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A Guide to Vintage Shopping in London

21 August 2016 | Stephanie Brandhuber

Ever feel like there’s just nothing for you on the high street? Do you walk into mainstream clothes shop and despair at the fact that there’s simply nothing for sale that expresses you and your wonderful individuality? You might just be looking in all the wrong places. The key to your fashion happiness could in fact be vintage clothing. Luckily for you, London is packed full of vintage boutiques, so there’s no shortage of options if you choose to set sail aboard the second-hand clothes ship. If you’re not sure how to hack vintage and if you’re afraid you’ll end up looking more freak than chic, don’t worry, we’re here to guide you on how to be sartorially savvy in your quest to look fab and definitely not drab.

What is vintage?
 
Well, for a start, it’s definitely not that My Little Pony sweatshirt you’ve owned since you were twelve that’s been gathering dust in the back of your wardrobe. Technically, vintage is anything from the 1920s to the 1970s, although the 80s are now entering the vintage clothing canon, so bust out your neon boiler suit, you’ll be vintage VIP. For all you newcomers to vintage shopping however, here are our top suggestions for introductory vintage browsing:
 
Rokit – This emporium of all things eclectic is a great place to start if you’ve caught the vintage bug and want to start exploring this type of fashion. Not only is Rokit a very affordable vintage shop, but it’s also one of the most organized ones too. Vintage shops are notoriously chaotic, but Rokit has nicely arranged things in a somewhat logical order for your browsing pleasure.
 
Rokit has locations in Camden, Covent Garden, Brick Lane.
 
Beyond Retro – Similar to Rokit, Beyond Retro is affordable and more or less organized by clothes type. It’s fairly easy to browse through their wide selection of vintage wares, and it’s definitely a great place to find a cheeky bargain.
 
Beyond Retro has locations in Bethnal Green, Tottenham Court Road, and Dalston.
 
Blitz London – This is a true gem of a shop. Not only is it Europe’s biggest vintage store, but Vogue has also listed it as one of their Top 10 Things To Do In London. How about that? This vintage haven has over 20,000 unique, hand-selected pieces from the 60s to modern millennial garments. A must-visit!
 
Blitz London is located at 55-59 Hanbury St, London E1 5JP
 
The fun is in the hunt!
 
Sometimes it can be difficult trying to distinguish tat from treasure, and many vintage boutiques can feel overwhelming with all the colours, patterns (and smells!) that jump out at you from every nook and cranny. But don’t let this put you off. Most of these clothes have lived more of a life than you have, so treat them with respect, and let them show you how to be your best self. Part of the fun of vintage shopping is getting to play detective, as you search through the jumbled racks to find that one, special piece that will make you look and feel incredible. Be patient, and have fun sifting through these rails of beautiful history. For those of you who like a good mooch, here are our picks for hidden gem shops:
 
Wow Retro – There’s a lot to love about this tucked away treasure-trove of vintage goodness in Covent Garden’s backstreets. It has some of the most reasonably priced vintage clothing available in Central London and has a magnificent range to boot. This one’s great for the guys as there’s a slightly bigger selection for gents, but there’s plenty for the ladies to look through too. Rummaging is encouraged, as there’s a lot packed into this small shop, and you’ll need to take the time to really sift through the array they have.
 
Wow Retro is located at 179 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5Q.
 
Radio Days – Open since 1993, this Waterloo institution has an eclectic range of vintage goods including clothes, accessories, magazines, and home wares. Floor to ceiling vintage, Radio Days has fashion and collectibles dating from the 20s to the 80s, and is a known haunt for true vintage fanatics.
 
Radio Days is located at 87 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7AB
 
Episode – Located at the far end of Camden past the open market is this hidden gem. With cheap-as-chips prices, you’ll be looking like you’ve stepped off a retro catwalk in no time. Silk scarves are £2 a piece, leather shoes from the 1950s can be found for just £20, and you can get a pin stripe suit or a velvet blazer for an incredibly reasonable £20. You can thank us later for changing your life with this one.
 
Stable Market, 26 Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AG
 
Just try it on!
 
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to vintage shopping is that you don’t know how it’s going to look until you try it on. Don’t think you can pull off that bright colour or squeeze into the wiggle dress? Try it on! There’s a common misconception that vintage clothing is going to be much smaller than the clothes of today which puts some people off taking an item into the fitting room. Others might look at a garment and think that there’s no way that shape is ever going to look flattering. Think again! Fashion of the past wasn’t disposable like it is nowadays, so designers and clothes-makers took time to make sure that fits, styles, and details were done to perfection. Don’t judge a coat by its colour!
 
Hunky Dory Vintage – Brick Lane can often be tricky when trying to navigate through its numerous vintage shops. More often than not, stores claiming to be vintage will be nothing more than thrift stores selling your nan’s old cardie for a steep £50. Hunky Dory Vintage, however, is not one of these shifty shops. Selling beautiful pieces from the 40s to the 80s, you can pick up a beautiful tailored suit or a sassy 60s dress from this Brick Lane boutique for a very reasonable price.
 
Hunky Dory Vintage is located at 226 Brick Lane, London E1 6SA.
 
One of a Kind – Walking into this Portobello Road stalwart is like walking into your grandmother’s attic. With clothes hanging from every corner of the room and looking much like Aladdin’s cave, this shop really does live up to its name. If you’re a bit of a magpie or enjoy a good rummage, you’ll love sifting through all the goodies this shop has to offer.
 
One of a Kind is located at 259 Portobello Rd, London W11 1LR
 
The Vintage Showroom - The guys who run this lovely shop wholeheartedly acknowledge the fact that gents love their vintage fashion too, and in that vein, have amassed a collection of stellar vintage menswear for their discerning customers. The Vintage Showroom has become one of the leading resources for vintage menswear in the UK, and covers men’s fashion from the mid 20th century, especially military and sports clothing, classic English tailoring and country wear. Drop on by to find your inner dapper gentleman.
 
The Vintage Showroom is located at 14 Earlham St, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9LN
 
 
 
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