Haute Treasure Hunter – The Groves Antique Market

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For local vintage shop owner Rachiel Macalistaire, the oldest fashions are also the newest. 

By Ashley Breeding

LBM_37_QA_Rachel Macalistaire_By Jody Tiongco-3

Upon entering The Groves Antique Market at Irvine’s Great Park, vintage guru Rachiel Macalistaire is immediately drawn to a jade-green, crescent hobo bag at the very first booth. It’s her favorite color, and it’s a good price. She quickly pulls a bundle of cash she keeps tucked beneath her ruffled, plaid shirt and pays the vendor.

“The first really great thing that’s a good price, I buy,” she says. “It opens up the flea market mojo and just loosens up the purse strings!”

A science and math teacher by day, Rachiel is also a stylist who has lent her talents to the pages of home and style magazines. She spun this second love into a supplementary career when she opened Macalistaire at 1850 (macalistaire1850.com) three years ago.

Located in Laguna’s village, the shop is a trove of vintage treasures—from peacoats to petticoats, and everything to layer in between. In a town abundant with fashion-forward (and eco-friendly) women and men who demand to stand out, there’s no shortage of clientele coming to her for one-of-a-kind finds. One side of the shop is dedicated to all things fashion; the other to furniture, art and obscure objects. And it’s not just locals the store attracts: “I have designers come to me looking for inspiration for their collections,” Rachiel says. “A buyer from Louis Vuitton recently bought 12 handbags.”

While on this recent flea market adventure with Rachiel, we scored her top tips for shopping vintage.

Laguna Beach Magazine: To what do you credit your affinity for vintage pieces and antiques?

Rachiel Macalistaire: Growing up, we didn’t have any money, so I’d go to garage sales with my mom and buy things out of necessity. At the time, I envied my friends who had things that were new and matched, but I eventually came to appreciate these older things. Vintage is really evocative of periods of the past—it’s a way to connect with history. I would love to be able to travel back in time … but surrounding myself with old things is the second best thing.

LBM: What classifies an item as “vintage?”

RM: Twenty years or older.

LBM: What time periods have the most allure?

RM: I’m drawn to movements … when fashion mirrored the times—like the unconstrained, free-flowing dresses of the 1960s that [represented] women’s liberation. My mom used to wear these long, gorgeous dresses from the ’40s and a couple of scarves around her head. … She was this total hippie. I look at pictures now and think, “Wow, what was happening then?”

LBM: What tips can you provide for the novice shopper?

RM: Purchases should be things that speak to you and that you’ll use over time—a fancy evening clutch, jewelry or a classic coat. The same goes for decor: Think accessories and collections (pottery, vintage wine bottles, pins) that are conversation starters. With clothing, you must try everything on—a vintage size 12, for instance, will typically fit a size 8 or 6.

LBM: Recycling aside, what are some other benefits of buying vintage?

RM: Most pieces are high quality with amazing attention to detail—and no one else is going to have it. But something to be prepared for: Vintage is more delicate, so your outfit could come undone. I’ve been known to go to a wedding and have all the buttons fly off a dress—I always keep an extra outfit!

LBM: What are some current trends from decades past?

RM: Military, high-waisted shorts, large round sunglasses, 1980s dresses, denim jackets—and turquoise jewelry is one that keeps coming back.

LBM: Which flea markets do you frequent?

RM: Fairfax on Melrose, Irvine, Rose Bowl, Santa Monica, Long Beach and local community colleges that have great markets every weekend.

LBM: What’s the strangest request you’ve had from a customer?

RM: Someone came in looking for portraits. … They collected them … of just random people. LBM

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