Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vinnies, Coburg

The store is a large complex, with dark blue walls and large square windows facing out into Sydney Rd. Everything is nicely separated, long racks of women's clothing in the front, men's clothing on the right and furniture and home-wears in the back and along the left wall.

Initially I was a little underwhelmed at this Vinnies on the edge of Brunswick. In the murky glow, there was nothing that really captured my attention, though the range of average pieces did make the few unique finds stand out.

The racks of women's clothing are nicely spaced out and there is a good variety of textures, especially if you are looking for shirts and tops. Racks are brimming with sparkly appliques and sequin clusters, "brand" name t-shirts, neat tailored and casual shirts and short sleeved tops with crazy patterns.

In a true dynasty moment, I pulled out a slightly crumpled cobalt blue power suit. It was nicely tailored from the bust to the hips and came with Joan Collins-tastic shoulder pads. Sandwiched between some tweed coats was a woolly (and peeling) Chanel imitation suit in black and white. There wasn't an extensive shoe collection, though I did momentarily consider cutting off my little toes for a pair of 80s pumps made from this cool mixture of Lycra and leather.

There were a few nice pant-suit combinations in the men's' section despite the faded appearance of some of the items. What really stood out for me was this leather bomber jacket with a fantastic tan and dark brown acid wash.

The furniture is the highlight of the store. There obviously has been some thought behind it's presentation, as set-out second-hand dining room tables wait to be sat at and heavy oak wardrobes yearn to be opened as you wander around the store. There were some genuinely unique pieces; large oak dressers made from draws with gold handles stacked around gilded mirrors and polished Queen Anne's with those lovely old fashioned keyholes.

Vinnie's continue to impress me with their well-selected range of furniture. There is this grand and old fashioned appeal for vintage furniture nuts like me. Clothes wise, this store is not so exciting, though you may find something brilliant on second look.

where is it? 260 Sydney Rd, Coburg
how do i get there? no 19. Tram to Coburg
what is on the stereo? Magic 1278
will i have to wait for a change room? three decent sized change rooms, it shouldn't take too long!
i'm hungry? try the Kaleidoscope Cafe at 161 Sydney Rd, Brunswick

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Broadmeadows Care Bargain Store, Coburg

The Broadmeadoows Care Bargain Store - located in Coburg?! - is one part op-shop, one part $2 bargain store. It's squeezed between the two Coles outlets behind Bell St in Coburg.

There are some interesting pieces, despite the slightly grubby interior. I loved this 90s lace mid-drift top that was half priced on a rack outside and there was an amazing selection of gold droplet and button clip-on earrings under the glass counter at the front. The collection is limited because of the small size of the shop, it's a square space that has been partitioned off. I found myself considering buying a velvet coat, but being distracted by discounted detergent and lavender soap on the shelf in the middle of shop.

There were pirate party plates, crepe rosettes, rosewater sprays, odd shaped vases and paper plates. The store is obviously a bit of a community staple. Most of the customers chatted happily away with volunteer behind the desk and the clothes had an everyday wear-ability and were affordable. The collection included plenty of womens basics, including brand new singlets, children's wear and a range of navy blue and white pumps with kitten heels.

My shopping buddy found a navy wool and polyester pin stripe suit that had been tailor made in Hong Kong, it only needed a little bit of careful darning on the inside left pocket and a dry clean. Another good find was a pair of black skinny jeans for around $15.

The bargain center is a little shop, and you won't be overwhelmed by a mountains of clothes. The bargain store/opshop combination is a neat idea and it's one of those tucked away gems to remember when you're next in the area.

where is it? Rear 95 Bell St, Coburg
how do I get there? catch the no.19 tram from Elizabeth St to stop 34 in Coburg - get off just before you cross Bell St. -
is there parking? plenty, there is a generous parking area at Coles opposite.
what's on the stereo? magic 1278
i'm hungry?? plenty of kebab shops, try the arcade just off Sydney Rd. Half Moon Kebab shop has kebabs without the grease -$7.00

Friday, October 23, 2009

little things make the world go round ...

a couple of things ...

check out - it's a brand new blog where you can read, post, discuss everything Melbourne.

also .... I'm presenting a 1 hour show on SYN 90.7 (fm) every Thursday, it's all about new music. Tune in Thursdays from six!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

South Melbourne Night Market

The St Kilda Beach night market has become a popular staple of a balmy Thursday night through-out late spring and summer. The smattering of stalls and hippies mesh well with the busy atmosphere of Acland St. It's a warm, beachy and fragrant with food and what I like to call the distinctive "pong" of St Kilda.

