With at least 50 vintage boutiques in downtown Toronto alone, staying power is key. Ushering in the second half of our top vintage shops is Cabaret. A favoured Queen West haunt for years, its timeless appeal has managed to withstand neighbourhood changes aplenty, and is beloved by both locals and visitors alike.
This Queen West boutique houses such labels as Ceil Chapman and Fred Perlberg, and has drawn big names like Björk, Leslie Feist and the Outkast boys through its doors. Owner Tao Drayton specializes in cocktail dresses from the ‘20s to the ‘70s for the ladies; modern flâneurs can pick from a tight selection of menswear upstairs, or head down to the basement to seek out goods at Kingpin’s Hideaway.
The inviting space features pale yellow walls, a black and white checkered floor, and a couch upon which tired shoppers may rest and take in the gowns that adorn the walls. A pink satin frock features lace and bead detailing and comes with a removable skirt, giving the wearer two different looks ($625), while a Christian Dior silk taffeta dress from the ‘50s features a muted floral pattern in a medley of greens ($595). We adored a floor-length strapless number spun from taffeta tartan, a refreshing alternative for a bride looking for something (quite) different ($995).
Meanwhile, for men, a deep blue sharkskin mod suit ($225) would pair handsomely with a Liberty London bowtie ($95).
672 Queen St. W., 416-504-7126
Having opened her retail shop just last year, Sarah Magwood is a noteworthy addition to the city’s vintage scene. A young entrepreneur, Magwood got her start through The Drake Hotel’s Make Sale, a 2009 event that lasted six months. As the programmer, Magwood corralled local artists and designers to peddle their wares; soon, she began showcasing her millinery work (she’s self-taught) alongside vintage finds (which she’d been collecting for years). Following Make Sale, Magwood began an online presence through Etsy, which led to the boutique.
Sourcing most of her goods from private collections and estate sales around Toronto, Magwood has also snapped up pieces in New Brunswick and New York. In terms of her personal style, Magwood is drawn to ‘70s Armani and ‘80s Versace pieces, though she notes that the ‘40s-‘60s are her strong suit in retail. A silk sheer dress from the ‘20s, with a drop waist and red glass beading, is an impressive find in her current collection ($450); the most memorable piece Magwood has ever owned was a black Chantilly lace Edwardian dress. “I’d never seen lacework that delicate before,” she notes. We also fell for a Gianni Versace wool and leather blazer, with gold medallions at the cuff ($395), and a playful plum jacket with a cityscape sprouting skywards from the hem ($65).
1418 Dundas St. W., 416-818-3975
Located in vivacious Parkdale, this spacious store is owned by Dennis Adamidis who’s been in the biz for nearly 20 years. In 2010 the shop branched out — to London, nonetheless — with Adamidis noting that more often than not, their wilder pieces are sent overseas, with the Brits currently snapping up Mad Men-style garb by the handfuls.
In the men’s department, Adamidis’s strengths lie in ‘40s military wear, in addition to peacoats and field jackets. For the missus, staples include dresses from the ‘50s and ‘60s, as well as Coach and Dooney & Bourke bags (from $55). The store tends to carry lots of Pendleton and Frye pieces — anything, really, that had has a recent revival, manager Sofia Shiner says.
Some of our favourite pieces include a ‘70s floor-length velvet skirt, starring pink, red and honey brown stripes ($70), and a multicoloured tapestry coat ($195). We loved a men’s ethnic vest in a grey knit with an embroidered pattern in a throng of colours ($195). House of Vintage is also known for sukajan jackets, made in Asia from parachute silk for ‘50s American air squadrons; a tiny one hangs above the cash. “That’s for when Dennis has a kid!” Shiner laughs, noting that it’s not actually for sale.
1239 Queen St. W., 416-535-2142
This elegant Ossington store is the work of Julie Yoo. The front room is devoted to contemporary designer pieces—including Gucci, Chanel, and Sonia Rykiel — while the true vintage pieces are displayed in the back. Plenty of accessories are to be found, with the wide array of purses and clutches a good bet.
Standout pieces include an aubergine silk velvet opera coat featuring embroidered gold leaves ($495), and a number of Pucci finds (we liked a long skirt in a darker palette). A Chanel navy schoolgirl’s dress — with black ribbon at the neck — is certain to make anyone the talk of the party ($500). We were also drawn to an ivory silk gown starring a watercolour flower print at the hem; a chic find for summer, it’s the perfect antidote to too much skin ($150).
63 Ossington Ave., 416-916-7021