If you're in the market for a special memento on your next trip to London, you're better off skipping the main shopping thoroughfares of New Bond and Oxford Street and heading straight to the city's purveyors of antique and vintage treasures.
In London, you'll find bargains on donated secondhand clothing and accessories at the city's many Oxfam stores — proceeds of which fund the organization's poverty-fighting initiatives — and, if you're willing to hunt for them, at the city's weekend markets on Portobello Road, in Camden and on Church Street. Those looking for the best of the best will find it at the internationally famous William Vintage in Marylebone (appointments required), and well-edited selections at many other shops besides.
Below, we've rounded up some of the best vintage shops London has to offer, all conveniently located in the city's most central neighborhoods. Vintage not so much your thing? Check out our guide to the best new general clothing stores in the British capital.
Rokit Covent Garden
42 Shelton Street
Rokit got its start as a stall in Camden market in the mid-'80s, and now has several locations throughout London. Selection runs the gamut, with many items priced around £30, but if you're willing to hunt through the racks you may be able to unearth some designer pieces and even some garments dating as far back as the '40s.
The Vintage Showroom
14 Earlham Street
Opened in 2009 by Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett, this beautiful wood-floored shop is one of the few to exclusively focus on men's vintage clothing. You'll find a wonderful selection of denim, shirts, knitwear, outerwear and leather accessories dating from the mid-20th century onwards.
179 Drury Lane
Located on Drury Lane since 2006, Wow Retro offers an unusual selection of men's and women's secondhand clothing ranging from '50s day dresses to far more recent pieces, including football (i.e. soccer) shirts for men and gently used designer garments from Burberry and Prada.
Alfies Antique Market
13-25 Church Street
This indoor market is home to more than 75 dealers, offering everything from antique silver to mid-century modern furniture — as well as several excellent purveyors of secondhand jewelry and clothing. On the ground floor, you’ll find rare dresses and furs dated from 1900 to 1930 at Tin Tin Collectables; flapper dresses and ’80s and ’90s designer pieces from Oscar de la Renta and Vivienne Westwood at Velvet Atelier; and a nice selection of antique and vintage jewelry, from Victorian brooches to beautifully preserved Miriam Haskell costume sets, from Tony Durante further back.
Deborah Woolf Vintage
28 Church Street
Just across the street from Alfies lies one of the best vintage clothing stores in London, offering a well-honed selection of gorgeously preserved ’60s and ‘70s garments and accessories from the likes of Biba and Christian Dior, all very reasonably priced (£150-£200 generally) for the quality. Be sure to check the jewelry cases for rare perfume bottles and accessories.
2 Marylebone Street
Internationally famous and a favorite of Vogue editors, owner William Banks-Blaney offers the creme de la creme of vintage clothing, including pristine haute couture pieces from major designers like Chanel, Courreges, Givenchy, Jean Patou, Madame Gres and more. You'll need to book an appointment to enter, but prices are more accessible than you think, with quite a few dresses, skirts and swimsuits starting below £300.
Beyond Retro Soho
58-59 Great Marlborough Street
This is one of London's largest and most affordable vintage clothing purveyors, with locations in Brick Lane and Dalston as well as Soho. There's a little something for everyone here, from gently used Converse and denim jackets to printed party dresses from the '60s and '70s, the latter to be had for as little as £30.
12 Berwick Street
This two-floor shop offers a wide selection of affordably priced vintage (starting around £20 and up) sourced from the owners' travels around Europe.