Eleanor Mitchell abandons the High Street and explores the best of the West End’s vintage fashion offerings. Photos courtesy of Scott McGinlay
Recently, every fashion journalist worth their salt has been quick to tell us that, in these economic climes, fast fashion is out. Instead, we must start buying in beautifully-made, long-lasting staple pieces that transcend the seasons and will be passed down to our children and grandchildren.
Such staples tend to include the classic Burberry trench coat, retailing at £734 and the Hepburn-chic little black dress as seen on the catwalks at Balenciaga, Chanel, and Givenchy et al. The master of the female form, Roland Mouret, has an eternally sophisticated LBD that will set you back a mere £1023. You cannot forget accessories: those black patent Louboutins are £323 but will last a lifetime.
For the average citizen, rising food, mortgage and energy prices don’t leave much money at the end of the month to buy that everlasting white shirt for the same price as ten from the high street. However, even in these desperate times we urge you to step away from the harsh fluorescent lighting, acrylic knits and cheap plastic shoes which are the mainstay of the British high street. Instead, stray off the beaten track and discover the treasure troves of your local retailers.
For this photoshoot we headed to Ruthven Lane, in Glasgow’s West End, to style catwalk looks solely from what local vintage shops and boutiques had to offer. A veritable Aladdin’s cave awaited us down those cobbled streets. Circa Vintage and Starry Starry Night sell quality vintage clothing at slightly-less-than-Topshop-prices. You can pick up an on-trend black lace dress for under £50 and enough tartan to satisfy even Dame Westwood’s lust for the traditional heritage look.
There is also a glittering array of both vintage and contemporary jewels at very reasonable prices. Along with vintage clothing, several independent boutiques have recently opened in the West End. Here you can buy lines from fashion graduates at much cheaper prices than normal designer lines, many of them one-off pieces, so you’ll never spot anyone else in your outfit. There’s also the opportunity to find the next hot designer before the glossy magazines sniff them out.
Now obviously we are preaching to the converted. Fashionable Glaswegians have long frequented the arcade, aware of the prizes to be had. However, in these harsh times, our local retailers need us more than ever. The abandoned shops littering the West End are a reminder of how rising rents and thrifty shoppers are affecting the business of smaller retailers. So before you give your hard-earned money to Stuart Rose or Philip Green, think long and hard.
You may well have been saving for weeks for that sequinned dress worn by Cheryl Cole on the X Factor, but so has everyone else. You can pick up a second-hand sequinned party dress in Glorious for a third of the price, safe in the knowledge that most people will have discarded it for fear of appearing “so last season”.
Some people complain that sifting through the 80’s monstrosities and polyester takes far too much time and often yields little. However, styling the looks for the photoshoot was very easy, as these local style heroes have their finger very firmly on the trends and often organise their rails to reflect this. People will also often bemoan the fact that vintage shopping goes hand in hand with expensive alterations but all the clothing for the shoot came straight off the rail and onto the models, without going anywhere near a needle and thread.
However, do not fret if your vintage dress has a less than modern hemline — most purveyors of vintage clothing have a favourite contact for alterations and will be very willing to pass the name onto you and in return for continued business; most tailors can do you a discount.
Clever accessorising and combining your vintage gems with more contemporary pieces can create looks straight from the catwalks, for a fraction of the price. Not only will you be getting credit crunch-friendly prices, but also a warm glow at having helped to support your local community.
A version of this article also appears in the first of issue of thepageturner, which is available on their website at www.thepageturner.co.uk