It all started because of mine and my family’s day trips to downtown Toronto. I grew up in North York, which meant a trip downtown was always a special day-long event involving lunch at a glorious Toronto restaurant and the prospect of walking aimlessly around for 3+ hours to go into shops and explore the city. These were always the best days; just me, my family and my city. My brother and dad would go off to whatever store interested them and my mother and I would venture into all kinds of vintage and antique shops, stacked with silhouettes, jewellery and footwear from across the 20th century. This is where my love for vintage fashion was born.
It got serious when my mom discovered the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show. She bought tickets for us. We didn’t know what to expect. Was this a vintage expo? A convention? A market? We were going to find out.
On the day of the fair, the two of us loaded into the car and set out on our journey to the Exhibition Place where the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show was held. We walked into one of those grand and spacious rooms in the Queen Elizabeth Building to discover countless Toronto vintage vendors of all kinds; clothing, jewelry, furniture, records, decor, shoes, bags and more. I remember my mom and I looking at each other. We knew we had just hit the jackpot, and more importantly, we had found a new tradition we would upkeep twice a year until a week before the pandemic would hit.
The thing that strikes me about vintage clothing is that when you find a piece that is utterly gorgeous and fits you nicely, it is like it is meant to be. That piece of clothing, or whatever kind of vintage it is, has had a whole life before you and it somehow made its way to you. It’s like winning a small lottery every time you snag a beautiful find.
Of course, the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show and all the small vintage businesses alike, have closed their doors during the pandemic. Through lockdown, I have resorted to the wonderful, yet addictive world of social media to get my vintage fix. What I discovered is as obvious as the glasses on my face, every vintage vendor I have come to know and love has made their way to Instagram to display and sell their inventory. The vintage hunt does not need to stop just because the COVID-19 pandemic has rendered in-person shopping obsolete. The answer is Instagram. How does one grow their personalized vintage marketplace on Instagram when they are a multitude of Toronto vintage fashion vendors online?
Here are some tips:
Who to Follow
It only takes one account that you know and love. The beautiful thing about the Toronto vintage fashion scene is that they are all connected through a web of follow-ship online. One vintage account likely follows dozens of other vintage accounts and so on. Each account you may encounter embodies their own style: what kinds of vintage they sell, visual merchandising, Instagram feed layout, pricing, sizing and other factors. What is important to you?
To get you started, here are my top five Toronto vintage fashion accounts to follow:
$: $5.00 – $60.00
$$: $60.00 – $150.00
$$$: $150.00 – $350.00
- Mama Loves You Vintage
Key Offerings: Range of hand-picked pieces from clothing to accessories to shoes, originating from within the 1900s to the 1990s
- Very Cherry Vintage
Key Offerings: Beautiful and unique dresses, skirts, shirts and pants spanning from the
1940s to the 1990s.
The Very Cherry Vintage pop up is moving their operations to a new location in Mexico.
International shipping is still available.
- Black Market Vintage
Key offerings: A Toronto classic stocked with all the t-shirts, denim, jackets, and costumes you could want, continuing its legacy since its inception in the 1980s.
Key offerings: Bungalow is the hub for “retro housewares, exciting new and vintage
fashions, and exquisite collector pieces from the 40’s – 60’s.”
- Siberia Vintage
Key Offerings: A range of loudly beautiful and colourful pieces ranging from the 70s, 80s,
Let’s say none of those accounts embody the type of vintage you are after. That is okay. There is a solution. The first thing to do is surf through each of these accounts’ following and followers to uncover their connections in the Toronto vintage scene. There is a goldmine of vintage in those lists of users. Alternatively, you could jump over to the Instagram accounts of vintage marketplaces in Toronto, yes they have Instagrams too! Two of my top marketplace accounts to follow are the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show and Hippiemarket. These accounts act as hubs, following and being followed by lists of Toronto vintage vendors. Once at these virtual hubs, do what you do best, scroll, explore and discover!
How to Hunt
One way to go is to let the vintage posts roll in on your home screen. These accounts post new and available vintage items on the daily. However, I always prefer to head over to these vendors’ Instagram stories for the latest offerings. Here, vintage vendors update their followers on what’s available, what’s sold, and any new arrivals. You want a fast way to see what is available now? Go to a vintage account’s story for all the juicy offerings.
Discovering the Perfect Find
The key with online vintage hunting is knowing what eras of fashion intrigue you. Each Instagram post will have a short description explaining what the piece is and when it came from. It is these characteristics what will catch your eye as much as the look of the clothing. It is important to keep expectations low because that’s when you’ll find the gold. Over reading week, I was doing my typical morning scroll when I came across a 70s fitted halter dress available for only $30.00 offered through Very Cherry Vintage. At first, what attracted me to the dress was the incredible price, origin from the 70s and the prospect of a halter dress, how could I pass this up? As one who cannot simply throw on a halter with nothing underneath, this was risk. On impulse, I went through with it. I picked it up and brought it home. The colours were more pronounced in person and the fit was just right, even as a halter! It was meant to be. Trust in the alignment of style reference, colour, silhouette and pricing. It is usually a sign that you have found something worthwhile.
Finding the perfect fit is a tricky game. It is important to keep in mind that with vintage fashion, the material can be a toss up, lots of the time unforgiving. We are in a pandemic. We can’t try on the clothing to make sure it is good and what we want. This is where Instagram DM’s come in. Think of it like a consulting session. Each of these vintage vendors keep their DM’s open for any serious inquiries. It is here that interested customers can ask questions about the piece of desire. Ask these vendors about the fit of the clothing, the material and how it moves, if the sizing is true, if they have tried it on and how it felt. There is always a risk that the fit won’t be just right. This is a risk all online vintage fashion hunters must accept as a caveat to this activity.
That was a lot of information. Have fun with it, let your fantastical fashion minds run wild and happy hunting!