9 under-the-radar vintage and second-hand shops from coast to coast.
Isabel B. Slone scoured the country to bring you some of the most under-the-radar vintage and second-hand stores in Canada and one thing’s for sure: they’ll all give you the thrill of the find. From Halifax to Vancouver and everywhere in between, here are the best places to find pre-loved pieces.
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SPECIALTY: Trendy fast-fashion and designer-label gems
WHY WE LOVE IT: Like most consignment stores, Common Sort can be a grab bag when it comes to style, catering to both Gen Z Y2K enthusiasts and designer snobs alike. Despite the disparate racks, what everything has in common is an affordable price tag; high-quality vintage pieces can be had for less than $30, and designer items rarely go for more than $100. With three different locations across Toronto — each catering to its unique neighbourhood locale — Common Sort will fulfill any bargain hunter’s bloodhound-like nose for a deal.
SPECIALTY: Pristine rare 1960s vintage
WHY WE LOVE IT: Open only two days a week, Stella Luna is perhaps Toronto’s best-kept vintage secret. Owner Crispian Underwood has been hawking Oleg Cassini blouses and sleek alligator pumps to discerning Torontonians since the mid-’90s from her west-Parkdale storefront with its celestial motifs painted on dusty-orange walls. Prices are scandalously affordable; a stunning 1960s beaded cardigan clocks in at only $30. Ask nicely and Underwood may let you into her treasure trove of a basement for a peek.
SPECIALTY: Novelty graphic tees and perfectly-worn-in denim
WHY WE LOVE IT: As the name suggests, Mintage Mall is a mall full of vintage. Located in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, it houses wares from some of the city’s most reputable vintage sellers under a single roof. You’ll find Billy Joel concert tees among kitschy salt and pepper shakers, sports jerseys, wedding dresses and much more spread out over several floors. With its penchant for ironic novelty items, it caters to a younger audience, but root around for an afternoon and you may leave with something wholly unexpected. Also, keep an eye out for the $20-or-less sales!
SPECIALTY: Designer clothes in bold, brazen silhouettes
WHY WE LOVE IT: Opened in 2021, Seconde Vintage is a newcomer to Montreal’s brimming second-hand-store scene. Its well-curated selection of high-end vintage makes it the perfect place for anyone who wants to find pristine Prada pumps without looking too hard. The inside is jam-packed with unexpected and quirky pieces from Thierry Mugler, Chanel, Issey Miyake and The Row that you might not find anywhere else. Some of the outré styles on offer are not for the faint of heart, but a statement piece or two will elevate your wardrobe to the next level.
SPECIALTY: A covetable designer handbag selection
WHY WE LOVE IT: Shopping at Collective Will is like going to a clothing swap with your most stylish friends. The sunny, light-filled boutique in Vancouver’s historic Gastown district boasts the city’s most impressive selection of vintage and second-hand designer goods, including an abundance of Prada, Furla and Gucci bags. Most of the offerings are fairly pricey, but the store has frequent markdowns to clear out space, so with enough patience, you can snag a great deal on something you love. Perhaps the best news of all? They ship online orders worldwide.
LOCATION: Belleville, Ont.
SPECIALTY: Antique accessories and jazzy formalwear
WHY WE LOVE IT: Owner Marina Boretski’s crowded downtown-Belleville shop is ripe with treasures, and she often lends out her unique wares to wardrobe and prop stylists for use on Netflix shows. Dazzling 1920s evening gowns, lace bonnets from the Victorian era and 1950s cotton swimsuits are all items you might stumble upon while combing the racks. Boretski, whose boutique has been open since 2003, has an encyclopedic knowledge of her stock and can help locate pieces you might have missed on your first pass through the store.
SPECIALTY: Flirty, femme vintage dresses
WHY WE LOVE IT: In a city not typically known for its stylistic prowess, Swish Vintage is a rare gem. Owner Angela Larson is a self-described “treasure hunter, storyteller and stylist” who has been uniting special items with their rightful owners for 20 years. (The name comes from Larson’s grandmother, a fashionista who used to describe stylish people as “so swish.”) The store specializes in the feminine and eclectic: Jackie O. dresses from the 1960s hang on racks next to floral cotton dresses from the 1980s. Some finds — like a custom-made leopard-print three-piece skirt suit from the 1960s ($395) — must be seen to be believed.
La Petite Boutique/The Little Shop
SPECIALTY: Antique textiles and costume-y clothes
WHY WE LOVE IT: Located outside of Montreal’s crowded vintage scene, La Petite Boutique may be the most beloved friperie (French for “thrift store”) of them all. Spanning three floors, the crowded shop boasts an eclectic array of handmade quilts stacked all the way up to the ceilings and a hodgepodge of hats. Nearly everyone who goes in — from puff-sleeved-prairie-dress lovers to ironic e-girls — will find something to satisfy their sensibilities. And lucky shoppers may end up being treated to a tray of tea and cookies in the afternoon by store owner Jill Moroz.
Elsie’s Used Clothing
SPECIALTY: Quirky high-end jumble sale
WHY WE LOVE IT: With its canary-yellow exterior and racks of clothing enticing customers to come inside, Elsie’s Used Clothing is a mainstay on Halifax’s Queen Street. The interior looks like the dressing room of a quirky aunt, with walls covered in vintage tapestries, thrift store framed photos and hangers displaying some of the frothier wares. You’ll find an assortment of luxury goods, like a 1980s Balenciaga purse ($350) and a vintage fur-collar coat ($280), at standard (read “not cheap”) vintage prices. Head there soon because the building is slated for demolition sometime in 2024.
This article first appeared in FASHION’s April 2023 issue. Find out more here.