
Didier Ludot & La Petite Robe Noire
Address: Galerie de Montpensier & Galerie de Valois (1st district, Metro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre)
Merchandise: dresses by Balenciaga, Balmain, Dior & YSL, little black dresses, Chanel suits, Hermès red alligator bags, vintage patent leather shoes
Vintage couture has soared to new, inimitable heights at this Palais Royal boutique, where you’ll find every topnotch designer you can fathom—Balenciaga, Vuitton, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Lacroix, Rabanne. In the fashion world, Didier Ludot is a kind of deity. World-class designers look to his gallery for inspiration. Vintage dealers comb his collections for rare finds. Celebrities arrive in the hopes of borrowing that nymph-like dress for red carpet occasions. Reese Witherspoon, when she won Best Actress in 2006, was wearing one of Ludot’s choicest treasures: a Dior duchess rose garland satin gown. Some of his other legendary possessions were on auction last year: a purple silk Balenciaga, an embroidered black velvet Balmain, a gray tulle cocktail dress by Dior called “Sarabande,” and an extravagant light-pink ostrich feather gown and ribbon belt bequeathed by French patron, Francine Weisweiller, whom Ludot listed among the incredible women who’ve inspired his acquisitions. Out of similar veneration, he has bought and sold from the wardrobes of Julianne Moore, Catherine Deneuve, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Romy Schneider, whose 1963 Chanel black sequin mini cocktail dress still graces his gallery. While such pieces go for at least 1700€, this is, after all, only a tenth of their original price. As strange as it may sound, it can actually be a bargain to buy a Chanel suit, Chloé dress, or Rive Gauche robe from Ludot, who handpicks from the closets of only the finest, most fastidious fashion goddesses. In addition to his hallowed headquarters at Galerie Montpensier, he now owns another vintage shop across the square, La Petite Robe Noire, which specializes solely in little black dresses—a must-see for Chanel and Hepburn fans.
Address: 23 Rue de l’Échaudé (6th district; Metro: Saint Germain des Près)
Merchandise: dresses by Dior & Courrèges, lynx jackets, silk kimonos, macramé frocks, vintage lace prairie gowns, purses, shoes, jewelry
Along a quiet street in St. Germain des Près, renowned vintage dealer, Françoise Auguet, reigns with nonchalant expertise over her empire of haute couture. Inside her shop, where she has conserved an entire century’s worth of authentic vintage, there is a designer’s gem for every decade. Peeping out of the pricey racks, Victorian-era tea gowns — worn over a hundred years ago — still hover sweetly from their hangers. Suspended from the ceiling is a wispy jewel of the Jazz Age: a hand-embroidered chocolate silk kimono, lustrous as ever, and alive with art deco flourishes. Along the walls, you’ll eye erotic silk chiffon dresses from the 30s, reminiscent of screen divas like Jean Harlow and Claudette Colbert, as well as a few Grecian-style evening gowns from the 40s with their somewhat icier sophistication. It is Ragtime’s 50s Dior collection, however, that most distinguishes it — in particular, a pristinely preserved 1957 Dior cocktail dress, tagged at 1000€, whose scoop neck and fanning skirt typify the hyper-feminine flair of the New Look. As for 60s and 70s fashion, Auguet’s epic array comprises cream-colored macramé frocks, the go-go glamor of André Courrèges, and then, the holy grail of her boutique — a lynx jacket straight from the personal wardrobe of starlet Jeanne Moreau. While entering her shop may at first feel as dizzying as listening to a piece of ragtime music, the fun is in the unpredictability of the search. Auguet can promise that if you dive into her avalanche of upscale couture, you’ll come out with a treasure or two.
Neila Vintage & Design
Address: 28 Rue du Mont Thabor (1st district; Metro: Concorde)
Merchandise: YSL dresses & crystal cross necklaces, Chanel suits, dresses, silk blouses & handbags, dresses by Givenchy & Cardin
Located in the affluent first district, Neila Vintage & Design is up there among the vintage couture elite. In a way, it is the opposite of Ragtime’s jumble of gems. Neila Jaziri keeps her merchandise to a minimum, delicately displaying it inside a space so pristine it looks like a ballerina studio. The glowing white sparseness of her boutique sets off her collection with a vivid, ethereal intensity. A majority of the dresses are by Yves Saint Laurent, whom Jaziri praises for elevating the female figure with his supple, flowing designs. She also collects Pierre Cardin, Givenchy, and Chanel. Her most valuable items are from the latter: a 1985 black haute couture skirt, a 70s yellow silk blouse, and prominently on display, a blue quilted handbag (from Coco’s last collection) once belonging to actress Catherine Deneuve. Also in contrast to Ragtime, whose merchandise has an aged but richly authentic aura, the pieces at Neila look brand new, despite being 100 percent original. You can buy a 60s Chanel suit that looks, literally, like it was made yesterday. Jaziri also has YSL crystal cross necklaces made by Robert Goossens—a ritzy way to accessorize with her fresh, up-to-the-minute Chanel.
La Jolie Garde Robe
Address: 15 Rue Commines, (3rd district, Metro: Filles du Calvaire)
Merchandise: dresses by Chanel, Rabanne & Mme Grès, Hermès handbags & scarves, Céline gloves & jewelry
Tucked away in the haut Marais, this cute little boutique is another destination for celebrities in search of that exquisite dress. Indeed, it has garnered a reputation for the 2,000€ Madame Grès gown still on display in its front window—a black organdy beauty from the 50s, made at the height of the designer’s career. Among its top-drawer troves, you’ll also find 30s cocktail gowns, pieces from Chanel’s first ready-to-wear collection, and a few cutting-edge creations by Paco Rabanne, l’enfant terrible of the pop fashion world who pioneered the chainmail mini dress and space-age “sequin” look. If you’re into 60s wear, the store is a quaint microcosm of the era, with a small but ultra-cool sampling of mod-prints and vintage jumper dresses, along with a dainty sprinkling of Céline gloves and Hermès handbags. Rare assortments, vivacious vibes, and rose-colored walls make La Jolie Garde Robe seem like nothing short of an Audrey Hepburn heaven. When you walk in and find the dress of your dreams, you too will believe in miracles.