Every Sunday, on the corner of Melrose and Fairfax, the Melrose Trading Post comes to life. Thrifters and antique collectors alike flock to the parking lot of Fairfax High School to find free valet parking, a $3 entrance fee, and a bazaar-style shopping experience that is sure to satisfy any and all vintage enthusiasts.
Upon entering and seeing the abundance of tables and tents set up, it's normal for first time visitors to feel the need to stop for a second and digest their surroundings. It looks like a lot to handle, but walking around and taking in the environment, it becomes clear very quickly that the trading post boasts a tailored, almost curated, selection of pieces – something very rare for flea markets. Vintage Levis and original band and concert tees are staples at almost every clothing vendor. So for someone to get the real thing, as opposed to the H&M and Urban Outfitters replicas, this place is a gold mine. There are also boots, fur coats, and leather biker jackets galore, as well as antique furniture, tapestries, classic vinyl, and so much more.
A lot of the vendors make a point of being there regularly, and the two that really stood out to us were a leather jewelry maker whose pieces were reminiscent of those made by the designer brand Zana Bayne and the Hippie Dippies Crystal Candle company.
Hippie Dippies Crystal Candles is a small business run by husband and wife team, Johnny and Doll. Their crystal and geo chakra candles are made from organic coconut wax and crystals native to California. The candles are unique in that they melt down through the center so that the crystals illuminate while the candle burns.
Some other great finds we picked up were a plaid dress that looks like something Alicia Silverstone would have worn in Clueless, an antique edition of War and Peace, and a vintage watch that may or may not be Oscar de la Renta.
A general rule for vintage shopping (especially at flea markets) is to go just to see the selections. More often than not, going vintage shopping with the intent of buying something specific leaves shoppers disappointed because they couldn't find what they were looking for. Interestingly enough, this isn't the case at the Melrose Trading Post. If you're in need of some good vintage t-shirts, a sturdy denim jacket, or anything that can add to a 70's-, 80's-, or 90's-inspired aesthetic, you are almost guaranteed to find something.
Beyond just shopping, going to the Trading Post is an experience that is truly LA in every bit of its essence, so even if you're not in the mood to buy something, it's a great place to pass through just to people watch. While we were there, we noticed the crowd was just as curated as the selections of pieces up for sale. Most of the shoppers were dressed as if their entire closets were built up from pieces they had already bought at the post, and it became apparent that many of them were regulars who knew the vendors and knew who to go to for what and who had the best deals. As groups wandered up the thrown-together aisles eyeing peasant tops and sew-on patches, they also eyed one another in that classic way Angelenos are used to, especially in West Hollywood.
While Brenden had been to the Melrose Trading Post a few times previously, Claudia had never been, which gave us new eyes to look at the differences between the Post and the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Our first thoughts were that while the Trading Post is definitely helpful for finding specific items, one can show up randomly (with $3) and browse with really no aim. Although there is an abundance of options, especially for clothing, we never felt too overwhelmed. A game plan isn't really needed, and it is the perfect activity to do just before or after Sunday brunch in West Hollywood. This is very different from the Rose Bowl Flea Market, where without a game plan or a little research, it is very easy to feel stressed out and wander for hours in a daze of furniture, glass wear, leather jackets, and turquoise rings. However, with just a little bit of planning, and lots of time, the Rose Bowl Flea Market can be very worth the drive.
The Rose Bowl Flea Market occurs on the second Sunday of every month. From 5 am to 4 pm, thousands of people walk around the stadium and surrounding parking lot exploring the vendors or bee-lining for a specific stand. There really is something for everyone and the market truly is a Los Angeles landmark, considering its 45-year history. However, you definitely have to plan ahead, so here is a list of tips we considered before departing on this new journey, as well as some information we thought could be helpful to prospective visitors:
1. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
This is important, Anyone who has been to a UCLA football game knows just how much stronger the sun feels at the Rose Bowl, and no one wants to get a headache when they're expertly inspecting a white vintage tee for stains.
2. Bring cash.
According to their website, "All admission tickets are purchased at the box office only regular admission starts at 9 am for the general public at $9.00 per person, children under 12 are admitted free with an adult. We also have an express admission from 8:00 am - 9:00 am at $12.00 per person, and a special preview VIP admission from 5:00 am - 7:00 am at $20.00 per person." Although we didn't try to pay by credit card, we didn't see many stands with the option.
3. Bring a tape measure and a floor plan of your house.
We ignored this one. Granted, we were not shopping for antique French furniture. As the college kids we are, the closest we got to home decor were beautiful scented soy candles, but maybe some of you out there would find this useful.
4. Pick your route depending on what you're looking for.
This was a mistake we made, since we wanted to explore everything to properly research the topic. Although we loved browsing the small businesses that made crochet bags, face masks, and jewelry, by the time we went all the way around the stadium itself, we were exhausted and sunburnt. When we finally reached the vast clothes section between the stadium and the road, we barely had enough energy to look through a stack of denim overalls before our feet hurt and we were ready to head home. We may have to go back another day to properly explore all of the clothing options, because they were truly abundant.
5. Girls, wear dresses.
This is not something we read, but something I (Claudia) learned for myself when trying to purchase a perfect pair of vintage Levis at the Trading Post. Many vendors do not have changing rooms set up, and it is much easier to slip an item under a dress than to somehow put your jacket around yourself to cover up. Chances are you're going to try on at least one pair of shorts or jeans, and this step makes it much easier.
6. Unless you're looking for a very specific piece of furniture or just enjoy having the first look, what time you get to the flea market does not matter that much.
There is so much choice that you are probably going to find at least one item at any point in the day. That being said, it would have been easier to browse in the crisp morning air and soft light than in the harsh sun of 2 pm.
Depending on what you are looking for, one of these flea markets may be better than the other. Due to its high stock, the choices at the Rose Bowl are seemingly endless. With a more curated assortment of current, on-trend essentials, the Melrose Trading Post is perfect for checking out a classic L.A. crowd. Both contain tons of original people, pieces, and businesses, and in all, both flea markets are incredible adventures that are worth trying at least once. Happy shopping!