Boutiques Full of Character and Characters
Edinburgh is a great place to shop for vintage.
With its large student population, vibrant festival culture and independent, arty streak, it's particularly good for adding to your collection of vintage fashion, unusually crafty jewelry, art and handcrafted items of all sorts.
Pick up a local magazine and you will find recommended shopping destinations scattered all over the city. You could run yourself ragged up and down Edinburgh's hills chasing after the latest top 10 lists. Or, you could follow my example and pick out one area to explore thoroughly, concentrating on the shopping instead of the running around.
Quirky St Stephen Street
St Stephen Street in the Stockbridge district is one such area. About 15 minutes downhill from Princes Street, in the heart of Edinburgh's Georgian New Town, it has a handful of vintage shops, a couple of art galleries and boutiques, a good looking pub and a few casual cafes. There's more than enough for an entertaining morning or afternoon in the shops. And, who knows, you might even find a vintage Ossie Clark or Mary Quant or Biba outfit like one worn by Marianne Faithful on a night out with the Rolling Stones.
Miss Bizio Couture
Miss Bizio, aka Joanna Bizio, is the kind of shopkeeper who would sell you the shirt off her back. As a matter of fact, that's sort of what she does. The merchandise in her shop, Miss Bizio Couture is from her personal collection of vintage clothes.
A petite and colorfully attired blond, she favors 1960s and 1970s style but you might find an Edwardian fireman's jacket or a handbag from the late 1800s in among the Puccis and Guccis and Matthew Williamsons. There are Mulberry handbags and shoes as well a variety of random collectables - from a classic scooter and a Hollywood style spotlight to the giant foot outside the shop.
She's still collecting and aims at a policy of one in/one out - so if you have some vintage clobber you'd like to trade, she'll have a look. If you check out her website, don't miss her blog of various "homages" to her style icons.
Find her at 41 St Stephen Street, Stockbridge, in Edinburgh.
Those Were the Days
Claire Paterson, proprietor of Those Were the Days Vintage looks born to wear the colorful clothes she sells in her basement shop. Alongside delicate evening gowns from as far back as the 1920s and 1930s, she aims at the true vintage fashionista with dresses from Ossie Clark, Christian Dior, Thierry Mugler and Jean Muir. There are also antique beaded handbags and stunning costume jewelry, including brightly colored bakelite dress clips from the 20s and 30s.
Most of her stock is evening wear and there is a separate room crammed full of glamorous vintage bridal wear. She also has a collection of crisp, full skirted dresses from the 1950s that are nowadays known as "prom" dresses but, in their day would probably have been more suited to a casual dance, like "the hop."
Find her at 26 St Stephen Street, Stockbridge, in Edinburgh
Also Worth a Visit
St Stephen Street in Edinburgh's Stockbridge area is lined with the kinds of small, independent shops and galleries that are perfect for a quick browsing break. Think of those few hours you have to kill before you catch your train to London or your flight home.
These are just some of the highlights along St Stephen and nearby.
- The Flaubert Gallery, at number 74, exhibits the work of about 60 leading Scottish artists in a variety of styles and sizes. British Vogue said this gallery, "has forged an enviable reputation showing a wonderfully diverse collection of high-flying contemporary Scottish artists."
- The Laurel Gallery, at number 58, is an odd combination of art gallery and home decorating workshop. You can buy moderately priced, decorative paintings, giclees and ceramics by 40 Scottish artists. But you can also buy specialist decorating paints, learn how to reupholster a chair or how to paint furniture.
- Kestin Hare, at number 46, is the design studio and flagship store of this new brand of British-made, sharply tailored, avant garde men's fashion in "technical" sportswear fabrics.
- Sheila Fleet, Edinburgh gallery on St Stephens Street offers delicate gold, silver and enamel jewelry by the Orkney artist. This is her only shop outside of the Orkney Craft Trail and an interesting place to see her work, inspired by the natural environment of the islands.
- The Antiquary Bar. A traditional pub, just below the Flaubert Gallery, where you can try a local beer and plan your next retail binge.Popular with locals and, some say, haunted.
If you go, Edinburgh's Nira Caledonia Hotel is a short walk uphill from bohemian St Stephen Street.