I think the South Melbourne Night Market is attempting to tap into the same late-night market crowd. Little stalls attach themselves to the edges of the closed South Melbourne Market. South Melbourne market itself is housed in an ominous red brick building and the night market stalls are like a community of squatters on it's fringes. Unlike the suburbs of Carlton and Fitzroy, where the culture and the hustle of the city tend to bleed into, South Melbourne is like an isolated inner suburban pocket. When I went the night was really still and the whole place had this calm, almost secluded atmosphere despite the proximity to the city.

Around the market, huge vats of paella bubbled away and a ten year old played Lou Reed songs on the guitar. There was plenty of those knicknacks, which seem to only appear at markets - badges, light bulbs in plants, fisherman pants, hippie scarfs and headbands. - All this stuff generally ranges from the kitsch to the mildly useless. But then again, markets are fantastic places for young artists to sell their stuff to the public.

The South Melbourne Night Market did have a couple of decent vintage clothes stores. Wild Monkey - a vintage store in a container shed on the Coventry St side - had a diverse and carefully put together collection of dresses, coats, chunky knit jumpers. There were plenty of those colourful crepe dresses, with horizontal pleats, bright patterns and strange below the hip-line waists. There were some good box hats and a range of vintage sunglasses with thick rims.

Just around the corner was a lovely open air vintage stall. Ankle boots with zips and buttons and old doc martens spilled from suitcases with coiled-up belts and coloured scarfs. The variety of tops and jackets were really impressive too. I loved this silver creation made from a delicate, web like fabric, it had these sequin embellishments around the shoulders and a gathered-in waist.

The market is smallish and comes abruptly to an end after a store selling Belgian waffles. The overall feel of the market is enhanced by nightfall under the glow of the little coloured lamps that hang from the ceiling. If you are into your analogies, you could compare the night market to a racehorse, not quite at it's stride but showing signs of early promise.

** I have to mention that across the road from the market, a couple of stores had stayed open. One of them was a lovely French vintage and homewares store called, Gigi a la maison. It was crowded with little French artifacts from the early 20th century. I adored this lamp (pictured above), it had a porcelain base shaped like Marie Antoinette. Beautiful colour and detail despite some minor chipping.

where can I find it? South Melbourne Market; 322 Coventry St South Melbourne
how do I get there? catch the no.96 tram to the South Melbourne light rail station
when is it open? 5.30pm-9.30pm every Thursday through-out the warmer months
i'm hungry? some of the regular stores stay open just for the markets, paella, waffles, juices and sushi and just some of the food on offer.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Grey St Op Shop, St Kilda

The Grey St Op Shop is an off-shoot of the sacred heart mission, located in a cavernous old church hall on the crest of the hill in Grey St, St Kilda. It's warm, closed off space, drenched in these lovely rose colours, which radiate from the glass on the high, stained windows.

The store has this quirky decor. Oriental paper umbrellas line the back wall, while lanterns and floral arrangements in plastic cones dangle from the ceiling. Circling above them all are two paper-mache whales that "swim" suspended by wires above the shop. It's lovely, every time I scanned the shop, I found something obscure suspended somewhere above.

The collection itself looks bigger than it actually is. The organisation of clothes is a little dysfunctional, with racks of men's and women's apparel scattered through-out the shop. The lack of order actually works quite well, giving the store this Sunday market feel. I have to admit I wasn't all that impressed by the clothes when I first browsed through. There was nothing all that unique, but you could tell by the functional and well-kept and stocked variety of clothes that this op-shop had a real community focus.

The best pieces seemed to be buried at the back of racks crammed with sensible black pencil skirts, t-shirts and casual jackets and jumpers. Nestled between a beige jersey trench and a rain slicker I pulled out a faux fur jacket that was speckled in this orange and black colour. The faux fur looked more like ostrich feathers, and the coat had these wonderful brass buttons with huge opaque centers. On the other side of the store I found a red leopard print top with long sleeves and a gathered collar. It was made of this wonderful light material and was $5.

The shoe collection is worth a look. Located on the far left side of the hall, there were several shelves of neatly arranged and quietly impressive shoes. There were black, gold and beige pumps and flats for women, and a couple of ornate sandals with rope ties and buckles. The men's shoe range included some lovely black and brown formal pieces, I loved a pair of black ankle lace-up boots from country road.

