The Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena is famous for being the home of the Tournament of Roses football game, but to many Southern California residents it has another claim to fame.
For more than 40 years the Rose Bowl Flea Market has brought together a group of more than 2,500 vendors and 2 million items of interest on the second Sunday of every month. Its assortment of different booths sell anything from vintage and high-end designer clothing to rare knickknacks and home furnishings. With free parking and a relatively cheap $8 entrance fee, fashionistas and bargain hunters are able to search aisles upon aisles of unique merchandise from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with some vendors staying open until 4:30 p.m.
The market has a carnival-like atmosphere, with people on stilts towering over shoppers and unicyclists weaving in and out of the ticket lines, making it a worthwhile experience for even those just looking for a day of fun. Live music greets customers as they make their way through the turnstile gateway.
Immediately after the entrance is the food court, where shoppers can take a break from their hard labor and sit beneath the shade of an umbrella. A smörgåsbord of options are offered, including fresh-squeezed lemonade, carne asada burritos and gluttonous jumbo beer brats, with prices anywhere between $5-$9.
Beyond the food court, a shopaholic’s heaven unfolds.
Vintage clothing seems to be a mainstay of the flea market, with more than 600 vendors catering to that niche. With today’s overpriced vintage knock offs, many fashioned-minded college students on a tight budget can find it hard to find that special outfit without overdrawing their bank accounts or wearing the same outfit 20 others bought from Forever 21.
The Rose Bowl Flea Market’s sea of vintage and designer clothing racks make it possible for college students to stay within their budgets and find those real leather boots that none of their friends have. Shoppers can find anything that fits their personal taste, from ’60s bell-bottom jeans and ’70s psychedelic print dresses to graphic band T-shirts.
Specialty shopping is also extremely popular at the flea market. Rare vinyl records from classic rock bands can be found at $3 a record or a black leather Chanel purse for $400 — special bargain prices that come with the flea market experience. Many designers or sellers will also sometimes lower the price to half the amount they usually ask for their items at a regular store.
Another unique factor of the flea market is that customers have the opportunity to interact and talk fashion with the vendors and up-and-coming designers.
“It’s like a mobile showroom,” said vendor Melissa Diner, describing her vintage shop, The General Store, a collection of new and used clothing, shoes and accessories from different designers and brands.
One designer who was included in The General Store is Suzy Lequeux, whose jewelry brand “Rossmore LA,” is a one example of the unique artistry shoppers can find at the Rose Bowl Flea Market.
“The idea was inspired by a long carved Abalone shell piece I had found at the flea market,” Lequeux said, describing one of her original necklaces which she calls “the Laughter.” “I found shells that I broke, drilled holes into and then molded and cast the pieces.”
Although Lequeux necklaces usually sell for more than $100 at stores such as Fred Segal, Lequeux sold them at the flea market for half the price.
James Price of the Haus of Price was another designer featured in The General Store’s section. He was selling his one-of-a-kind striped and transparent top for only $20.
With designer items at low prices, it’s understandable why the 15-20,000 buyers come back to the Rose Bowl market.
“My favorite thing about the Rose Bowl is the vintage and antiques you can find at amazing prices,” Diner said. “It’s like one big thrift store.”
Los Angeles is an ideal city for “one big thrift store” where multiple styles and designs can be found in one place — at a great price.