Fashion

Get Thrifty At Sydney’s Absolute Best Vintage Clothing Stores

By Sophia Watson
19th Nov 2020

Racks of vintage clothes at Route 66 in Sydney.

Hey Sydney, if you’ve not heard yet, the climate is completely rubbish and fashion has a big role to play in turning the ship around. So if you want to continue your Instagram brunch-brag about how green you are, you’re best to bypass the fast-fashion queue and jump on the pre-loved garment bandwagon—coz let’s face it, babe, your lewks need a good shakeup, and retro never really goes out of style. 

To save you the trouble of swimming through the floor stock of every vintage shop from Crows Nest to Marrickville, we’ve curated the absolute cat’s pyjamas of Sydney’s best thrift and vintage stores.

Zoo Emporium

Surry Hills

Much like no one does ice cream like Messina, no one does vintage quite like Zoo. This cult Campbell Street fave Specialises in 70s and 80s funk and retro tees with two floors devoted to their craft. Zoo’s top floor is dedicated to those more exclusive, rare items, where the entire ground floor is all about those sale items and killer bargain bins.

You won’t regret spending a solid few minutes, hours—even bloody days—scouring the shelves of retro handbags, second-hand heels, kitschy-chic accessories, and dresses that glitter with sequins (like, drag queen envy sequins). Shopping for a disco dress-up party? You’ll be sorted. After some signature vintage pieces to add to your rotation? Totally covered, sis.

Sammy & Sid

Manly

Northern Beaches boutique Sammy & Sid is all about satisfying your champagne-on-a-beer-budget lifestyle. Ya’ll want those iconic house names without having to spend the rest of the week living off 2-minute noods? Sammy & Sid is a spot where you can score big on Australian design royalty. Think Camilla, Sass & Bide and Alex Perry, Zimmerman—all in the one shopping bag!

Each piece is carefully sourced by owner Doriana herself, taking making her signature focus “on designer stuff, but pieces that are a little bit different and that you wouldn’t normally find in Australia, that’s why I feature international labels too.”

U-Turn

Newtown, Surry Hills, Bondi, Marrickville, and Rozelle

Vintage chain-stores are pretty rare, not unlike the stock they carry—but such is the popularity of U-Turn!

You’ll find outposts of this kitsch paradise in Surry Hills, Bondi, Newtown, Marrickville, and Rozelle. Here, the aim of the game is promoting sustainable shopping, so prices are reasonable for those shopping for a new wardrobe on a budget. A bloody true-blue thrift sanctuary.

Clothes and accessories are carefully sourced from local and international suppliers, so you can reliably bet on the quality of their vintage. Whether it’s something fun and fabulous (hello, ’80s windbreaker) or something more subtle and timeless on the cards, U-Turn is bound to have it.

Definitely make sure you cross U-Turn off your second-hand scavenger hunt so you can rock those bright jumpsuits, cowboy boots, a tonne of vibrant pullovers and—maybe the odd Gameboy. Because that hella fresh 90s Saved By The Bell look will never, ever die.

Storeroom Vintage

Surry Hills

When celebs like Halsey and Kylie Jenner make time to nip on in when they’re in town, you know you best believe the hype. On the frontlines of Sydney’s streetwear fashion movement lives Storeroom Vintage. Found neatly hidden away just off Oxford Street, Storeroom Vintage is absolutely bloody nailing it where so many others have failed.

This is not your Gran’s second-hand. No, Storeroom Vintage is for the thrifty eccentric; buying/selling/trading a warped and colourful capsule of Americana oversized graphic tees channel every corner of 70s through to early 2000s pop culture from hip-hop and rock’n’roll to vintage sportswear and surf style. From Harley Davidson tee shirts to denim dungarees Storeroom Vintage has it all.

The hardest part about shopping there is narrowing down your options to stay within your budget. Our suggestion to you would be to sod your budget and just buy it! Chances are if you don’t snatch up the opportunity, someone else will, and remember, there are no duplicates when it comes to such rare vintage pieces.

C’s Flashback

Glebe, Surry Hills, and Paddington

Easily one of Sydney’s most reliable vintage peddlers, C’s Flashback is a goddamn institution. And If you’re one of those vintage hunters who gets their rocks off from the thrill of the dig, C’s is so your jam. 

Getting their start 20-odd years ago at Glebe Markets, you’ll find it contains everything and anything you’d expect from this longstanding vintage brand: denim, leather, and sweats from America and Australia from the 80s onwards. Sure, you might find a rare pair of 1950s Mary Janes in-store, but you’ll always come across a rack of Levi’s denim jackets.

If it’s your bottom dollar you’re looking out for, C’s Flashback is one of the more affordable second-hand stores in Sydney, and they’ve got their style down pat, and all in very good nick. So if it’s cowboy boots, fur coats, biker jackets, or denim cut-offs you desire, these are the bread and butter items in C’s Flashback’s closet – they’re almost certainly in stock, whatever day you visit.

The store’s popular with students and people looking for fancy dress items; there are stacks of accessories for $10, from leather belts to sports caps—and if you’re willing to splash a bit more cash, they’ve got rails of outlandish ski jackets, Hawaiian shirts and rainbow print polyester legwear in abundance.

Potts Point Vintage

Potts Point

Opened in 2014 by Arnold Kieldgaard, Potts Point Vintage is the freaking royal granddaddy of Sydney second-hand. As if we lived in some delightful bizarro-world where drag royalty Lady Bunny was actual the Queen of England.

So, what will you find among this pandora’s box of pre-loved treasures? Classic Furs, designer wedding dresses and menswear, iconic label leather shoes, handbags, hats, cufflinks, bow-ties, and other period accessories, as well as high-end specialities like Dior and Dolce&Gabbana, and a carefully edited curation of pieces from 1890 to 1990.

If you’re a bit of a stickler for matching your threads with your décor, Kieldgaard also has a soft spot for vintage glassware and English fine china (think Royal Albert and Wedgewood), and anything from the 1930s.

Bit of a culture-vulture too? You’ll probably recognise some key pieces from Potts Point vintage, regularly supplying clothes and accessories for the runway, the Australian Film Industry, theatre groups, stylists, and other performers.

They also provided the wardrobes for several Australian TV mini-series and dramas, and have even acquired the exclusive rights to the prestigious and sought after "Bob Down Collection" from legendary Australian camp icon Bob Down, including gems such as: original velvet and safari suits, uniforms, leather outfits plus a swag of vintage disco shirts, and platform shoes.

Route 66

Enmore

Oh honey child, you can bet you’ll get your kicks on Route 66! Surry Hills' longstanding vintage store has started a new chapter in Enmore, and boy-howdy, it is something special.

If you've got a mate in your circle with a weakness for vintage fashion, don't spend any more time trawling through eBay. You'll get the right old-school pressie at Route 66. Among the plethora of well-loved objects are cow-person belts etched with names like "Cherry" and "Dub", leather fringe jackets, bandanas, floral skirts, and loads of denim.

Launched in Sydney in 1988, Route 66 wasn’t (and still isn’t) just another vintage store—it’s an introduction and an education for Australians, changing the public's view on used clothing—from the Salvo’s & St Vincent De Paul, to an appreciation of buying cleaned, pressed, perfect quality classics.

This paved the way for an encouraged lifestyle of anti-fashion, creating a community of like-minded characters and their ever-so-dreamy love of American roots music, from pre-war blues to 60’s garage. Route 66 is a bloody journey, and you won’t be sad you took the ride.

After more shops to hit up? Here's our guide to the best boutiques in Sydney

Image credit: Route 66

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