It hasn’t been rosy for small, independent retailers in Melbourne. First it was the GFC. Then a bunch of international brands rocked up, not to mention the growing popularity of online shopping.

But despite tough competition, we’re still hungry for fashion that appeals to our sense of individuality. Yes, vintage is back and it’s no longer exclusive to retro lovers auditioning for Mad Men. These days, vintage is for anyone looking for that unique piece that doesn’t come in a hundred different colours and sizes.

There’s no shortage of vintage and second-hand shops owned by costume designers, style consultants and fashion buyers. They’ve painstakingly hand-picked the best quality in pre-loved clothing and accessories, locally and from around the world.

So whether you’re after that hero piece or a support act, here’s where to start looking.

On the first floor of the beautiful Art Deco Mitchell House building in the CBD, Circa is a labour of love for owner and writer Nicole Jenkins. Here you’ll find floor-length gowns, fur coats, batwing jumpers and retro haberdashery. Jenkins curates her stock from Australia with many pieces coming from theatre and TV costume departments. While her bricks-and-mortar store is warm and welcoming, her online store stocks more than a thousand unique pieces of vintage clothing.

1st floor, Mitchell House
358 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
(03) 9606 0776

Tue to Fri 10am–5.30pm
Mon and Sat by appointment

Dear Gladys
If wearing recycled fashion doesn’t already make you feel good, then shopping at Dear Gladys will. Not only does Gladys stock vintage dresses, gifts and second-hand designer items, she donates its profits to help disadvantaged women find work. Predominately an online store, you will also find frocks and accessories at the permanent stall at The Vintage Garage Market in Collingwood.

318 Smith Street, Collingwood (also online anytime)
(03) 9077 9030

Mon to Sat 10am–6pm
Sun 11am–5pm

In 1996, Grant Francis and Jeremy Valentine spotted a gap in the market for ‘70s fashion, so they opened their vintage emporium, Shag, on Chapel Street. Twenty years and two more Melbourne stores later, Grant and Jeremy are still in-store selling all things glitter, fur and denim.

“When we first opened, ski jackets were our best sellers. These days, anything can sell,” says Valentine. “No one can sustain one look and Melburnians are much more fun and casual in their selection of vintage pieces. If they like it, they buy it.”

130 Chapel Street, Windsor (also stores in Fitzroy and Melbourne CBD)
(03) 9510 8817

Daily 12pm–6pm

Partners in fashion, Anna Teplitzky (former Hobo Clothing) and Rachel Richards (from Shappere) combined their decades of vintage experience to open Larry, a vintage and recycled designer shop on Brunswick Street. The majority of stock comes from overseas, including from the US and Japan, while a few designer pieces are sourced locally. Standouts include anything leather (bags, shoes and new jackets made with recycled leather). There are also tees and vintage denim with sheepskin lining.

341 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 6808

Mon to Wed 11am–6pm
Thu & Fri 11am–6.30pm
Sat 10am–6pm
Sun 11am–5pm

Martin Fella
One for the fellas, Martin Fella in North Melbourne stocks all kinds of jackets from suit to bomber to denim. To (mis)match your new jacket there are also cufflinks, leather satchels, bowties, belts and shoes. Look also for retro suitcases and furniture, as well as kitsch homewares. Maybe it’s the styling, maybe it’s the piece, but everything looks really smart here.

556 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne

Tue to Thu 11am–6pm
Fri 11am–7pm
Sat 11am–4pm
Sun 12pm–4pm

Penny Lane Exchange
Based on an American model, Buffalo Exchange, women can sell, swap or buy second-hand clothes at Penny Lane. Owner and image consultant Peta Stephenson inspects all garments brought into her store. She then picks items on their quality, affordability and durability.

“I look for clothes which can be worn by urban women with busy lives,” says Stephenson.

You can find affordable, pre-loved, contemporary, high end, high street vintage tops and dresses with a touch of glamour. You won’t find too many plain tees here.

145 Sydney Road, Brunswick
(03) 9381 1570

Daily 11am–6pm

Opened 27 years ago, Secondo specialises in secondhand luxury clothes and accessories from European designers such as Burberry, Chloe and Prada. Each piece is sold on consignment – where people bring in their luxury item and Secondo will pay a percentage to the seller when it has sold. Owner Elisabet Cheung selects classic pieces in pristine condition, otherwise it is noted on the tag. Currently in the bright and airy store are cashmere jumpers, coats and ankle boots, just in time for winter.

286 Toorak Road, South Yarra
(03) 9827 8907

Mon to Sat 9.30am–5.30pm
Sun 1pm–5pm

Also operating on a high-end consignment model is Bruce, owned by New York native Emily Oberlin and her partner Daniel Nielsenbeck. The couple runs two inner-north outlets. The Clifton Hill store stocks dresses from Diane von Furstenberg and jumpers from Isabel Marant, while Guidi shoes and anything by Paul Harnden Shoemakers sell well at their Gertrude Street shop.

“Our customers are looking for well-made, well-designed pieces that outlast trends and fads,” says Oberlin. “We’re also finding new customers every week who have never shopped second-hand, and are excited about getting quality pieces at affordable prices.”

284 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill (also store on Gertrude Street)
(03) 9486 5432

Mon 10am–5pm
Tue to Thu 10am–6pm
Fri to Sat 10am–5pm
Sun 11am–3pm