There are three key words that every vintage fashion fan needs to know before coming to Rio de Janeiro: brecho, sebo and bazar. Once you've got these words carved in your memory, a whole new world of shopping in Rio opens up.
While the high street stores tend to be full of over-priced and slightly uninspired clothes and the upscale boutiques tend to be slightly intimidating spaces, featuring rails of elegant items at staggeringly high prices, there are some real fashion finds to be unearthed at the city's many vintage clothing stores (called brechos or sebos) and pop-up clothing and accessory sales (known as bazars).
Rio's secondhand stores are a treasure trove of vintage goodies — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Often hiding away inside small commercial arcades or even cropping up in people's garages and front yards, these shopping opportunities will cause a flutter of excitement in the heart of any bargain-hunting fashionista.
Women tend to fare much better than men at these stalls and stores: the rails are usually laden with skirts, dresses and slinky tops, and there tends to be vintage sunglasses, handbags and chunky jewelry in abundance, too. So husbands and partners who don't share the same enthusiasm for rooting out a bargain may want to seek solace in a nearby botequim, or bar, (There's always one nearby, no matter where you are in Rio.) as you trawl through the rails and boxes.
Many brechos are permanent affairs: there's a very good one inside a small market on Rua das Laranjeiras, between Largo do Machado and Laranjeiras. Eu Amo Vintage in Santa Teresa is a hot favorite among models, actresses and assorted hipster types that hang out at the neighborhood's bohemian bars.
Check out the Saturday market at Praca 15 de Novembro, near the ferry terminal, too, for a wealth of stores selling pre-loved clothes and vintage accessories.
Bazars, on the other hand, are pop-up affairs that often feature new, handmade clothes and accessories in addition to vintage finds. Again, Santa Teresa is a good bet for finding bazars. Here they sometimes pop up at a space overlooking Largo do Guimares. But if you keep your eyes peeled, you can spot them across the Zona Sul, especially on weekends.
With some wonderful accessories and funky shades to be found, they are great places to shop for gifts that go beyond the obvious tourist choices. They are also good places to pick up toys and trinkets for kids, as well as secondhand books, often with some English language titles.
Happy bargain hunting!