I’ve deliberated over the idea of writing a post like this on the grounds that it could be argued to be lazy and/or superficial. However, the fact remains that one of my favourite activities is hunting round charity shops and similar in the hope of finding a gem that everyone else has missed. I’ve been doing this with my mum since I was a tiny kid (when it was for necessity rather than sheer pleasure), and even if I won the Euromillions tomorrow, I couldn’t stop myself.
So, here’s my run-down of my favourite places in Edinburgh to buy vintage and the plain old and interesting:
This charity shop, which aims to raise money for people with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), is small but virtually always has something I want. I suspect that its location – in the well-heeled district of Marchmont and near the even better-heeled district of the Grange – could account for its quality stock. I’ve never paid much attention to the clothes here as I’m always distracted by the range of furniture, china and curios (such as 1950s-ish miniature playing cards in their own decorative case) on offer. Having said that, this morning, there was an ex-US army overcoat in there – not something you often see around these parts. Be aware that good stuff here goes very quickly.
I have to declare a conflict of interest as one of my friends is the assistant manager of this shop. Nevertheless, I can say in all honesty that this branch of the Barnardos charity shop chain has recently upped its game as far as its vintage stock goes, with clothes being the main thing on offer. They sometimes save up choice items for special events, so keep track of the store on its new Twitter page.
Usually a good selection of old books as well as modern titles, and the source of my recently-blogged about copy of Don Quixote.
Immediately adjacent to the main Oxfam shop (which sells clothes and household stuff, but which I haven’t much success with as far as old things go), there is a section for aged volumes. I’ve bought a few things here that I hope to blog about at some point.
In my experience, Edinburgh’s Bethany Shops are all good places to get furniture. However, I slightly prefer the Morningside branch over the others I’ve been to because of the usually good range of high quality stuff on offer. If you like early twentieth-century wardrobes, this is the place to keep an eye on.
Edinburgh’s Stockbridge district has no shortage of charity shops and, being the salubrious area it is, there are often some higher-end high street labels on offer. When it comes to vintage fashion, my favourite place is this Barnardo’s store. Some of the stuff I’ve seen here definitely (in my humble opinion) outclasses what’s sold by Edinburgh’s dedicated (non-charitable) vintage fashion stores.
Bypass the refurbished furniture on display in the shop overlooking Causewayside and head down the side-street into the barn-like building which holds much, much more. This definitely isn’t the place for a bargain, but there is truly beautiful furniture on offer, and a lot of the items in the barn, by virtue of not having been reconditioned, are cheaper than what’s on show in the in shop. There are also all sorts of weird and wonderful things scattered among the wardrobes and tables: I’ve previously spotted a suit of armour, a completed scrapbook which had to be several decades old, World War II-era candles, and original fifties dresses.
Dedicated vintage clothing shops are notable by their absence from the above list. I enjoy browsing these but find that, given someone’s already done all the hunting for you, it’s just not quite as much fun, plus the prices are usually higher. However, I would recommend centrally-located Herman Brown for its relatively discerning stock selection and uncluttered layout. A fuller list of Edinburgh’s dedicated vintage clothing and accessories shops is given on this blog’s right-hand menu bar (under ‘Website’).