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Finding Vintage Off The Beaten Path

Courage My Love: Like an apothecary of exotic accessories. Courtesy of

Many moons ago when I was a professional teenager, I used to beg my mother on weekends to take me to thrift shops in order to peruse the multitude of racks for clothes I could rip apart and re-construct.  My friends and I joke this is pre-Imitation of ChristShopping vintage is an adventure, sleuthing for the best of finds and ultimately coming home with one-of-a-kind treasures.  These days, Toronto is fortunate to see a plethora of vintage shops popping up on every corner.  Here, steamed Pucci’s hang next to brocade Fendi and gilded clutches and rhinestone brooches lay in glass cases.  

For those of us who lament the days of digging through ‘everything for a $1′ boxes, the true essence of ‘vintage-vintage,’ is in scoring amazing finds for under five dollars.  You always heard the urban legend about the girl that found her vintage Prada under a heap of canvas bags and thought: “I want to be that girl!”  Then you would run out of your apartment, twirl around in the middle of the street and throw your beret into the sky like Mary Tyler Moore.  That last little bit was a fantasy sequence. 

Where in the world are the best vintage markets?

If you are looking for some adventures in vintage shopping in the city, here are some tips to ‘vintage-vintage’ shop where others fear to tread:

  • Kensington Market – Inside the side streets of Dundas Street West and Spadina (on Augusta & Kensington Avenue) lies the hippie, boho enclave of Kensington Market.  While many know it for its fresh produce, incense products (patchouli, anyone?), cheap imports and old clothing, there are still many fine vintage stores which can appeal to the cosmopolitan fashionistah.  MK & Ash love it, as do I.  While weekends can be jammed with tourists and local citizens window shopping, try to come on a weekday afternoon to enjoy a less-crowded shopping experience.  I think Courage My Love (14 Kensington Ave.) has the best fashion jewellery, chunky wooden bangles, reconstructed clothing and vintage slip dresses.  I recently saw the sweetest dip-dyed chiffon capelets with sequin appliques on the shoulders.  Flashback (33 Kensington Ave.) also has a nice selection of colour-blocked dresses, from cotton sundresses to pouffy tulle and sequin 1950’s cocktail. 
  • Antique Shops – Many fashionistahs walk by antique shops because they don’t need a naked porcelain of David or they have their condo outfitted with a chandelier (thank you very much).  This is perhaps the biggest mistake of your life.  Yes, I am being dramatic but if you say you love vintage jewellery, you mustx3 stop in your tracks and make a bee-line for that entrance.  Beyond the dusty wooden frames, many times are glass cabinets and suitcases filled with costume jewellery and enamel brooches.  These secret stashes are generally taken from estate sales or bought as assorted lots.  Yesterday, I sternly (tough love) told my friend C, “You better negotiate” as she was taking a substantial volume of crystal.  And you can do this as tiny shopkeepers appreciate your business.  Remember, to smile, be friendly and keep your cool in negotiations.
  • To Market We Shall Go – My heart longs for a vintage or antique market here, like the reknown one in Pasadena California, The Rose Bowl Flea Market or the famous Portobello Market in London (which is actually very good but packed like a can of sardines).  We do have The Clothing Show (formerly The Old Clothing Show) which happens every Spring and Fall.  I haven’t been in years but perhaps I should give it another go to see if it lives up to its brilliance of my youth. 

And now that I have given you sage advice on how to find the vintage of your life, may the fashion gods look down favourably upon you and may you return with many high-ROC treasures to adorn your beautiful self.  Success! 

Where do you find your vintage off the beaten path?  I would love to hear from you! xoxo



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