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.
address: First Floor, Nicholas Building, 37 Flinders Lane
changerooms: 5 (covered with 50s magazine cut-outs)
music: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
pt: 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!
food: 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)