Vintage Edinburgh: Vintage Shopping in Scotland’s Capital
When it comes to vintage and secondhand clothing, Edinburgh, Scotland is the place to be. The city has many quality “charity shops” (secondhand stores run by volunteers to benefit charities) that often look like boutiques.
In these shops, you’ll find anything from home goods to clothes to books and movies. You’ll also probably find me there (if I were still in EDI, that is) as I rarely set foot in regular department stores these days… Edinburgh also hosts Judy’s Vintage Fair, the largest vintage fair in Scotland.
While Edinburgh is host to a number of vintage shops, here are three of my favorites:
Established in 1840 and with three locations across Edinburgh, Armstrongs is perhaps the best-known vintage store in town. Inside each “TARDIS-like store” you’ll find everything from cheap Halloween-style costumes to quality vintage sporrans and kilts to historic 19th century clothing. They sell both men’s and women’s clothing. Beware, though, sometimes the display is not for sale! Going into an Armstrongs sometimes feels more like visiting a museum or gallery than a clothing store.
Established in 1983 “as a collaboration between founder and owner Anna Nicholson and a chap with similar vintage interests,” Herman Brown has become an iconic store on West Port, not far from the Grassmarket.
The clothing and jewelry sold here is selected with care to form cohesive collections, mostly from the mid-20th century through to the 80s and 90s at the moment (though it varies). These collections are handpicked from markets ranging across Munich to Amsterdam and all the way to Seattle.
And the price is right: affordable! You are not likely to find these kinds of clothes at these prices anywhere else. Not to mention, the owner is very nice. I’ve been in a number of times and she has happily chatted to me about the store and where she finds her merchandise. Once, I took my mom in to search for a sixpence (apparently the “family sixpence” – the “something old” that gets passed to every new bride in our family – had disappeared). Though Herman Brown does not officially sell old coins, the owner takes care to stow one in every handbag she sells. And she searched a few bags for us until she found a sixpence – and gave it to my mom for free! So many reasons that make HB one of my favorite places to shop in Edinburgh, and somewhere I’ll go back to whenever I’m in town.
Down the street from Herman Brown, you’ll find Aquarius, an eclectic vintage and gift shop that’s been around for a decade.
From furniture to accessories to reproduction jewelry, you’re likely to find anything in this quaint shop. There is so much stuffed into this small space that you’ll have to spend ages here to take in everything. When I visited, the owner was dog-sitting her daughter’s two little dogs that were sleeping under the furniture. (Did I mention how much I love Edinburgh’s dog-friendly atmosphere?).
Here, you can tell that this is a family business, from the friendly way the owner chatted to me, and how helpful she was when I asked to take pictures. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s supporting local businesses instead of the large streamlined companies you might find in the mall.
There are many other vintage shops in Edinburgh, of course, and I’ve been told that Stockbridge and New Town have their fair share of them. Unfortunately, I didn’t venture out that way very often during my time in Edinburgh, as I lived on the opposite side of town. Have you ever been to any vintage shops in Edinburgh or in Europe? If so, which ones? What did you think of them?
Hayley is a serial expat with a penchant for odd occupations. She has done everything from house-painting to costuming for film to freelance writing and has lived a year in Montreal, Canada and 18 months in Edinburgh, UK. She has an MSc in Creative Writing (fiction) and speaks French…passably. Currently she’s considering more degrees, more film work, and whatever else may come her way.
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