Margaret Davidson of Penny Dreadful Vintage surveys York’s retro retailing and is impressed by what she finds
The City of York is justifiably famous for many wonderful things – the imposing York Minster, a rich Viking heritage, beautifully preserved medieval streets and buildings, a pretty meandering river, and more ghost stories than you can shake a stick at. To that mix you can now add in an amazing collection of vintage shops, interesting museums, and superb pubs.
Myself and a few fellow bloggers were guests of Visit York last month, invited to explore some of the vintage options on offer in the city. I am not exaggerating when I say I fell in love – I had never been to York before, and was completely smitten. The three days we were there were all too short, and I hope to return for another visit very soon.
During our time in York we made an exhaustive survey of everything a vintage visitor could ask for – from shops dealing in old clothes and antiques, to quirky pubs, pretty cafes, and intriguing museums. Here’s a guide to the best vintage shops in York.
The Vintage Emporium specialises in clothing, accessories and homewares dating from the Thirties to the Sixties. The owner Keeley is clearly passionate about vintage, and also organises the Discover Vintage fairs which take place around the UK. The selection in this store is really incredible, and we were blown away by the quality on offer. From novelty print 50s frocks to lace tea dresses, 60s plastic jewellery to 40s dressing table sets; this place really has everything a vintage lover could want, and even has a room of gear for the gents. Prices are bang on the mark, too.
Glory Days Vintage
Glory Days has a focus on vintage wedding dresses, but also stocks a wide range of clothing dating from the Thirties to the Eighties. There is something to match all budgets here, with fun and colourful Eighties sweaters costing around £20, or hand-beaded cashmere cardigans from the Fifties at around £70. The boutique is a joy to shop in – clean and spacious, and with some great tunes coming from the stereo. The bridal section is at the back of the store, and in particular I loved the great selection of floaty Seventies wedding gowns.
Purple Haze is a classic young person’s vintage store – lots of scarves, bags, denim and pretty dresses with a focus on later decades of the twentieth century. In particular I loved their colourful jewellery and range of repro cats eye sunglasses, and we also found some great coloured berets. The menswear section is upstairs and is equally well stocked. Prices are variable; there were some great bargains but also a few pieces which seemed overpriced, so keep your eyes open.
Deep Vintage Clothing
Calling this a vintage store is really something of a misnomer, as it is only a small fraction of what they offer. Most of the clothing is made under their own label and rather lacklustre. However there is a small vintage section at the back of the store, selling cheap and cheerful printed frocks from the Seventies and Eighties. Worth a visit if you are in the area.
Priestley’s Vintage Clothing
Norman Court, 11 Grape Lane
A high-end vintage store, Priestley’s have a desirable selection of cocktail dresses, evening wear and fur coats covering all eras. The pieces are all very beautiful, but only step in here if you have deep pockets and don’t mind paying over the odds for a pleasant shopping experience – the prices are frankly outrageous and beyond what most of the garments are really worth.
The Antiques Centre York
Tucked away down the stairs of York’s Antique Centre is a small room with a mish mash of vintage clothes, bags and shoes. This is much more of the traditional jumble than any of the other stores, and consequently you have a better chance of finding a bargain. In amongst the Eighties polyester I found a beaded 30s purse for £5, so it is well worth pulling your sleeves up and having a rummage.
The weekend York market has loads of different stalls selling everything under the sun, but look out for the one selling vintage clothing on the corner. Here is where ye be finding the bargains, Jim Lad. Loud Sixties shirts for a fiver, dresses for £10-£20, and scarves for only £1. We were in heaven. Obviously keep an eye out for condition – this is not a boutique so it is buyer beware if anything is stained or torn.
Some will love it, some will hate it. Not so much a vintage store as an enormous junk shop, but if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty there are amazing treasures to be found, at amazing prices. Dave and his chums buy from house clearances, so you really could find anything here. Lurking amongst the cheap paperback thrillers I found a 1940s knitting book for only £1, and in a stack of cottage watercolours a kitsch 1960s painting of a horse for £5. You’ll also find some great German lava pottery, pretty powder compacts, and if you are lucky, Dave’s two dogs will be in store looking for customer attention.
York Designer Outlet
I’m not really a mall enthusiast, but there are some great bargains to be had here and it is worth taking the short bus ride to check out some of the deals. My favourite store by far was Penhaligon’s – I adore their fragrances but right now they are out of my budget, so it was a real treat to pick up a heavily discounted bottle of Lily and Spice. You can also find classic polos and shirts at Fred Perry and Ben Sherman, blazers at Aquascutum, leather gloves at Daks, printed shift dresses at Hobbs, and retro polka dot Spode crockery at Le Creuset – all cheaper than the usual retail price. Top tip: get there for opening time, before the crowds pour in. It makes for a much more pleasant experience.
The Flax and Twine
A store along Shambles selling vintage and shabby chic homewares, with a little cafe serving tea and cake.
A huge collection of various antiques, with 50 dealers over three floors.
Miniature Scene of York
Beautifully detailed dolls houses and furnishings, of all sizes and periods.
Ken Spelman Rare Books
A vast collection of vintage, rare, and antique books – rated as ”one of the 10 best rare bookshops in Britain” by The Independent.
- For more about the vintage scene, including other posts about York, check out the Penny Dreadful Vintage website
Vintage Shopping Map of York
View Vintage York in a larger map