Details, London thrift shops
All these years later, I found myself with a few days to spare on a summer lecture trip to London and decided to revisit the world of thrift fashion, starting with Oxfam, an excellent source of vintage and barely worn pieces that you can still get (at many times the price) in London boutiques. This venerable anti-poverty charity has nearly three dozen locations in the city, although the Westbourne Grove Oxfam is one of my favorites. Five or six years ago, I got a gorgeous green Etro scarf there and a pair of 1960s lizard-skin stilettos, the kind that Joan Holloway would wear to slink magnificently into the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
I wasn’t so lucky this time, though I was sorely tempted by a tutti-frutti polka-dot summer dress by Ghost ($60). Then I imagined the thick viscose crepe in the relentless steam-heat that is a Tallahassee summer, sighed and put it back on the rack.
That evening at dinner, my friend Deborah, a lawyer who lives in South London, held up what looked like a brand-new Kate Spade bag, the kind that goes for $350. “Thirty quid [$48] at the Herne Hill Oxfam,” she said, triumphant.
Strangely (at least to me), some people are a little squeamish about putting “used” clothes on their bodies or stashing their lipstick in a handbag older than their granny. They want only new things. “I can’t imagine that,” says Colleen Purkiss, a stylish vintage-wearer and student at Cleveland College of Art and Design in the north of England. “I like living in an old house. It’s got history. Same with clothes. Old clothes have seen all this life.”
Colleen said that for her school prom, most of the girls wore “meringues,” candy-colored Disney princess dresses, while she chose a black number from the 1930s: “Very straight, very simple.”
On Saturday, I took in Portobello Road Market: It used to be a great place to find bargain pieces of good lace and old evening gloves in colored kid. The prices these days, however, are positively eye-watering.
But then, everything in Notting Hill is expensive. If you fancy a Daisy Buchanan-ish Comme des Garcons frock in flowered georgette for a fraction of the original price (three grand), it can be had on Pembridge Road for about $600. Retro Woman (Retro Man and Retro Home are nearby) is a dark, crowded cave of high-quality clothes by iconic designers of the past 40 years: Zandra Rhodes, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Prada, Jean Muir and Ossie Clark. Tall glass cases display immaculately kept shoes by Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and others, ranging in price from $50 to $700.