Vintage shopping is a resurfacing art and definitely not something enjoyed by everyone. Typically requiring big time commitments and an eye for the tasteful among the tacky, browsing past fashion trends and designer pieces can either be hugely rewarding or simply a huge waste of time.
With the recent explosion of retro glam across runways and ready-to-wear lines alike, blast from the past retailers which offer new ways to shop this hot trend have been springing up around Toronto like wildflowers. With higher quality finds and curated collections which mix old and new like never before, vintage shopping is quickly becoming a more mainstream way to express personal style and add something completely unique to your wardrobe.
For those of you newbies who want to dip your feet in the vintage pond or for the more seasoned shopper searching out their next hunting grounds, here are 25 Vintage Retailers from Toronto You Should Know About.
69 Vintage, 69 Vintage Collective, and V by 69
This retailer trio stemming from the original 69 Vintage on Queen West are each quite different yet still equally full of old-school gems. Kealan Sullivan, the frontrunner and collector of all three stores really proves her knack for sourcing quality and craftsmanship in every item. For an awesome selection of footwear hit up the Queen location, or head to the Bloor street 69 Vintage Collective which houses independent retail designers and the always dirt cheap “Buy the Pound” rack.
The “V” by 69 Vintage concept store on Walnut Street which changes its looks and feel on a regular basis is currently operating for the summer as the camp inspired “Trinity Tuck Shop”. This retro pop-up is jam-packed with refreshing treats and afternoon-in-the-park accessories, all alongside passé fashion goodies and conveniently located right across from Trinity Bellwoods Park. With Sullivan on a mission to offer 69 Vintage merchandise online in the near future, now is a better time than ever to get excited about shopping vintage!
Black Market Clothing and The Public Butter
The steep little staircase and dingy basement feel at Black Market Clothing doesn’t exactly bring much glamor to vintage shopping, but for those looking for a good deal or hilarious Halloween costume, this is a good place to start. With rock bottom prices and a section dedicated to every category imaginable including tuxes, military gear, and even vintage records, it is no surprise that the Black Market’s more recent sister-store, Public Butter (PB), has also found similar success in Parkdale.
The Public Butter houses clothing along with furnishings and collectables, most notably operating silk-screening presses for custom printing in the back of their mixed retail emporium. Both retailers have a very eclectic and almost random feel, while PB boasts higher quality items and extensive $10 racks at Black Market go easy on your wallet.
Bungalow & Bungalow West
Bungalow and Bungalow West offer the best of both vintage worlds, furniture and fashion! Conveniently located right across the street from each other on Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market, both these clean and spacious shops host a huge selection of merchandise for both men and women.
While the “West” shop features clothing, footwear and fashion accessories only, the original Bungalow stocks larger fixtures and decorating pieces for the home as well. Focused on quality finds from the 40’s to 60’s, you will be sure to find something that tickles your retro fancy from this Toronto vintage staple.
Cabaret Vintage is pure class. Permanently packed with high fashion treasures, this little Queen West boutique has a way of making you feel elegant before you even walk through the front door. Not only are their holiday window displays to die for, Cabaret is also known as Toronto’s best place to shop for your vintage wedding.
Although items may be a bit on the pricey side (not much in there under $100), the sophistication and detail found in every collector-worthy piece makes the cost well worth it. With style for both the guys and gals you can expect to find evening gown glam, tasteful men’s accessories including hats, bow ties and cufflinks, and lots of other great items, some that are newly recreated from all vintage materials.
As a new addition to the Cabaret panache browse the stunning Cabaret Collection of dresses which are inspired by the early eras but with a twist of modern fit and styling.
The Cat’s Meow
For years I drove by the cute black and white striped awning of The Cat’s Meow on Avenue Road, always curious, but never venturing inside until recently when to my horror I realized all the vintage gems I had been missing out on! Immediately the most of coveted of passé designer brands jumped out at me, Pucci, Dior, and Ceil Chapman to name only a few.
Girly items full of glitz, glam, and class lined the walls, including prom worthy dresses, fur stoles, stunning sequined evening wear, as well as a host of equally gorgeous hats and accessories. These couture vintage classics mainly from the 50’s,-70’s are blended amongst newer items from Chanel, Prada and of course the French fashion house Louis Vuitton, making for a lavish visit each and every time you stop by Louise Cooper’s Cat’s Meow.
