To the Manor Born

By Sam Wilson - December 18, 2019

In London, the smart set wears vintage. Now you can, too

Maybe it’s post-Brexit nostalgia or a longing for things past in the face of an uncertain future, but in fashion-conscious London, vintage clothing could not be more of the moment. Suddenly a perfectly-preserved beaded dress from the 1920s carries more social cachet than this year’s model, no matter who designed it. In a culture whose upper classes love a good hunt and frown on conspicuous signs of wealth, it’s no wonder that the search for beautiful old garments which don’t look terribly expensive (but probably cost the earth) is now considered a noble if not downright ennobling pursuit. Good stalking grounds include flea markets or estate sales in the countryside, (commonly known as ‘where vintage couture goes to die’). But you needn’t leave London to find a lovely Edwardian-era frock, a velvet waistcoat, or a flapper dress. If you’ve ever dreamed of looking to the manor born, these spots have vintage style to spare:
The Vintage Showroom. Housed on the ground floor of a building that dates to 1835, this central London shop is one of the rare places that specializes in top-drawer vintage menswear. Come here for beautifully-tailored white button down shirts, light summer jackets, classic denim, a boater hat, or just to admire the building, which at one time was an elastic glue manufacturer and later an iron mongery. (14 Earlham St.)
Blackout II. A few blocks away from the Vintage Showroom, Blackout II is in every London stylist’s address book. Theater people love it, too. For not only does Blackout stock cocktail dresses and the odd polka dot frock with a pussy cat bow, it also has an amazing collection of vintage wedding gowns and antique silk nightdresses. (51 Endell St.)
Beyond Retro. Tucked away on Great Marlborough Street in the Soho district, Beyond Retro is packed to the gills with funky threads from the 80s and glitter rock artifacts. This is the place to take your teenage daughter and her friends. (58-59 Great Marlborough St)

One of a Kind Archive. A favorite of Vogue editors, this cluttered shop doesn’t exactly put its best foot forward. But don’t be fooled by appearances. Hanging from its racks are enough amazing pieces to outfit the principals of Downton Abbey. Even though it’s all the way on Portobello Road, it’s worth the slog. (259 Portobello Road)
William Vintage. If you’re going for the Amal Clooney look, and if you have deep pockets, you’ll want to head to William Vintage, which deals in red-carpet looks. This might be the best vintage shop in London with prices and a bold-face clientele to match. (2 Marylebone St.; by appointment only.)
Oxfam Charity Shops. A charity shop? Yes, really.Oxfam has shed its dowdy image, so much so that it now advertises in the front pages of British Vogue. Part of the fun is never knowing what you’ll find. Recent sightings include a Marni blouse from the 90s or a pair of retro specs à la Audrey Hepburn. (Various locations throughout London.)

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