UPDATE 2019: I wrote this post back in 2013 and it's almost certainly a little out of date, and there are many more vintage shops now in Edinburgh. However, at the time I was very happy to spend over two hours in only one shop - Armstrong's Vintage on Grassmarket - and enjoyed taking these photos far too much... and yes, finding the dress I needed!
I went to Edinburgh on a mission. One of the most enjoyable missions a woman has to accept many a time in her life. To buy a dress.
A Guide to Vintage Shopping in Edinburgh
Nomadic life doesn't lend itself to clothes shopping and it has sadly curtailed a passion of mine; vintage clothes. But I had a wedding to go to in Edinburgh and an itching, twitching desire to indulge the rummager, bargain hunter and vintage clothes shopper in me. (If you'd like some proof I love vintage clothes and vintage shopping, please check out this guide for finding and buying the best quality vintage clothes.)
If you're heading to this fine city for a few days and have no interest in vintage shopping (what!?!?), be sure to have a look at my friend Kathi's guide to a weekend in Edinburgh which has a much more up to date and comprehensive list of things to do and see and most importantly, eat! But don't forget drinking. Drinking is also an excellent way to pass time in Edinburgh and this list of Edinburgh breweries will get you off to a good start. And if you're going to be going to Edinburgh for the famous Fringe Festival, here are all the Edinburgh Fringe Festival tips you need to see and do as much as possible.
There are many reasons why I warmed to this shop immediately.
1. The prices are reasonable and fair. London's vintage shopping scene misses this point more often than not.
2. The price tags also highlighted any damages.
3. There was a sale rail and additional reductions throughout; all the more reason to keep rummaging.
4. Many racks were colour-coordinated. It just looks pretty.
5. The staff were friendly and not frighteningly dressed. Some vintage stores I've been to are staffed with people who take vintage fashion a little too seriously and almost scare you into feeling less of a person for not being the same. This is not the case in Armstrongs.
So Armstrong's would be my first recommended port of call. (They also have two other shops - check the website for their addresses).
My second recommendation would be to head to Stockbridge, a small and sweet suburb in Edinburgh's New Town - a gentle walk up hill from Princes Street along beautiful Georgian terraces - that has more charity shops that it should; in the best way possible! Use the guide above for precise details but my favourite charity shops here were all on Deanhaugh Street and included Shelter, the Barnado's store which had an adorable vintage section (I snapped up some heart shaped two tone sunglasses for £2.00) and Debra where I scored a pastel pink pussy bow shirt complete with huge 70s sleeves for under a fiver. This is my kind of vintage shopping.
My third suggestion is the easiest on purpose, as I appreciate you may not have time to factor vintage or any sort of shopping into a quick weekend break in Edinburgh. The good news is that there is a small number of charity shops on the Royal Mile and very close to it, meaning you can incorporate a little bit of bargain hunting in your sight-seeing. I recommend Oxfam and Cancer Research on the High Street near Cannongate and then walk up the Mile another few blocks to South Bridge to find Marie Curie and Save the Children.
Thank you Edinburgh for letting me scratch an itch with great gusto and pleasure. And it was mission successful as I did indeed find the dress; a 1970s full skirted number in aqua with oversized black polka dots that I bought from Armstrongs for just £17.00. Lovely.
Frances M. Thompson
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