Aside from the clothes, the op-shop had a fantastic smattering of obscure trinkets, old-style furniture, records and glass-wear through-out the shop. I loved this white chest of draws with gold handles down the front and admired some cute sherry glasses. As a bit of a side-note the shop had a great range of cheap glass-wear and cutlery (all items around the 50c mark.) Not only were there individual items, but you could purchase sets of glasses and mugs.

As mentioned a little earlier the shop has this great community feel, I went on a Saturday afternoon and the shop was busy with locals browsing and dropping off donations. They even allow dogs inside, I almost stepped on a pug dog panting ferociously underneath a clothes rack. The staff were friendly and a security guard kept a watchful eye over the shop (though I did catch him trying on a suit jacket just before I left.)

After my initial disappointment with the clothes in the op-shop I really wanted to give it a second chance before I left. I browsed through a rack near the front of the store and found a Lisa Ho long-sleeved lace top made from a browny-gold viney material for $15.

The shop itself is this adorned sanctuary with a lovely atmosphere, while there were not any outstanding pieces, it's worth a second look to find some smaller items that may boost your own collection.

where is it?
87a Grey St, St Kilda
how do I get there? the no.16 tram to St Kilda or the no.96 light rail tram to the intersection of grey st and fitzroy st in St Kilda.
what was playing on the radio? Macey Grey
will I have to wait for a changeroom? unfortunately yes, there are only two.
i'm hungry? try something on fitzroy st st kilda, I had a plastic cup of chocolate mousse from a little bakery after shopping.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Salvation Army Op-Shop, North Melbourne

The Salvo's in North Melbourne is one of those neat almost clinical spaces that I have come to associate with the majority of Salvation Army stores around Melbourne.

Sandy yellow walls and earthy red coloured linoleum match the colour-coded clothes on long racks. There is plenty of room to browse, but also lots of clothes.

It's a big warehouse style store on busy, but underrated Errol St in North Melbourne. Large Men's and Women's clothing sections are parted by bags, baskets of yarn and knitting needles, books and a small VHS collection.

I found that the best pieces were on the racks at the front of the shop. The leather felt extremely soft on this bomber jacket with light and dark brown patches. I also liked a thick cardigan that was "vintage" Katies (it's daggy now, but I've found some nice Katie's dresses, cardigans and shirts from the 80s in second-hand shops) with green and cobalt blue patches. The dress racks were overflowing with items in different colours and textures. In general the shop had this great balance of textured, unique items (velvet, faux fur linings, cashmere and knitted materials) and functional pieces like jeans, slacks and shirts.

The menswear section had a similar sense of diversity. There were some great pointed brown shoes, pork-pie hats and shirts/business suits mixed with racks of colourful ties, wacky shoes with colourful laces and those denim bomber-jackets that inspire memories of a cold chisel film clip.

There was a small home-wear and furniture section at the front of the shop, I admired this rose-wood coloured table until I came up close and it was covered with tiny scratches. Now, everyone feels differently about second-hand mattresses, but there were several reasonably priced mattresses and bases along the back wall (roughly $195 each) and they looked in good condition.

I bought this beautiful jacket made from cashmere and wool with large brass-like buttons along each lapel for $20 (... there was a button missing.) This price was pretty reflective of the prices of the other items in the store. Quality jackets and dresses between $15-$20, but some of the smaller items (like shirts and jumpers) were around $5.

It's an exceedingly clean shop, even if it lacks a little bit of that second-hand store charm. With big-second hand/op-shop "chain" stores like Savers and The Salvo's, op-shopping is becoming a bit more like shopping in a department store. Which is both and good and bad thing. However, in the case of this op-shop the quality of the clothes do speak for themselves despite a lack of atmosphere.

address 19-23 Errol St North Melbourne
how do I get there? the 57 West Maribyrnong Tram from Elizabeth St in the CBD - Stop 12.
what's to eat? Errol's cafe up the road is a nice licensed bar and cafe
what's on the radio? Triple J
eftpos? yes

Friday, October 9, 2009

Antiques and Cafe, Albert Park Tram stop.

Ok, so this one is not really an op-shop. Friday afternoon was incredibly frustrating, I walked fourteen blocks from South Melbourne to Albert Park in heels, black and a faux fur stole (it was unseasonably warm) ...

...only to find the Albert Park Southport opshop I'd been intending to go to was closed. But I discovered this wonderful antiques shop at the Albert Park light railway station on the way home.

It was a great accidental find; incredibly the shop and all its antique, wooden items were squeezed into the old stationmasters building on the platform. My despondent mood was lifted after I walked into the dark space and inhaled this rich grainy, woody smell.

