The word ‘vintage’ is often used to bump up the price of a regular second-hand item. Once I saw a set of IKEA tumblers with ‘vintage’ scribbled onto the label hoping to be passed off as collectible. I prefer to believe the stallholder simply misunderstood the definition of the word than an unscrupulous bid to make a few extra bucks. ‘Vintage’, for the record, is used to classify items created between the 1920s and 20 years ago (i.e., In 2015 that means 1995). Anything before that is antique, and anything new made in the style of an era is retro.
The thrill of finding a one-off vintage item that seems to be for you is unparalleled in shopping highs. You aren’t going to walk into a party and see three other people wearing your jacket, and it’s incredible how perfectly that coffee table slots into your living room decor. What’s more ,you always remember how and where your romance with your vintage find began. We’ve compiled the best vintage destinations in Melbourne for your next style meet-cute.
#1 Martin Fella Vintage
Whenever I’m cash-strapped, I ban myself from entering clothing stores and the top of my list is Martin Fella. I am powerless to Fella’s personal taste in fashion and rarely walk out empty-handed. While items might be over 30-years-old, Fella’s choices for both men and women are fresh, adventurous and Steve McQueen cool. Racks are lined with Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy and YSL, as well as label-less items, but prices aren’t out of reach. Instead, the stock is more rationally and reasonably priced than your standard newly hip op-shop. Once I saw a ‘80s Prue Acton jumpsuit for $100; to this day I regret not trying it on. Stocking the glass cabinets is a mix of vintage brooches, sunnies and cufflinks with wares by local jewellery designers. During the winter months, Fella enlists his mother to knit colourful beanies.
Where: 556 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
#2 Lost & Found Market
From abandoned nightclub to 1000 square metres of space, Lost & Found has grown into an Ali Baba cave. Full of vintage fabrics, clothing, furniture, kitsch kitchen and sports ware, plastic deer heads and vintage Playboys. Lost & Found houses over 60 stallholders, including Uncle Dougy from Rare Records who, along with selling rare and collectible records, operates an old school t-shirt printing press. Once owned by his father, it features an extensive collection of retro transfers. Lost & Found is only open on weekends from 10am-6pm.
Where: 5-11 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
#3 Retro Star
Retro Star takes a bit more digging due to the quantity of available retro and vintage buys. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to find the ‘60s playsuit or ‘90s flannel in the specific pattern or colour you were imagining. Retro Star is also a winner for those looking for Doc Martins, classic band t-shirts, denim, or pop culture paraphernalia. Their bi-annual warehouse sales are like Boxing Day for vintage and retro pieces with everything selling for $5 or $10. (They just held one in May, so keep an eye for another toward the end of the year.) Head in-store now if you’re after a Christmas in July knit because they’ve got plenty.
Where: First Floor, Nicholas Building, Swanston Street & Flinders Lane, Melbourne
#4 Nook Vintage
Often while you peruse a store selling vintage industrial items you are silently eyed by a grumpy looking middle-aged man. This isn’t the case at Nook Vintage. The supremely welcoming couple Rachel and Gary Lewarne will enthusiastically help you find what you’re looking for (and maybe even do you a deal) or allow you to browse pressure-free. Focussed mostly on industrial furniture and homewares, they also have a small section dedicated to clothing. What sets this place apart is that you won’t stumble on many of their pieces elsewhere, especially outside of Melbourne. Along with the expected work benches, map drawers, and riddling racks, Nook will surprise you with rare items like manually operated tram destination scrolls.
Where: 258 Johnston Street, Fitzroy; Nook Vintage Warehouse, Rear 304 – 308 Queens Parade, North Fitzroy
#5 Vintage Garage
Got a party to go to where what you wear needs to slay? Vintage Garage’s stallholders have the showstopper outfits and jewels you require. You’ll find pro-shimmy gogo two-pieces, pink panther fur coats, and a collection of ultra pretty hats and fascinators that we recommend buying up before the racing season starts. Several of the stallholders such as Belair The Label make retro reproductions that you can order to your size and shape. It also is the physical home for online store Dear Gladys, the online boutique owned by the not-for-profit Fitted For Work. The organisation helps disadvantaged women find and keep jobs.
Where: 318 Smith Street, Collingwood
#6 Diamond Dog Vintage
Diamond Dog Vintage distances itself from the saturation of vintage stores in Melbourne in more than just physical distance. Owner Sally Sutton maintains a high threshold of quality for every piece found in the store that ranges strictly between the ’20s and the ’70s. Largely sourced from around Victoria, Sutton still manages to avoid upcycled and altered garments and often features pieces in a similar condition to what they would have been when they first met a shop front. Diamond Dog Vintage is also visited by a seamstress weekly should you need any slight adjustments to your purchases.
Where: 105 Charles Street, Seddon
If you can’t withstand a fashion frown from people much better dressed than you without bowing out of a room, Shag may not be for you. But it’s hard to deny the impeccable selection available at Shag whether in the CBD, on Brunswick Street or Chapel Street. Their accessories are unmatchable in coolness, and everything in the store begs you to let your freak flag fly. If you’re decked out in Shag apparel you’ll easily skip the line for the club.
Where: 130 Chapel Street, Windsor; Shop 20 Centreway Arcade, 259 Collins Street, Melbourne; 377 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
#8 American Rag
As the name suggests, American Rag specialises in vintage clothing regularly sourced from around the USA. Their main trade is footwear, clothing and accessories for men, women, and the less commonly catered for, young boys and girls. This is the first stop for ladies wishing to live out a Jackie O-inspired or old Hollywood look.
Where: 15 – 17 QV Terrace, QV, Melbourne; Shop M24, Southgate, 3 Southgate Avenue, Southbank
(Lead image: American Rag)
Anna is the former editor-in-chief of TheVine. She currently writes for Spook, Broadsheet and The Big Issue. Once she made her friend drive her from Manchester to Wales to visit the '60s film set of The Prisoner because most of her life revolves around TV. You can follow her on Twitter @annahoran.