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Edinburgh vintage – a central snapshot

10 February 2013 No Comment

Vintage Brighton editor Jo-ann Fortune pounds the hilly streets of Edinburgh in search of the best vintage and charity shops in the city centre. 

If you’re after vintage cashmere, tweeds and tartans, Edinburgh really is the place to go. Of course stock reflects the season, and no doubt summer dresses will start to take over the bonnie boutiques as we head into March, but for a freezing February the styles were spot on.

Edinburgh Castle

Other things it’s good to know about Edinburgh’s vintage shopping scene: Men are well catered for, with the majority of vintage boutiques offering a wide selection of classic, trend-led and rare pieces rather than the usual one-rail afterthought; quality high-street and designer items are peppered among the vintage rails; and you’re unlikely to get better views anywhere else as you hop between vintage shops. So, where are the hotspots?

Vintage shops

City centre

The Frayed Hem vintage shop - Edinburgh

The Frayed Hem (45 Cockburn Street) is situated on a steep winding street full of independent gift shops and boutiques and is one of the most central vintage boutiques in the city. For women there are bright and bold dresses, blouses and skirts from the ’60s to ’80s, as well as cosy knits and tweed jackets, for men a range of fabulously printed Pop Boutique shirts and for all a selection of vintage-themed books.

Grassmarket

In the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, Grassmarket is one of the most historic areas of the city and a fitting location for the majority of the central vintage boutiques.

Armstrong's vintage shop Edinburgh

Armstrong's vintage shop Edinburgh

Armstrong's vintage shop Edinburgh

Armstrong's vintage shop Edinburgh

Established in 1840, Armstrongs Vintage (83 The Grassmarket) must be the city’s oldest vintage emporium, and perhaps its biggest too. With three rooms packed from floor to ceiling with everything from kilts, military uniforms and sheepskin coats to Fifties’ day dresses, vintage night gowns and a fabulous array of hats, it overflows with historical fashion.

Prices range from £5 for vintage scarves to £100+ for rarer items such as printed silk tea dresses, elaborately embroidered gowns and sturdy coats, but there are plenty of bargains to be found if you spend enough time searching – particularly if you’re a fan of flower power prints. Choose carefully though – several items we spotted were stained or ripped so remember to add on the cost of repairs when totting up your bill.

Iconic collectibles - Edinburgh

Also likely to appeal to fans of vintage fashion, Iconic Design (23 Grassmarket) further down the cobbled street is crammed with Mid-century collectibles including tins, ceramics, glassware and toys and also stocks jewellery and handbags. Prices start from around £5, so plenty for the casual second-hand shopper as well as the serious collector looking for those all important makers’ marks. The friendly owner is also in the know about local museums and antique fairs, so worth striking up a conversation if you’re in town for a few days.

Godiva vintage - Edinburgh

Godiva vintage - Edinburgh

Offering an eclectic mix of new preppy pieces (think cute collar dresses and floaty shirts), vintage and re-made clothing, Godiva Boutique (9 West Port) will appeal to the younger fashion-consious vintage lover. When we were there, jumpers and dresses were on sale from £10, with special pieces such as cotton 1950s day dresses around the £50 mark. The vintage screens and wallpaper in the dressing area add the finishing touches to this well-laid out shop and the denim shirts with vintage print panels reminded us of the upcoming Liberty x Levi’s collaboration. Ahead of the game!

Herman Brown vintage - Edinburgh

Herman Brown (151 West Port) are also fans of vintage denim, with Levi’s aplenty alongside pretty ’60s dresses, brash ’80s jumpers, colour-pop cashmere and fur coats. The counter compact display is a treat for those with a thing for vintage beauty and cosmetics, and HB Electronics, an Eighties/Nineties-concerned capsule collection of flouros, shell suit jackets, baggy trousers, is right on trend for spring/summer 2013.

Smooch vintage - Edinburgh

Carry on down towards the striking The Point Hotel and you’ll come across Smooch (51 Bread Street), dealing as much in quality second-hand clothing as it does vintage. Here you’ll find shoes, jewellery and handbags sharing space with cashmere, dresses and suits from designers such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Whistles and Jaeger. The luxurious dressing room at the back of the shop also boasts wedding dresses and vintage kimonos and the menswear collection is significant.

Aquarius vintage - Edinburgh

Opposite The Point Hotel is a shop which reflects the glamour of The Point’s Art Deco architecture with a vast selection of jewellery, furs, handbags, vintage dresses and designer pieces sourced in Paris. We spotted a Viktor & Rolf suit and Burberry trousers on our visit to Aquarius (3 Spittal Street), which was an impromptu evening stop-in made possible by the accommodating owner and her lady friends, who were having a good old natter after hours.

Charity shops

While vintage shops in the high street centre of the city are few and far between, there are a number of charity shops that are well worth a visit if you’re on the tourist trail.

Nicolson Street

Barnardos vintage - Edinburgh

Nicolson Street, along the South Bridge Road, boasts a row of charity shops lined up next to each other – the perfect bargain-hunting ground if you have an hour or so spare. The Barnardos brand seems to understand the importance of vintage and designer offerings, and this store does both well. Quality coats, printed dresses and skirts lined the vintage rail and items from designers such as Max Mara, Emporio Armarni and Karl Lagerfeld all came in under the £20 mark on the high-end stand.

On the same street an Oxfam books and music shop offers reasonably prices CDs, vintage reads and vinyl and a clothes shop next door the usual pre-loved high street selection.

Shelter charity shop - Edinburgh

Pop in to Shelter for fur coats, knits, vintage jewellery and collectibles – including some very cute ceramic animals – and don’t overlook independent charity shop The Clothing Bank, which stocks a wide range of men’s and women’s vintage at great prices.

The Clothing Bank - Edinburgh

Princes Street

Vintage Dr Who annuals - PDSA Edinburgh

Back to the tourist centre and The Royal Mile offers some real treats – PDSA has an entire section dedicated to vintage, much of it of an Eighties’ leaning, as well as accessories and old annuals. If you’re in the Scottish spirit, the rails of second-hand kilts, tartans and tweeds should also go down well, but as this is a central store, prices aren’t cheap. A Liberty print scarf will set you back £30 – £40 and a Harris tweed jacket £75. Next door is a small Oxfam store, with a surprising selection of vintage wedding dresses somewhat hidden away at the back.

Oxfam wedding dresses - Edinburgh

Have you been vintage shopping in Edinburgh? Which were your favourite shops? Do let us know of other vintage hotspots that we can add to the list for next time…

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