May 27, 2024

Toronto is one of the world’s top cities for vintage shopping. With dozens of second-hand shops catering to various budgets, tastes and even eras, the city holds its own against notable vintage shopping destinations like London or Tokyo. From the cluster of quirky vintage shops in Kensington Market to expertly edited high-end boutiques on Dundas West, it really is possible to stock most of your wardrobe with second-hand finds.

Of course, shopping preloved fashion calls for more patience and persistence than the average trip to the mall or scroll through the Zara website. You may not find your perfect pair of faded vintage jeans on the first try (or even the second). Inventory is constantly changing, and the nature of vintage is that once it’s gone, it’s gone. But the reward — one-of-a-kind gems, discounted designer scores and high quality construction — is worth it. You just have to know where to go and what to look for. That’s why we’ve compiled this detailed shopping guide to Toronto’s best consignment and vintage stores.

Best for upcycling your wardrobe: Common Sort, multiple locations, commonsort.com

You’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial creative who doesn’t frequent Common Sort. This chain of three stores scattered across the Annex, Parkdale and Riverside, is a unique player on Toronto’s second-hand scene. It’s essentially the city’s answer to New York City mainstay Beacon’s Closet, where you can trade in your own clothes for cash or store credit. Shopping and selling your clothes here feels like participating in a citywide circular clothing exchange.

The Common Sort buyers are discerning, which means you’ll find of-the-moment trends, popular brands like Everlane and Reformation, true vintage and classic basics like denim and leather jackets. The best part? The prices are extremely reasonable (starting at around $12 for tops) and the sizing skews more inclusive than the average vintage shop. The store credit you earn never expires (and you can use it at any location), and once you build up enough of it, it feels like you’re almost shopping for free.

The standout find: A tiered cotton dress from made-in-L. A. brand Lacausa for $58

Best for on-trend fashion: Pic Vintage Studio, 1338 Dundas St. W. and online at picvintagestudio.com

This relative newcomer to Dundas West (it opened last year) is both immaculately curated yet full of unexpected finds, from ’90s Le Château dresses to ’70s paisley blouses, and the racks are always exploding with colour. You’ll also find outstanding accessories like sunglasses, leather ankle boots and heart-stopping designer bags (think nylon Prada shoulder bags and striped Gucci totes). This is the store to go to if you’re looking to inject some freshness and personality into your closet.

The standout find: A semi-sheer paisley blouse, $38

Best for timeless classics: Penny Arcade, 1177 Dundas St. W.

One of the older and more enduring vintage boutiques on Dundas West, Penny Arcade has been keeping stylish locals in vintage Levi’s, fisherman knits and leather moto jackets for over a decade. The MO here is classic staples and basics that can be treasured for years. The pieces are usually in immaculate condition and there’s an emphasis on natural fibres like silk, linen and wool. While the selection spans many decades and labels, the main focus is 1990s and early 2000s finds from familiar brands like DKNY, Liz Claiborne and Ralph Lauren. The price point is not exactly entry level but reasonable (blouses run about $60, dresses around $90), and the entire shopping experience feels elevated yet relaxed.

The standout find: A chocolate brown, pure silk Ralph Lauren blouse, $65

Best for runway pieces: VSP, 1410 Dundas St. W. and online at vspconsignment.com

While Toronto has over a dozen designer consignment stores, VSP takes the top spot thanks to its beautiful location, strong online presence and reputation for stocking the buzziest, often very recent pieces from It labels like Bottega Veneta, Celine and Hermès. You’ll find Zimmermann and Akris cocktail dresses and perfect white tees by Acne Studios. Luxury is the name of the game here, with price points to match. But if you’re willing to compromise on condition (and accept, say, some wear on a pair of heels or a faint scratch on a handbag) then you can snag a great deal; also, keep an eye out for their sales.