In the narrow space old wooden church pews, giant dark cedar and mahogany tables, deep chairs with wicker linings, bookcases, lockers, arching ladders and a giant wooden wheel (?) were piled neatly on top one another under the high ceilings. There was nice juxtaposition of all the old furniture and this swampy blues music that came from the adjoining cafe. The best item though, was a consentina style wooden changing wall. Like one of those old ones you'd drape all these lovely silk and lace items over while deciding what to wear.

There was plenty of old train paraphernalia (old signs etc), for train/tram nuts interested in vintage items. I didn’t have a ling time to look around, because my tram arrived. It's incredibly expensive (the furniture is worth thousands), but it was a fantastic glimpse at some great period items (many of which I guess would have been used in the station in the early 20th century) ... and a good way to kill some time....

where is it? Albert Park light rail tram stop on Ferrars St, Albert Park.
cafe it's attached to the antiques store had this relaxed atmosphere and the coffee smelled good!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Salvation Army, Elsternwick

This is really the little op-shop that could. Concealed behind a grey pylon on busy Glenhuntly Rd, what appears to be an ordinary suburban op-shop delivers some unique finds and fabrics which capture this cool eighties, textural vibe.

The store unfolds in front of you when you enter, it is a narrow, but deep shop that is partitioned into very clear sections (shoes,shirts, skirts, pants, lingere, jeans and menswear in that order.) It has a little bit of a crazy pastel colour theme, with all the walls painted into different blocks of pastel pinks, yellows and blues and an almost sickening fluorescent green.

Shoe sizes were on the smallish size, I fantasized about trying to fit my feet into a pair of size six light brown booties with a subtle faux fur lining and laces with gold caps on the ends. The range of dress sizes was impressive, from fitted little black dresses to floaty floral miu miu's. I spent some time considering this giant black dress with shimmery black feathering, but decided I'd look like Herman Munster if I was ever to wear it out. Alternatively I found this wonderful dress, which looked like denim, but appeared to be made out of a jersey fabric. It had these soft little pockets lined with a navy fabric and an angular high collar. Eventually I found a cream, silk top, with puffy sleeves, slight shoulder-pads and delicate floral featuring around the left shoulder.

There were some really sturdy pieces in the mens collection, nothing outlandish but practical. Rugby tops, t-shirts and sports jackets were some of the strongest pieces, though there were some horrible windproof fishing jackets that reminded me of a guy I used to date.... There were also some beautiful pure wool mens navy and black suit jackets at around $12, that appeared in extremely good condition (everything in this store was excellently priced.)

At the very back of the store there is a colourful little room with children's clothes, shoes and toys. The shop also has a comprehensive collection of secondhand paperbacks and those dear op-shop paintings which are often a little lopsided. It is a well organised shop, there is good variety of clothes without being overwhelmed by jumble. The homewares' section in particular has this good balance of items and space, it's neat and nothing feels like it is about to topple of the shelf. Browsing and inspecting trinkets and glasswear was easy

I went early afternoon, and it seemed like a busy local hub without being overcrowded. The volunteers were youngish and friendly and as I mentioned a little earlier the prices were great. At the moment some of the items are half-priced. The cream shirt I purchased was $3.99.

Elsternick Salvo's in an everyday,unpretentious op-shop with some unique finds, it's a store that is definately worth a second look if you initially hurry past it.

366 Glenhuntly Rd, Elsternwick

2, they were some of the most spacious changing rooms I have ever been in. 10 people could have fitted in one!

Magin 1278

Getting there:

pt: Catch the Sandringham line train to Elsternwick station

There are 2 hour parking lots behind either side of Glenhuntly rd.

food: Glicks Bakery is a favourite for bagels and other treats.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Who is Ric Ditchburn?

It's always there in the background, a quintessential part of any op-shop experience. The music. I'm always a bit surprised how op-shop and especially vintage shop owners can match the music they play to the mood of the clothes/accessories and other miscellaneous items.

The idea of browsing through a silent op-shop would be strange. I get a small thrill from miming all the words to Perry Como's catch a falling star while wiggling into something horrendously sparkly with giant shoulderpads in the changerooms

I've noticed Magic 1278 - is one of the most popular radio stations in op-shops around Melbourne. Now this may be because of the army of grey haired volunteers behind the counter, but it does expose that older genre of music to wider (younger) audience. I love the way the jocks sound so smooth when they announce tracks, its kind of like the audio version of rich velvety chocolate. It's kitsch and old fashioned, but Elvis and Frankie Valli do bring a certain type of personality to your local op-shop.

Inevitably this all leads us back to the question posed in the title of this blog post ... who is Ric Ditchburn?

