To celebrate Fashion Plus London, we take a look at the best of London’s vintage markets. The following picture might ring some bells: a closet filled with crop-tops and skinny jeans and, somewhere in the corner, second-hand floral jackets, dating all the way back to the ‘60s. We all have something old in our room. Whether it’s a Beatles vinyl or a 1950s’ cocktail dress, it seems we turn to the past for one simple reason; nostalgia.
So how would you like to get lost in a vintage parallel universe? Imagine being surrounded by any type of clothing and jewellery from a different time and place. It could be a spacious ballroom filled with cocktail dresses or a busy street with endless stalls of bric-a-brac. Or Cuba – known for its vintage cars.
Fashion Plus Magazine has visited some of the best vintage markets in London and we present you with our top five. Enjoy your ride to the past!
Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11 1LJ. Saturdays 09:00-19:00. Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate
If you’ve pictured Notting Hill as this calm neighbourhood where Hugh Grant welcomes you to his little bookshop then you’ve probably never visited Portobello Road on a Saturday. This busy street hosts one of the most famous markets in the world, surprising tourists with its endless options of food and clothing.
You’ll know you’re walking down Portobello Road from the region’s typical houses with the colourful doors and the hundreds of ‘50s and ‘60s leather bags. Old street signs and pin-up ads will welcome you to the vintage world. Coca-Cola sous-plats, coffee and Cadbury posters hang proudly next to the Vespa ad and the Tintin comic print.
A few feet away, the Rogers Antique Gallery is full of household and decorative bric-a-brac, such as 1940s’ silver spoons and lighters, frames, brooches, bracelets and Victorian lock-it chains. Tobacco pipes, hand mirrors, hair brushes and hand fans from the ‘20s create an old-fashioned ambiance next to the leather binoculars and the Keystone camera from 1936.
Stocking what must be the largest collection of vintage porcelain tea sets, Chelsea Galleries is also sure to impress you. The 1950s’ silver cufflinks are every man’s dream and the collection of vintage suitcases is astonishing.
The massive Admiral Vernon Antiques Market is perfect for bamboo baskets, lace dresses, fabrics and cushions, while the Red Lion Antiques will take your breath away with the wood and metal type cases that span from the 1890s to the 1950s.
For one last stop, remember to indulge in some vintage clothing and accessories, with the amazing furs, bejewelled jackets, dresses and sparkling belts of Goldsmith Vintage. By now, you should have finished your Hummingbird cupcake and going back for a different flavour.
Alfies Antique Market
13-25 Church Street, Marylebone, NW8 8DT. 10:00-18:00. Nearest Tubes: Marylebone/Edgware Road
Alfies is evidently the largest antique market in the country. Entering this four-floor establishment, you will realise that the 20th century furniture is enough to make you go back in time. But this is only the beginning; vintage leather luggage and travelling accessories will have you thinking you’re about to board the Titanic.
If you’re more of a ‘60s fan, then have a look at the floral and striped hand mirrors on display. Right next to these, you might take a glimpse of a classic ’68 black wall phone, which could still be lying around somewhere in your grandma’s house.
While on the second floor, it’s hard not to notice the special corner of poster ads, the Dodo Posters shop. Dealer Liz will show you all the different pin-up ads she’s been collecting since the ‘60s, while you’ll be wondering how many cigar posters can there ever be.
But Alfies is not only about the great collectibles. Above all, it’s about fashion. Stunning Charleston dresses are practically everywhere, in between the stalls of the innumerable sparkling rings and bracelets. The Sheelin Lace London shop stands out thanks to the marvelous lace gowns, serving as the perfect excuse to buy a wedding dress.
Make sure to pick up the Antiques Trade Gazette from the stands, before entering fabulous Hollywood territory; Velvet Atelier is no doubt Alfies’ gem, offering a variety of impressive pre-50s dresses: knitted, sequined or bejewelled, these high-society party frocks will blow your mind. Owners Michael and Anna have been travelling to France and America to select items like these for their amazing wardrobe.
Finally, after gazing at exquisite paintings and ceramics by famous artists like Picasso and Jean Cocteau on the fourth floor, you will be leaving Alfies feeling nostalgic and overwhelmed.
Brick Lane Market
Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6PU. All day every day. Best on Sundays. Nearest Tubes: Aldgate East/Liverpool Street
Stepping out of Aldgate East tube station and heading down Brick Lane, you might not immediately realise that this street has a lot more to offer than it initially gives away. At first, you will see people in shops or walking outside, like it’s a usual day. But it’s Sunday and there’s nothing usual about that; after a ten-minute walk, you’ll start noticing the crowds.
