A savvy guide turns hunting and gathering select vintage fashion in Sydney into a mission accomplished. The style trail awaits.
Shopping for vintage apparel is not for the faint-hearted, but there are rewards for those who persevere. Pre-loved wares can breathe life and personality into a tired wardrobe, often at a fraction of the cost of regular retail, and what better way to indulge in fashion’s capricious trends than via a glamorous bauble, slick cravat or ravishing retro dress?
When seeking one-off treasures, tenacity is important, but knowing where to browse is the key. If you’re time-poor, trawling through endless racks in grungy recycled clothing stores is generally a recipe for disappointment and unlikely to yield any exquisite confections. Cue Vintage Express, a unique shopping tour hosted by fashion consultant Siobhán Young and her bubbly counterpart from Chic In The City, a company that specialises in bespoke shopping experiences. The three-hour chauffeured tour takes you through the most vibrant boutiques and markets in Sydney’s Paddington and Surry Hills. If hunting in a big tribe is not your thing, fear not – they keep group numbers to a maximum of seven. And for those who have always wished for a personal shopper, Young and her team are on hand for expert advice on flattering styles and colours, and to personally source items for you to try on. Following are some of the Vintage Express standouts.
Coco Repose is a delightful store epitomising old-school elegance. Expect frocks worthy of Mad Men’s Betty Draper, plus whimsical cloche hats, Hermès scarves, gossamer-like tulle skirts and reworked pieces made from retro fabrics, in the well-curated selection. Aspiring Audrey Hepburns will also locate perfect little black dresses here.
Around the corner is Grandma Takes A Trip. Fashion editors, local celebrities and vintage addicts regularly converge on this Crown Street emporium to look for recherché pieces – Biba tunics, quilted Chanel bags, luxurious mink coats and red carpet gowns. It’s a well-known industry fact that the best loot (Dior, Balmain) is hidden away from display – so if you’re after something special, just ask.
Sydney nightclub impresario Carolina Jensen’s opulent boutique My Boudoir is what you’d expect from a dedicated follower of fashion. Gold-flocked wallpaper and plush velvet Edwardian-style chairs offset a staggering array of pre-loved designer clothing and footwear. Sergio Rossi, Ferragamo, Gucci, et al keep company alongside bedazzling costume jewellery and Christofle crystal vases.
At the Paddington end of Oxford Street lies the shoe-box-sized Shag. One almost suffers from Stendhal Syndrome (symptoms: rapid heartbeat, feeling faint) upon entering this trippy space. Shelves groaning under the weight of ornate bakelite baubles, unabashedly colourful lurex dresses, fur stoles and all manner of vintage curiosities along with edgy apparel from emerging designers are the order of the day.
Last, but not least, is Harlequin Market. This decidedly upmarket boutique specialises in vintage and contemporary jewellery. Highly covetable rings and bangles from American designer Kenneth Jay Lane are a highlight, while gauzy offerings from hard-to-find clothing labels such as the UK’s Preen and Australia’s own Nicola Finetti are equally lust-worthy.
As Young says, “Fashion is constantly being recycled, hence the beauty of finding original pieces. Plus, they are one-off finds and it’s good to wear something that will allow you to stand out from the crowd.”
+61 416 644 337.
82 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills.
+61 2 9356 4804.
Grandma Takes A Trip
263 Crown Street, Surry Hills.
+61 2 9356 3222.
323 South Dowling Street, Darlinghurst.
+61 2 9380 2782.
34 Oxford Street, Paddington.
+61 2 9357 2475.
94a Oxford Street, Paddington.
+61 2 9357 4433.
Source Qantas The Australian Way October 2010