Nestled right on top of Ruins (a fantastic men’s shop which you can read more about in my earlier blog) is Melissa Ball’s Chosen boutique. To all the faithful vintage followers who remember the popular Shaw Gallery group sale “The Chosen Ones” you’re in for a real treat. With reasonable prices on all sorts of wearable pieces spanning casual cotton to sparkling sequins, there’s something for both the men and ladies in this tucked away second-floor space.
The majority of items are from the 80’s and 90’s but don’t be surprised to find the odd steal from decades as early as the 30’s amidst what Melissa calls “vintage basics”. Complete with footwear and accessories, this old-school collection makes shopping the best of vintage on a budget easy.
This tiny little Kensington shop is a great place to find vintage shoes and accessories, especially if you are into leather. With a hodgepodge of items scattered everywhere (even hanging from the ceiling!) this is the kind of place that requires a bit of digging.
Nonetheless for those who love a good treasure hunt, Cinderella Vintage provides the perfect atmosphere to stumble on something completely unique and unexpected. Reasonable prices mean you don’t have to feel to guilty about stopping by to check out what’s new and at the end of the day what kind of shopaholic can’t justify a $40 pair of retro pumps?
Leah Gust owner of Dalston Grey is a pro at mixing contemporary pieces into her vintage wardrobe to avoid an overly outdated look. Still an amateur when it comes to this? Not to worry, just head over to the little Dundas West shop to get a taste of her awesome style.
Seamlessly mixing exclusive lines like Gat Rimon and Frontpage in with her quality vintage finds means tons options for building a complete outfit, something not always so easily done when it comes to vintage shopping. Also, be sure to keep in the loop by following the boutique on twitter as Leah hosts some really fun evening shopping events with food, music, and of course my favorite part – markdowns!
Divine Decadence Originals
Divine Decadence Originals is about as divine as the Yorkville neighbourhood you will find it in, full of history and culture all displayed through Camelita Blondet’s worldly collection of garments. Each piece is from a different country and a different time period (some fabricated almost a decade ago!) and all in pristine condition as to be expected by the true couture collector.
Unlike many other vintage boutiques which leave fit to fate, Divine Decadence will happily alter any style by a guaranteed 4 sizes, ensuring you can have the one of a kind item you’ve always dreamed of.
F as in Frank
Walking into F as in Frank kinda feels like you’re walking into Will Smith’s dressing room on the set of the Fresh Prince of Bellair. Predominantly full of vintage basketball jerseys, sports tanks, snap back hats, and old-school graphic tees, you can also expect to find a great selection of acid-wash denim and even a sprinkling of ladies designer bags.
This brightly lit space houses what seems like thousands of items, all grouped by category and further color coded on their racks, making this queen street shop easy to browse through for even the most novice of vintage shoppers. With its origins out west in BC, F as in Frank has grown to being not only a retailer but also a primary wholesaler of vintage fashion, meaning the shop has first dibs on some of the best garments in the market.
Flashback, Flashback II, and the King of Kensington
Another notable vintage trio are the two Flashback shops and their “King” on Kensington Avenue. Between these three stores there is something for everyone, with the first Flashback focusing on menswear, Flashback II dedicated to a range of merchandise all guaranteed to have great price points, and the King of Kensington hosting premium vintage for both sexes.
Known for their awesome assortment of leather, western items, and 50’s clothes and accessories check back often because they restock as frequently as twice a week. Need to rent a vintage car? They’ve even got that too, talk about selection!
House of Vintage
Located right in the heart of the up and coming Parkdale neighborhood, House of Vintage stocks clothing and footwear for both sexes. One of the great things about owner Dennis Adamidis’ shop is the spacious feel and organization of the store. Apparel is arranged by category which is definitely helpful as there is tons of browse through.
Although you won’t find much by the way of jewelry, the selection of coats and boots makes this curious boutique a well worthwhile stop for Fall shopping. After closing the doors of their original Queen West location years ago, House of Vintage has since reopened better than ever with success which has even taken then across seas to a second retail space in the UK!
