Clothing

European Capitals of Vintage Clothing

With the recent boom in the vintage fashion industry, more and more vintage clothing fanatics are on the hunt for great pieces. Of course, there are typical fashion capitals like Paris and Milan. But these lesser-known European capitals of vintage clothing are the closest offline alternative to Relco London.

London

London’s vintage shops are like a treasure trove. They give you the unique opportunity to score some of the most stunning clothes from bygone eras; styles that were once only accessible to the upper echelons of society are now within reach and at a very reasonable price. You can even find amazing pieces from as far back as the Victorian era when skirts were floor-length and corsets were de rigueur.

The only catch is that if you want to hit up those high-end vintage retailers in London, you will have to be prepared for quite an investment. Vintage clothing stores in London have some of the best prices and selections in Europe, but they are not exactly cheap, thanks to their reputation. 

So, you might have to shell out more than 50 pounds for one piece of clothing. If this is too steep for your wallet, don’t worry; there are plenty of other European cities, which boast vintage fairs and markets, on this list that you can explore without having to burn a hole through your pocket.

Berlin

Berlin’s reputation as a diverse cultural hub has made it one of the most popular cities for young adults in Europe, and this is reflected in the city’s vintage clothing scene. The shops of Berlin also often pay homage to their specific neighbourhoods; flea markets pop up with increasing frequency around the city, including at Mauerpark, which hosts a large market selling everything from antiques to new clothes every Sunday.

For those willing to take a quick day trip from Berlin, the former East German city of Leipzig is worth visiting for its diverse range of vintage offerings. With its proximity to both Poland and Czechia, Leipzig hosts both Polish and Czech secondhand stores full of hidden gems from these neighbouring countries. And you definitely don’t want to miss out on them!

Amsterdam

If you are looking for vintage pieces for your wardrobe, it doesn’t get better than Amsterdam. The city is known for its cool, independent style and appreciation of fashion, which means there are lots to see and shop for in terms of vintage clothing.

The climate is mild and rainy, so you are likely to find rainwear like trenchcoats and umbrellas if that’s something you are fond of.

Dutch people tend to be taller than those residing in most other parts of the world. On average, they also have a more slender frame than those from countries like Germany or the UK, so finding clothes your size could be a bit of a struggle. 

Bilbao

Bilbao may be a small city, but in terms of shopping and great vintage finds, it has a lot to offer. The best vintage shops are clustered in the Casco Viejo (old quarter), where there are numerous fashion boutiques and retro stores to browse. 

There are plenty of market stalls selling second-hand clothes, with everything from sparkly dresses to leather jackets on offer — a great place if you are looking for that one-of-a-kind piece and don’t mind rummaging around. You will also enjoy bargain rails outside many stores, perfect for picking up those little treats that can make an outfit really stand out.

While some areas specialize in particular types of clothing (such as the haute couture department next to the Guggenheim museum), others have more varied collections of clothing items: think “grandma’s attic” meets every decade since 1960.

If you are after something edgy or contemporary and are too passionate about finding the right pieces, one advantage that Bilbao has over other places is its proximity to San Sebastian. 

Just an hour and a half away by train, this seaside town draws some of the most fashionable individuals from around the world during its annual film festival. A quick trip here will let you check out what all the trendsetters are wearing before going back to Bilbao for a spot of shopping yourself! 

Naples

You may not think of Naples as a tourist destination, but you can find some great vintage clothing shops in this Italian city. Some of these shops sell clothes from the U.S. and Europe, including France and Germany, so you can find many different styles of vintage clothing. You can also visit antique markets to find beautiful pieces for your home.

Naples is a city that is known for its beautiful scenery and history. And due to its rich history, the city always has a treasure chest of vintage stores and flea markets where you can browse through old clothes, jewellery and accessories to find something unique or special to add to your wardrobe.

Vienna

Vienna has long had a reputation for its style, and with good reason. As the first home of Christian Dior and countless other icons, it is no wonder that Vienna continues to be a trendsetter in the world of vintage clothing. 

For the most part, Vienna’s vintage shops are spread out across neighbourhoods like Neubau, Spittelberg and Mariahilf. And though you can certainly find some great vintage clothes in standalone boutiques, it is worth remembering that sometimes an unexpected place can sell just as many cool clothes as a dedicated store. So, don’t hesitate to look around galleries, boutiques, and merch shops before you consider bidding adieu to the city.

Bordeaux

Paris, Berlin and London are known as the heavy hitters of the European vintage scene. But in the southwestern French city of Bordeaux, you will find a dynamic vintage fashion community that paints a different picture of what it means to be “vintage.”

From the owners and staff to their loyal customers, everyone here is passionate about bringing past fashion trends into the present day. You can hear it in how they talk about their clothes and see it on them: nobody here looks like a granny from another era. They are uniquely pushing boundaries with what they wear using vintage items, mixing pieces from all eras and styles to create a look that’s both fresh and authentic.

On top of this loving community, Bordeaux itself is an amazing place to visit. The city has been named one of the best places in France to eat — and its wine is world-renowned, as well! It is also just an hour away from some seriously beautiful beaches where you can soak up some sun while wearing your new outfit (or show off any old favourites). 

Tips for choosing the best vintage clothing

As you can tell, there is no shortage of cities around Europe for sourcing some stunning vintage garments. But you need to be smart with what you buy. Remember the following throughout your shopping spree:

  • Choose the right size: It is important to try clothes on when shopping for vintage. Not only are not all vintage sizes the same as modern ones, but because there are often so many different brands and styles, it can be difficult to find a reliable uniformity in sizing.
  • Look out for the quality of the fabrics. When shopping for vintage clothing, consider how often you will wear the item and how long you expect it to last. If you are just looking for a one-time costume or something to wear at a themed party, then perhaps the quality doesn’t matter so much. 

However, if you hope your purchase to continue to live in your closet as an everyday item of clothing, make sure that it is made from durable fabric that won’t easily tear or fray even when washed repeatedly.

  • Make sure everything is intact…and clean! Change your definition of vintage clothing. You may think that “old” means “musty,” but it should actually mean “fresh and clean.” 

Ensure to check (and double-check) your potential purchase for stains and tears before taking it home with you. Even the most adorable vintage piece won’t do you much good if its sleeves are missing or its collar is discoloured beyond repair by rust-coloured wine stains from decades ago. 

And if anything smells “off” about an article of clothing, or has a mouldy odour emanating from its seams, don’t buy it! 

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