Suddenly Brick Lane is no longer a street, but an endless party with people dancing, singing and playing music. As you’ll be getting deeper and deeper into the crowd and into the infinite food stalls, you’ll be gladly reminded of your purpose: vintage shopping.
First stop, the Vintage Clothing Market. That’s right, a market within a market, no matter how ‘inceptious’ this may sound! The Old Truman Brewery has been turned into a massive vintage wardrobe. Polka dot, floral or lace crop tops, denim shorts and skirts, colourful tracksuits and sweaters… any kind of vintage clothing is on display!
And if you were hoping for some accessorising, look no further; aviator sunglasses, stunning jewellery, purses and scarves in lively colours ask for your attention.
If you’re more into the collectibles the Antiques Shop is the answer. From transistor record players, vintage posters and suitcases to hand mirrors and teacups, this place is exactly what its name suggests.
It could never outdo the next one, though. This Shop Rocks (no, we didn’t make that up) actually rocks! Gramophones, turntables, vintage cameras, typewriters and coffee makers will make this place your sacred vintage haven. Items like the 18th century long case clock or the 1930s’ bookcase cabinet will have you staring in awe. Old keys, wooden or tin boxes, flasks and lighters even smell like the past!
Hammersmith Vintage Fashion Fair
Hammersmith Town Hall, King Street, W6 9JU. Next fair date: February 8th. 08:00-17:00. (Admission fee: £10 from 08:00 to 10:00, £5 from 10:00 to 17:00). Nearest Tube: Ravenscourt Park/Hammersmith.
What if there was a paradise filled with vintage dresses? The Hammersmith Vintage Fashion Fair opens the gates to a heaven like this every four to five weeks. This market will give you the chance to experience time travel for only a fiver.
The Hammersmith Town Hall is being transformed into a ballroom, bursting with colours and precious finds. Whatever you seek for, name it and Hammersmith’s got it! The items span from 1800 to 1980, so there’s probably nothing left behind… From Victorian and Edwardian costumes to 1950s’ cocktail dresses, the stalls invite antique and vintage suckers to take a bow.
If your formal introduction to society is just around the corner, then a debutante ball dress would be the perfect choice for you. Don’t forget to take a look at the upstairs wardrobe, for an even larger collection of polka dot cocktail dresses, floral jackets and costumes. This additional floor is also suitable for men; tweed jackets, hats and belts come in all exciting colours and patterns.
And while clothes are the main component of this fair, the wide variety of jewellery and accessories is not to be taken lightly. Cute little buttons and embroidered purses in almost every corner as well as hand mirrors and intricate hand fans revive the ‘30s. Yellow striped or flower-shaped clip-on earrings and Coca-Cola handbags represent the playfulness of the ‘60s.
For those with a more refined taste, the turquoise brooches or the ones made of rare Czech glass, dating back to the late ‘30s, can’t wait to tell their World War II story.
5b Greenwich Market, SE10 9HZ. 10:00-17.30. Nearest Tube: North Greenwich/Greenwich DLR
Somewhere between delicious falafel wraps and spicy empanadas, there’s an entire world of vintage finds. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays the Greenwich Market offers a selection of clothes and collectibles, that’s meant to surprise you.
Wandering around for a while, you may notice beautiful corsets, polka dot dresses, headbands and bows, definitely not from this time and place. Second hand books, swan shaped brooches and vintage watches will set you in the mood.
That’s when the 360 Degrees Vintage shop comes into sight. Whatever you thought was forgotten in time is hauntingly alive. While memories of the war are never delightful, there are those who will appreciate a good old camouflage jacket or an authentic military uniform from the World War II.
Others will enjoy the women’s clothes with the multiple undergarments that must have taken ages to get rid of before sleeping. They might see these as the origin of today’s ‘layering’, but they’re definitely better admired than worn.
Of course, there’s a special place for jewellery and accessories; floral scarves and gloves, men’s straps, belts and ties are blending with the one-of-a-kind rings. Vases, bamboo baskets, knitting books, vintage bird cages and the lovely old fashioned étagère in the surrounding area recreate an entire 1940s’ room before your very eyes.
Stepping out of 360 Degrees you’ll be happy to see the sunlight again (if there is any) along with the numerous antique stalls. Annabel Hale who runs Lifestyle Antiques might win your heart with chocolate boxes from the ‘30s, green striped tea cups, and 1920s’ candlesticks.
Last but not least, remember to pass by the colourful corner of tins. Perfect for cough pastilles, pills, natural balms or serving as mirror compacts, you will want to have them all!
So next time you’re walking around the busy streets of London, remember that it’s not only about high-street fashion. Vintage is all around and it’s worth taking a glimpse!