I Miss You and Emporium by I Miss You
Recently making headlines in none other than the New York Times, I Miss You and the next door accessory focused emporium is certainly making its mark in the Toronto fashion community. Owner and curator Julie Yoo has been in the vintage business for over a dozen years, and when it comes to knowing the right places to search out passé couture steals her experience really pays off.
Combing estate sales, auctions, and her well-earned connections with fashion collectors, Yoo now has two side by side retail spaces to fill with her early 1900’s treasures. Expect to pay a bit of a premium for this best of the best selection as I Miss You only stocks top quality. Clothing is never overly worn or stained and always dry cleaned before being put out on the sales floor. Thankyou to Julie Yoo for the worthwhile emptying of our wallets in the pursuit of gorgeous vintage fashion!
Life of Manek
Meet Nicole Manek and her extended closet, a fresh and exciting new addition to the growing Dundas West fashion community. Her decade of industry experience coupled with a TV worthy personality (she is soon to be hosting an equally exciting new makeover show!) makes taking a trip into Nicole’s whimsical world a must.
Tastefully mixing designer denim brands like JBrand and SkarGorn along side more glitzy lines like G-lish and a wide range of couture and vintage pieces from various eras; Manek pulls from her skills as a stylist and costume designer to personally ensure you walk out looking your best. Prices range anywhere from $40 to well over $1000 for some items, making Life of Manek a store accessible to ladies no matter what the budget.
Magwood’s space is just about as gorgeous as the merchandise inside it. Exposed brick alongside Victorian style furniture and classic accents make the already lovable garments that much more attractive. With just over a year under her belt on Dundas West, Sarah Magwood has no intention of ever curbing her innate obsession with beautiful things.
Expect exceptional finds from Hermes and Versace as well as a plethora of dramatic chunky necklaces and conversation starting antique chandelier earrings. It seems Sarah’s passion for the passé might not be satisfied yet as rumor has it she contemplates opening up shop in the basement to feature other vintage decorative pieces.
Of a Kind
Best described as a creative hub for the artistic community as opposed to strictly a fashion retailer, Of a Kind merges music, magazines, art, vinyl and of course vintage clothing all under one inspiring roof. Although this small College street shop has been open less than a year, they have already hosted a ton of great events including live shows from local bands, art exhibitions, and of course late night shopping parties.
Combining Storm and Tamara’s love for apparel and fashion with Kyle and Rob’s obsession with music and vinyl, the co-owners and four friends behind Of a Kind definitely prove more heads are better than one. Most of the clothing is quite reasonable ticketed under $100, while record prices are dependent on the era, band, and condition.
Penny Arcade Vintage
There’s nothing better than the super relaxed vibe of the Penny Arcade on Dundas West. Laid back owner and veteran vintage slinger Sheehan invites you to plop down on her cozy couch (no purchase necessary!) and simply enjoy being surrounded by her eclectic antique décor and nick-knacks from previous decades.
Price points vary as much as the merchandise with everything from cheap and cheerful 80’s swag to pricier passé gems. Sheehan specializes in both men’s and women’s shoes, boots, and eyeglasses, complimenting her collections with a rack full of dresses to die for.
Once a monthly pop up shop back in 2007, co-owners Aaron Doucet and Colleen Ramage have since found a permanent home for Philistine in Parkdale on West Queen West. Their quaint little storefront stocks a range of men’s and women’s vintage from basic apparel to smaller accessories and trimmings.
The guys can expect to find an all American work-wear inspired collection of denim and rugged boots while us girls can look forward to pieces personally altered by Colleen to integrate contemporary elements straight from the runway.
Pretty Freedom is a store that believes in second chances, ugly dancing & treating every day like a treasure hunt. Okay, maybe that one liner doesn’t exactly give you all the info you were looking for but it does give you an idea of young and free spirit you can expect find at this Augusta Avenue store.
Pretty Freedom’s eclectic merchandising style matches their eclectic mix of products perfectly. Owners Helena and Jodee often using seemingly random items in a whole new way to shelve and display their goods, giving a real feeling for their love of recycling. Hand-made jewelry compliments a vintage collection which spans men’s shirts, fancy dresses, fur hats, shoes, and purses all hidden near the Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture in Kensington.
