Vintage or secondhand shopping can be a great ethical alternative to shopping on the high street, as it reduces demand for new clothes, and is the most efficient method of recycling old clothes. In my series of blog posts about vintage shopping, I’m going to share my favourite shops in London, the best places to buy vintage online, and my top tips for planning your purchases.
Vintage fashion has been enjoying mainstream popularity for several decades now, from actresses adding a unique twist to a red carpet ensemble with vintage accessories, to the eclectic and imaginative top-to-toe styling of vintage enthusiasts like Kate Moss, Florence Welch and Paloma Faith. It can be a great way of acquiring designer pieces for your wardrobe without the designer price tag, or finding a statement outfit for an occasion; you can be certain no one else will turn up wearing the same thing!
Vintage shopping may seem off putting to anyone who prefers a very organised approach to shopping; it’s true that you can’t be sure you’ll find exactly what you want, but looking through a kaleidoscope of fashion history with an “I’ll know it when I see it” approach is part of the fun of it for me. London boasts a huge range of vintage shops, from beautifully curated boutiques stocked with immaculate occasion wear to warehouses of cheap and cheerful second-hand clothes, so there is something for every style and every budget if you know where to go.
The definition of “vintage” as applied to clothes seems to vary; the dictionary defines it as “the time that something of quality was produced”, so for some shoppers that might pre-date the proliferation of fast fashion. It can also be relative to our age, or whether we have worn a trend once already: to me, “vintage” clothing is from the 1970s or earlier (before I was born), and styles from the 1990s (when I was a teenager) are “retro”. I’ll be including shops selling styles from different eras in my blog posts, so hopefully there will be something for everyone.
Vintage fashion shopping online
Currently in a temporary shop opposite their original Hanbury Lane HQ, Absolute Vintage also has an online shop where you can buy clothes, and the vintage and retro shoes and bags that they are famous for. The website also includes a handy guide for taking care of your pre-loved purchases to make sure they continue to look their best.
Search for vintage and pre-loved clothing alongside pieces by independent designers. For shoppers who are used to buying new clothes from ASOS, being able to find vintage clothes through the same search categories is a useful stepping stone into the world of pre-loved fashion. Listings contain varying details about garment size, but there is an “ask the seller a question” feature of you need more specifics about a potential purchase.
As well as eight brick-and-mortar stores in the UK and Sweden, Beyond Retro also has a well-stocked online store, with easily searchable categories and sizing information given in inches. They stock secondhand clothing from the 1940s to the 1990s, and have started Label, their own line of clothing refashioned from the pieces that don’t make it onto the shop floor in their original state. Beyond Retro has a real commitment to sustainability, and you can even take a virtual factory tour on their website!
Starting life as a market stall over 30 years ago, Rokit now has four store locations in London and an online shop, stocked with unique pieces from the 1930s to the 1990s. They also have a line of refashioned clothing, Rokit Recycled, creating trend-driven pieces from otherwise unwearable secondhand clothing.
A well-established, carefully curated selection of beautiful vintage pieces from the 1920s to the 1980s. Covetable clothes tend to sell fast, but they are constantly updating with new stock. They are also a member of the Vintage Fashion Guild, which links to a whole range of shopping resources, in case you get bitten by the vintage bug!
Stay tuned for the next blog in the series.
PS. You can browse the Ethical Brand Directory Map for a selection of Vintage shops in London if you prefer to rummage for vintage offline (and plan out your day a bit easier by seeing where they are on a map). Check out the earlier EBD blog on vintage finds by Roberta here
Elly is an ethical fashion blogger on a mission to encourage everyone to love the clothes they own, and make thoughtful purchases that are good for people and the planet. As well as up-cycling and refashioning her existing wardrobe, Elly is always on the lookout for vintage treasures and sustainable fashion innovation.
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