[Photo: Courtesy of MACHUS.]
If you haven’t heard already, Oregon doesn’t have sales tax. That’s as good a reason as any to splurge a little, right?
The diverse retail scene could keep spirited shoppers on the prowl for days. But to find that quintessentially Portland look — a casual and playful take on timeless Western styles — you’ll want to explore the city’s alluring mixture of vintage shops, modern boutiques and storefronts dedicated to handcrafted goods.
Here are a few favorite outfitters that offer everything you need to dress like the expressive locals.
Portland’s fondness for vintage verges on obsession. The city has nearly 50 vintage retailers, each catering to a wide array of styles. Whether you seek a 1920s flapper gown, a “Mad Men”-style suit or a Pendleton button-up, there’s a good chance you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for at one of these fine purveyors of garb from bygone eras.
For a relaxed and practical Northwest style, head to Animal Traffic, a seller of timeless and vintage apparel. Their flagship store on North Mississippi Avenue features Pendleton wool shirts, sturdy backpacks and rainproof jackets. Another good bet for styles that scream local is Red Light Clothing Exchange, a thrifty store that fills two huge rooms on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard with everything from sequined dresses to smells-like-teen-spirit flannel. Just a few blocks away, House of Vintage has an overwhelming selection of secondhand goods from more than 60 independent dealers in 13,000 square feet of retail space.
If you seek fancier attire, a number of Portland’s vintage boutiques cater to more refined tastes. Visiting celebrities frequent Xtabay Vintage, the go-to spot for one-of-a-kind party dresses and glamorous accessories. For menswear, the long-established Avalon Antiques & Vintage Clothing stocks a large inventory of classic suits, dapper hats, shiny cufflinks and slick watches that would’ve made the Rat Pack sing. Don’t forget to visit Hollywood Vintage and browse the impressive selection of vintage eyewear; with more than 1,000 frames from the ’20s onward, you’ll certainly find something to complete that dandy outfit.
Anyone under the impression that Portlanders are an exclusively flannel-clad crowd should spend a day shopping in the city’s fashionable boutiques, which specialize in apparel, footwear, jewelry and on-trend accessories. Here you’ll experience an independent designer-led scene that’s recently come into its own.
An obvious place to start in the West End is at shopping alley Union Way, which makes a convenient jumping-off point to explore other nearby boutiques. This modern take on an Old World arcade packs nine eclectic retailers into a full city block, including footwear icon Danner. One block away, Wildfang fills a corner gallery with tomboy-inspired styles. Within a several-block radius, you’ll find a number of other woman-owned shops: WM Goods, Backtalk, West End Select Shop, and Frances May make this Portland’s emerging center of fashion.
Style in the city isn’t relegated to only one neighborhood. An exciting breed of boutiques has set up shop across town, stocking local designers and global looks they’ve imported. International streetwear takes the spotlight at MACHUS, which focuses on noteworthy menswear designers from around the world, including limited-edition adidas originals collaborations. While vintage may reign in Southeast, COMMUNION displays a contemporary take on casual classics for men and women, with labels culled from around the world. Downtown, an inconspicuous, gallery-like space embodies anticommercialistic views on fashion: Stand Up Comedy curates a selection of uncommon women’s apparel, books, and other surreal and absurd objects.
Nothing exemplifies Portland’s style better than fashionable goods made right here. This is, in fact, a city of makers — meaning a dedication to craft and handmade products defines a number of standout retailers.
For an overview of the maker culture, pop into one of MadeHere PDX's two locations, which showcase locally produced goods ranging from guitars and surfboards to couches and cosmetics. Many of Portland's entrepreneurial designers operate their own storefronts — such as handmade jewelry and vintage wares at Backtalk as well as women's clothing and home goods at North of West.
If you’re on the hunt for the effortless cool factor of local leather, try Tanner Goods for timeless accessories built to last a lifetime. Outdoor footwear brand KEEN makes many of their shoes at the nearby Swan Island factory — one of only a few footwear companies still manufacturing in the United States.
A few retail locations even let you witness design and production firsthand such as well-known OLO Fragrance; their workspace doubles as its showroom.