Snappy Answers runs every Saturday afternoon. Send your questions, be they tough or trivial, to [email protected].
I am new to the city and am looking for advice on where to find great vintage clothing shopping. Can you please recommend both general areas of town where I might have some luck and, most importantly, specific stores I should check out? As someone on a budget, I’m looking for good deals. Also, I heard something about vintage shopping online—do you know of any good sites? I’m a little squeamish about internet shopping, but would try and get over it for some good deals.
I think a better question would be, where in this city can you not find great vintage clothing?
Kensington Market, Toronto’s stubbornly ungentrified bohemian mecca, is the traditional go-to spot for all things throwback. Kensington and Augusta Avenues are lined with dive boutiques in which you can spend hours cool-hunting for the ironic (hair-metal band t-shirts, Dynasty-era sequined tops) and iconic (Western boots, Jackie O headscarves). The best dresses are at Flashback Too (25 Kensington Avenue) and usually sell for between $25 and $40. Courage My Love (14 Kensington Avenue) has been hawking hippie chic since hippies were actually in style (i.e. 1975) and is still a great place to pick up colourful scarves and ethnic jewellery. Bungalow (273 Augusta Avenue) is best known for its impeccably restored seventies furniture, but the back of the store is dedicated to preloved duds, including a $10 rack. Careful, though—like most Kensington Marketers, the Bungalow owners don’t make much distinction between vintage and just plain used. In general, shopping in Kensington is like digging through your packrat greataunt’s basement: for every swinging sixties mod dress, there are six pleather minis dating all the way back to 1996.
Perhaps that’s why the Market is slowly losing its edge to the Ossington strip, where grunge-luxe reigns supreme and every day is a Feist lookalike contest. Badlands (104 Ossington) caters to the lady-rocker crowd with fringed leather, sequins and shoulder pads galore. (You can also borrow from the boys’ section to get the Seattle look, all plaid flannel and rough-and-ready denim.) Across the street, I Miss You (63 Ossington) has the prettiest window displays on the block (for Valentine’s, a series of Valentino-red silks and taffetas fill the storefront) and the priciest but so-worth-it wares inside. Most things are designer-labelled, impeccably restored and accordingly priced: think Hermès scarves and Courregès shifts for around $250 and $550, respectively. If the occasion’s not that special, head north to Print Fine Vintage (834A College Street, at Ossington) for cheap(er) party dresses and perfectly picked handbags and pumps to match.
For almost criminally cheap deals, sneak into Black Market on Tuesdays, when the entire store, from belts to boots to biker jackets, is 50 percent off. There are two locations on opposite sides of the street, but we prefer the smaller, girl-friendlier selection at the south side joint (319 Queen Street West, upstairs). On any given Tuesday, you can score a disco-metallic clutch, a creamy lace slip dress and a grandpa cardigan, all for less than $50.
When it comes to internet shopping, we feel your squeamishness. Vintage sizing can be tricky, and return policies sketchy at best. So instead of venturing out into the worldwide web, we suggest you stick to local dotcom emporiums UpsideDive and Showdown Vintage.
UpsideDive Inc. is run by four siblings who share a love of everything retro and recyled: in addition to printed cotton shirtdresses ($30-$40) and cat-eye sunglasses ($15-$20), they sell all manner of whimsical home accesories. The friendly family has been known to welcome local shoppers to their home for by-appointment browsing and even deliver must-haves to customers’ doors.
Showdown Vintage has a wildly popular eBay boutique, where motorcycle jackets, neon tees and seventies-glam jersey dresses appeal to Queen West’s it girls (and boys). If you’d rather make love than bidding wars, you’re in luck: Showdown throws down monthly shopping parties at their in-home showroom (419 Shaw Street, at College). As it happens, the next such event is tomorrow, February 10, from noon to 8 p.m. RSVP via Facebook or email to attend.