The standout find: Cream leather loafers by Gucci, $500

Best for designer classics: Rewind Couture, 577 Mount Pleasant Rd. and online at rewindcouture.com

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s located off the trendy path, but Rewind Couture’s pricing tends to fall on the more reasonable end of the high-end spectrum (if you consider under $500 for an Alexander McQueen cocktail dress reasonable). The glass display cases here are bursting with Chanel and Louis Vuitton bags from every era, sourced from all over the world. You’ll also find luxury staples like Smythe blazers, Christian Louboutin shoes and Moncler puffers.

The standout find: A pristine cream and brown Loewe Puzzle bag for 45 per cent off the retail price, $2,995

Best value vintage: Stella Luna, 1627 Queen St. W.

This shop in the depths of Parkdale has been around for 28 years. It’s only open for a few hours on weekends, there’s no website and even post-pandemic the store is stubbornly cash-only. But once you set foot in the small space densely packed with colour-coded racks, where jazz is always on the radio, you’ll understand that it’s all worth it. Most pieces are from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s with an emphasis on bright colour and retro silhouettes. Many of the labels are from a bygone era but you’ll spot the occasional DVF or Armani. The prices are so reasonable it’s almost unfair: pure silk blouses for under $30 and tailored trousers for under $50. Then there are the drawers overflowing with costume jewelry like pendant necklaces, clip-on earrings and cocktail rings, which will keep you occupied for an hour. The pro move here, especially if you’re shopping for a special occasion, is to politely ask to be let into the store’s basement archives, where more gowns and cocktail attire are kept.

The standout find: Gold-tone clip-on hoop earrings, $9

Best for inclusive sizes: Nouveau Riche, by appointment at 5 Adrian Ave. and online at nouveaurichevintage.ca

Nouveau Riche carries lots of ’70s boho pieces like midi dresses and suede jackets, and is well worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for larger sizes. “There are folks who make an effort to carry things that I consider plus size but it tends to be very, very limited,” says Rochelle Latinsky, who owns the online size-inclusive store My Clementine Vintage. Latinsky says that most vintage shop owners just don’t have the lived experience of being a size 14 themselves, and “they might carry something marked a size 14 that may or may not actually fit like a size 14.” Nouveau Riche is Latinsky’s pick for Toronto’s most size-diverse vintage store — it operates by appointment at its Junction studio and online, and has a dedicated section on its site for larger sizes.

The standout find: A matching set by Rodier France, $155

Best for treasure hunting: Black Market Vintage, 347 Queen St. W.

No vintage shopping guide to Toronto would be complete without a mention of this second-hand stalwart. Black Market closed and reopened its original, subterranean location on the north side of Queen West during the pandemic, but it’s the upstairs location across the street that’s truly worth visiting. You’ll find a little bit of everything here: party-ready shoulder-padded blouses, grungy tees, ’80s power blazers and army jackets. The selection rotates seasonally (expect denim cut-offs in the summer and quirky knits in the fall) with most pieces costing between $10 and $40. There’s a big selection of vintage denim in every wash by the likes of Lee, Calvin Klein, Wrangler and of course Levi’s. Try on enough pairs and you’ll be rewarded with your new go-to jeans.

The standout find: Vintage distressed Levi’s 505s, $40

Best for utility wear: Coffee and Clothing, 841 Gerrard St. E.

Coffee and Clothing started out as a café with a couple racks of vintage on the corner of Pape and Gerrard. That location recently closed, but the second, larger space on Gerrard Street East offers an expanded selection of vintage clothing, homeware and (naturally) coffee. If your idea of a perfect vintage score includes something from Carhartt or military surplus, then this is the store for you. You can reliably find olive army pants, M65 jacket liners and camo-printed bucket hats. But it’s not all utilitarian. The selection is rounded out with printed ’70s dresses, wool midi skirts and fun outerwear.

The standout find: Perfectly paint-splattered Carhartt overalls, $75

Liz Guber writes about style and culture for The Kit. Reach her via email: [email protected]

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