Ric Ditchburn
(pictured above) - is one of the Magic 1278 presenters and has had a long career in rock 'n' roll radio. As Magic's 2pm-6pm presenter during the week, it's most likely he'll be talking while you're browsing in the afternoons. I asked him how his popularity in op-shops made him feel, he responded "delightfully opulent." (though he later stated he had no idea what "delightfully opulent" actually meant.)

What do you think makes the perfect soundtrack to an op-shop or vintage shop? I like it when music matches the clothes, old but unique. The other day I was walking around an op-shop in Windsor-end chapel street and they played the entire Born Sandy Devotional album by The Triffids, which was fantastic. I also think copacabanna style music works as well, though I tend to get a little distracted and end up spending a lot of time in the changerooms pretending I'm Carmen Miranda!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Retro Star, Melbourne

Retro Star, Melbourne

The dusty stuffed duck and the attendant wearing steel capped boots in the elevator was a fitting precursor to Retro Star above Swanston St in CBD Melbourne.

It's a kaleidoscope of vintage and retro fashion. Imagine prim 50s style clashing with a riot of 80s colours, textures and sharp silhouettes.

Retro Star is a vintage shop (well actually part of a chain of vintage shops) on the second floor of an arcade in central Melbourne, sandwiched between a subway store and one of those tacky souvenir vendors. It is a little startling to be transported from the dirty, urban bustle of Swanston St into this cavern of retro clothes and accessories. I was overwhelmed when I walked in, blinded by a sea of bright colours and sequins. I mean, it took about 5 minutes for me to work through the first two meters of the shop; there was just so much to take in.

There were hundreds of pretty dresses, bright patterns, colours, many with drawstring waists and cropped hems (which you could tell had been altered/shortened.) I loved this fitted cream dress, made of a heavy material with intricate embroidery across the front and should-pads. Highlights of the dress collection really were the selection of maxi and formal dresses. Some were lovely, puffy creations, with tiered with layers of transparent cream, baby pink and yellow fabric. Other dresses had so many sequins and embellishments sewn into the fabrics they were really heavy. Everything was gloriously textural; it was amazing to be able to touch all of the well crafted and cared for pieces. There were also some more casual, daywear dresses, made from light jersey and cotton that would breath well in the warmer months.

Other highlights of the womenswear collection were these delicate cream cardigans, thicker, coloured jumpers and sweatshirts, little rose-coloured skirts with floral patterns, classic 80s pumps and boots and leather jackets. The selection of denim shorts, jackets, and pants was also fantastic. I have a big thing for 50s hats, especially small round caps (the type you would hold on with pins) with veils, rosettes, faux fur and other embellishments. There was this lovely display of these sort hats, bags, clutches, gloves and faux fur wraps by the back window.

As I mentioned earlier, the store mixed these sorts of prim pieces with edgier, street wear in both men’s and women clothes. The items in retro star are pretty diverse, and I must admit I found some things a little tacky. Backpacks with Marilyn Monroe, canvas bags with pictures of Joy Divison on them and t-shirts and bags with all sorts of slogans and bands on them didn't really do it for me. But I can appreciate the diversity of what was on offer in the store.

If you don't like being absolutely overwhelmed by choice, this might not be the store for you. There are some exceptional pieces here, but the department store-like layout and the sheer number of items available may deter you. Browsing through the racks was a little difficult because there were just so many clothes to push aside to get to want you wanted to look at. The staff was friendly and young, and there were plenty of them to manage the busy store. Prices are reasonable for a vintage store and you can really expect to pay anywhere between $35-$90.

In the end I tried on about 6 dresses and returned all of them, (I think I was unlucky enough to get the change room with the curtain that didn't close properly and most likely flashed the entire store... **change room with curtain malfunction is the one in the middle) I think I had been a little distracted by the amount of things to choose from and it would be great to go back when the store was not so busy. However, I did pull off an overdressed mannequin a tan, felt hood with a fur lining that can worn as a hood or as a wrap/shoal ($45) to soothe my desire to souvenir something.

First Floor, Nicholas Building, 37 Flinders Lane

changerooms: 5 (covered with 50s magazine cut-outs)

music: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Getting there:

Catch any city bound train to Flinders St Station, Retro Star is in an arcade just before Flinders Lane and Swanston St intersection.

parking: I would avoid trying to find a park around the city, pt it!

Subway, KFC, Hungry Jacks and Maccas all have stores along that strip. If you are looking for something other than junk food I'd recommend Degraves St around the corner (off Flinders Lane)