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Collecting the Purse

Clutch peddlers: Having hundreds of vintage purses in her collection doesn't keep Jill Stuart from hunting for more -- so we asked where she bags her quarry.

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Think you win the prize for hoarding accessories? You're not even in the running. Designer Jill Stuart owns more than 1,000 vintage purses alone -- crocodile Hermès ones that cost a lot, but also serious steals. "I just got seventeen Gucci bags at an auction upstate," she gushed recently. "And they were dirt-cheap." Stuart collects these old sacks as source material. But we'd be happy to use them every day, getting in on those seventies-chic or crocodile trends for much less than they'd cost new. Here, Stuart reveals which shops make her loosen the purse strings.

An eBay addict, Stuart also thinks nothing of hopping on a plane to Massachusetts, Los Angeles, or even Berlin to check out flea markets. "Things from the twenties are my favorites," she says. "But also the seventies, and, lately, the eighties." In New York, she swears by seasonal Triple Pier Expo (best known for furniture, these also have great deals on old evening bags) and the Metropolitan Show, a vintage fair held three times a year that's packed with covetable accessories for under $100.

Can't wait for those to roll around? Stuart also swears by shops like Resurrection, for old Gucci and Dior. "They're expensive," she admits of a $600 snakeskin bag she just bought. "But they're the best." Plenty of other sources may be hit-or-miss, but they cost far less: The Fan Club thrift shop is good for one-of-a-kind finds from Victorian times through the present -- "and nobody knows about it" (Stuart snagged a fifties needlepoint purse there for $50). The 1909 Company is "great for bags, especially from the fifties and sixties -- at really good prices." A lavender fabric-covered frame style recently ran her about $50; a green one was only $40. Stuart also loves Cheap Jack's. "You can find anything there," she coos. "He's known for denim, but he's also got so many handbags -- everything from beaded twenties bags to hippie things from the seventies."

For a quick weekend fix, don't forget the 26th Street flea market. "It's like finding a needle in a haystack -- you can see a Pucci slip for $10, or nothing at all," Stuart warns. She hits dealer Pat Haber for sixties and seventies things and Eeva for crazy deals -- "Her prices are really good," she confides. "She'll say 'Oh, baby, just let me eat this week. Take it for $10.' "

Triple Pier Expo, 11/11-11/12, 11/18-11/19 (212-255-0020); The Metropolitan Vintage Fashion and Antique Clothing Show, 9/22-9/24 (212-463-0200, ext. 222); Resurrection, 217 Mott St. (212-625-1374); The Fan Club, 22 W. 19th St. (212-929-3349); The 1909 Company, 63 Thompson St. (212-343-1658); Cheap Jack's, 841 Broadway, near 13th St. (212-777-9564); 26th Street flea market (212-243-5343).

Picks of the Week
Ernest Winzer Cleaners (where many corner shops send the leather things you bring them) is taking 30 percent off cleaning any hides you send directly to them. Prices are now from $70 for pants and jackets, and from $60 for skirts. Free pickup and delivery. 1828 Cedar Ave., Bronx (718-294-2400, 917-416-5677); A.E., checks; 8/28-9/30.

Shearling Selection, makers of classic shearling coats that sell at stores like Saks, is clearing men's and women's samples at half price, $595 to $1,395. Sizes XS-XL. 224 W. 35th St., second floor (212-268-3844); checks accepted; Mon.-Fri. 10-4, Sat. by appointment; 9/1-9/30.

Zitomer is taking half off tons of clothes and accessories, including kids' things, lingerie, jewelry, bags, and hair trinkets. 969 Madison Ave., near 75th St. (212-737-4480); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9-8, Sat. 9-7, Sun. 10-6; 8/28-9/3.

Celebrations, the Jewish Museum Design Shop, is clearing Judaica at 25-75 percent off. A brass vase is $75; a Tree of Life platter is $175; sterling candlesticks are $800 a pair. 1 E. 92nd St. (212-423-3260); A.E., M.C., V.; Sun.-Thurs. 11-5:45, Tues. till 8, Fri. 11-3; 9/1-11/15.

Tibet Arts & Crafts is taking about a third off all shawls. Pashminas are $138, silks are $110, and embroidered wools are $65-85. 144 Sullivan St. (212-529-4344); 197 Bleecker St. (212-260-5880); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Sun 11-8; 8/28-9/10.

Additional reporting by Brooke Showell.


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