London, with all its flea markets and second-hand fairs, is without any doubt every vintage shopper’s paradise, but Edinburgh vintage shopping is just as much fun, less stressful and slightly cheaper– in other words, a real second-hand treat. Whether you’ve just arrived in Edinburgh and are looking for the nicest places to shop for ‘pre-loved’ fashion, or you’ve been living here for a while but would like to extend your list of favourite guilty shopping pleasures, feel free to consult this guide to the crème de la crème of Edinburgh’s best vintage destinations.
Armstrongs Vintage Emporium is indeed a true vintage empire in the heart of Scotland’s capital city, conquering the hearts of vintage lovers with three stores – from the historic Grassmarket over to Teviot Place and South Clerk Street in Newington. Established in 1840, Armstrongs should without any doubt be every Edinburgh based vintage lovers first stop. Whether you are looking for a cheeky kilt from the 1950s or a 1980s velvet dress, look no further; from niche retro uniforms to floor-length dresses and cosy jumpers for the cold days ahead – Armstrongs has it all. It’s also dangerously easy to lose yourself in the huge Grassmarket branch, and spend hours randomly digging through antique blouses and cashmere sweaters. The good news is that the prices are very affordable, and a leather satchel or shearling coat that would cost you a small fortune on Brick Lane won’t mess with your monthly student budget too much in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Edinburgh makes quality charity shopping simple and enjoyable, whether you’re looking for something specific or just want to browse a little; pick your neighbourhood, and get ready for some seriously efficient charity shop hopping. Students are most certainly familiar with the charity shopping mile that is Nicolson Street, but if you’ve got a bit more time on your hands on a Saturday morning, head over to the lovely streets of Stockbridge beyond Princes Street for some special charity shop finds, or explore Morningside in the south of Edinburgh for cheap vintage finds in search of a loving new home.
While the Vintage Kilo Sale might not be an original Edinburgh institution, it’s definitely a personal favourite of mine. The next one will happen on October 18 in the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith, and if you are keen for some new and unique pieces without having to spend a fortune, make sure to save the date. Get there on time, and remember to bring: tissues if you’re suffering from dust allergies, a friend for advice (“I really don’t think you would wear those tartan velvet culottes very often”), and lots of patience. Granted, it does take some time to work your way through the many boxes and racks of vintage clothing, and you will probably stumble upon a few questionable items that you might wish you rather hadn’t touched. But if you stay strong, you’re bound to find a few real vintage gems at the Vintage Kilo Sale – and when you can get a kilo of clothes for £15, why even try to resist?
The Frayed Hem on Cockburn Street is a bit pricier but excellently stocked when it comes to useful basics such as tartan flannel shirts and high waisted jeans shorts. Plus, it’s very well decorated, and the lovely sales lady once offered me some enlightening life advice when I was purchasing a pair of hoop earrings (“Trust no one but yourself, darling”). Speaking of earrings, it’s definitely worth browsing their jewellery collection as well – it’s comparatively cheap and very lovely. And if you’re looking to purchase a pair of 80s sunglasses, The Frayed Hem is definitely the place to go.