Print Fine Vintage
Mainly showcasing style from the 1940’s to mid 1980’s, Print Fine Vintage on College Street only has room for the finest in the tiney tiny 180 sq. foot store. As owner Shelly Pulak lovingly calls it, this is her “little rabbit hole” and a rabbit hole worth climbing into if I do say so myself.
A true vintage collector, Pulak has a sharp eye for quality and craftsmanship when sourcing pieces for her shop. Whether its designer like Pucci and Yves St. Laurent or lovingly home-made, every item is specifically chosen to appeal to the clientele she knows so well.
Hidden behind a small row of hedges on Ossington Avenue is yet another new vintage and contemporary combo store, Rescue Vintage. Don’t get me wrong, “yet another” doesn’t mean Renee Kaylor’s women’s boutique is just a cookie cutter repeat of the hot mixed era concept sprouting up around Toronto.
In fact, the blend between like-new designer luxury garments alongside casual brand name basics such as Three Dots makes a trip to this little boutique quite unique. Kaylor’s range of jewelry, clothing, handbags, and other hand-made accessories are as tasteful as the small space they are displayed within, making for a great place to purchase a memorable gift or just to treat yourself.
Thrill of the Find
Just as the name describes, shopaholics can expect to experience that addictive rush and “thrill of the find” in Mireille’s Queen East women’s boutique. Being one of the only and certainly best vintage stores in the Leslieville neighborhood Thrill of the Find has gathered quite a loyal following since opening in 2003.
Distinguishing themselves based on their European flare and range of pieces from “new to vintage” this family run shop carries mainly luxury designer items but also a selection of high quality no-name tailored pieces. Still want something even more special? Just ask Mireille nicely and she may even take you to the stores little backroom, an even more thrilling treasure chest full of her most valued European gems.
Timeless Apparel which was once known as the thrift store CTS near Queen and Spadina has been reinvented to embrace the growing love for quality vintage throughout Toronto. Now one of the many retro retailers scattered along Queen West, Timeless offers their relatively large square footage and variety of merchandise as their main means of differentiation.
The big glass storefront windows offer a view inside to all those passing by, complete with a rainbow of color coded shirts all neatly spaced on matching wooden hangers. To say CTS has stepped it up a notch is an understatement but don’t just take it from me. Stop by and check out the new digs yourself with something for guys and girls alike.
USED House of Vintage
USED House of Vintage – not to be confused with House of Vintage which is also on Queen West just up the street – is a heaven for vintage experts and novices alike. After having success with his first two USED locations in Calgary and Vancouver, owner Craig Doyle was quick to tap into the Toronto market seeing a golden opportunity to serve our city’s fashion forward and diverse community.
Both men’s and women’s apparel of all decades, designers, and for every occasion fill the racks of the shop, balanced by a huge selection of sunglasses, jewelry and accessories lined up in neat little rows. Weekly perusing is rewarded with first dibs on the best new gear, as Doyle always ensures hangers are full by restocking every Wednesday. Whether you’re looking for a $20 retro T or $3500 leather Chanel corset, take a trip down to the Queen West strip and turn a USED piece into your brand new favourite item.
(ĭn | tər | ĭm) by The Art of Reuse
Combining amazing thrift finds with a modern twist on shopping The Art of Reuse organization is host to some of the most fantastic pop-up shops Toronto has ever seen. Never lasting longer than a few memorable hours, and sometimes even selling out their entire inventory in just 15 minutes, the block long line up and outside every (ĭn | tər | ĭm) shop speaks for itself.
Each of their pop-up events comes with a fully engaging shopping experience that syndicates décor, music, and extremely affordable style all under one roof. Not only does each and every temporary (ĭn | tər | ĭm) store ooze “cool”, check out their equally cool work with Toronto not for profit organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and future plans to give back worldwide here. Make sure to keep an ear out for their next distinctive event and when shopping choose wisely as there is a limit of 3 items per customer!
As many vintage veterans already know, finding your favorite retro retailer is as much about discovering the curator who best shares your personal style as it is getting lucky with whatever treasures you happen to stumble across along the way. Nonetheless you can still be sure these 25 stores and their counterparts offer the best of the Toronto market, bringing the fun of time travel shopping to those on every budget.
Learn more about awesome retailers from Toronto “You Should Know” in my previous womenswear and men’s fashion blogs by clicking here and here.
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