You know, lately, shopping has not been much fun. Perhaps it’s because most of the stores where I shopped regularly have closed. Big ones and small ones alike. There are still a couple of small independent stores which can entice me, like Schad in the Byward Market area. And I still enjoy shopping at Uniqlo. But otherwise, I’ve not been feeling the love.

I guess that lack of love is partly why the “Rule of Five Pledge” has not been difficult. Not yet anyway. Of course it is only March. Early days still.

But this week I am pleased to say that I rediscovered the joys of shopping, by rediscovering my love for vintage shopping.

Interior of Bellwethers Vintage shop in Ottawa, Ontario.
Finding the joys of vintage shopping at Bellwethers Vintage.

Since I signed on to buy only five new things this year, I’ve been researching thrift, consignment, and vintage shops in Ottawa. And visiting consignment shops (like Trove Fashion and The Recollective in Westboro) and thrift stores (like Value Village) in order to train myself to shop second hand before I look anywhere else. That, I’m told, is one way to realign one’s shopping habits into a more sustainable, earth-friendly process. Know what you want, what you need, make a list, and then look first in secondhand shops.

I always review my wardrobe seasonally, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading my blog a while. In the spring and fall I blither on about my wardrobe changeover and my closet edits. I always research trends, find a niche in my closet that needs to be filled, and then make my list. This is not new for me. But shopping second hand first IS new to me.

Interior of Bellwethers Vintage shop in Ottawa, Ontario.
I found two beautiful Jaeger suits.

I have to admit that I have not, over the years, had good luck with secondhand shopping, at least when it comes to clothes. For years, I was a faithful attendee at the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show. I loved the festive vibe of the shows. I loved to browse and chat to the sellers. To see the creative ways they displayed their wares, the variety of colours and textures of everything. I loved how everyone seemed to be having fun. I almost always came home with a piece of jewellery, or a vintage hat. But never clothing. I just did not have the patience required to sift through the huge racks of clothes, nor the dogged persistence it seemed other shoppers had for bargain hunting.

In fact, shopping has never been about the bargain for me. It’s always been about finding the exact piece which was on my list and for which I’d been searching. Only occasionally do I stray from my list, like when I find a perfect piece. Like my green Max Mara coat.

That focus has not served me well when consignment or vintage shopping. One should be more flexible when secondhand shopping, I was told, the better to snap up unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. It seems adherence to a list can inhibit one’s success. So I had to laugh when I visited Value Village with Hubby and found, almost immediately, a pink button-down shirt, something that’s been on my “to buy” list for two years now. Finding that shirt was a piece of luck, and Hubby and I had fun, but I don’t see myself becoming a regular shopper at Value Village.

That’s because I really do have to love a store to shop there regularly. Often, over the years, I’ve given short shrift to stores which sell secondhand apparel. As I said above, I do not have the dogged persistence of the dedicated bargain hunter. And shopping is such an aesthetic experience for me. It’s always been about more than just coming home with a new sweater. I have to want to be in that space to go back with any regularity. Shopping has to give me at least a little bit of joy.

And I’m happy to say that earlier this week, my friends, I was reminded of the joys of vintage shopping. I was reminded of how much I always loved the Vintage Clothing Show. How excited I was to find that perfect vintage shop in Lisbon when Hubby and I were there last fall. And I found myself wondering why I’ve not been vintage shopping these past few years.

Maybe I’ve just never taken the time to check out Ottawa’s vintage scene. I remedied that this week by visiting Bellwethers Vintage on Florence Street, in Ottawa’s Centretown. Oh my, I knew right away that I would love this store. Even if I didn’t find anything to buy this time. The vibe was fun, colourful, sixties nostalgia. The displays reminded me of that perfect vintage shop I found in Lisbon: the reds, the pinks, the greens, the Elvis head. It was all cheeky and fun, and yet tasteful.

I spied two Jaeger suits. I gasped when I saw the beige linen one, above. The cropped jacket and wide-leg pants are totally on trend this year. My gasp precipitated a chat with a fellow shopper about what a great store this was. She regaled me with tales of purchases she’d made in the past. Neither Jaeger suit fit me. Although the jacket of that linen one, above, did, the pants did not. I almost tried the multi-colour dress with the tie, centre below, but didn’t. Now I’m regretting that. Think how cute it would be with sneakers and the sleeves rolled up. It appears that one of the joys of vintage shopping is coming up with excuses to revisit a shop you like to try on that piece you didn’t try the first time.

In between Jaeger suits, I kept popping out of the dressing room to chat with Angela the sales assistant. What a cutie. I struck up a conversation with another shopper named Maggie. It makes shopping so much more fun when everyone is convivial. Maggie shops at Bellwethers Vintage all the time and looked so funky, and chic, I was inspired by her. Especially when I found out that she’s eighty-two. I’m done feeling that I might be too old for my faux leather pants, folks. If Maggie can do it so can I.

Anyway, I eventually perused all the racks in the store. I found a great suede fringed jacket and a burgundy leather coat, in case you’re in the market for either. Both are on trend this season. Then I spied this puppy below. A nineties denim vest. It fit perfectly and came home with me. So much for the disadvantages of having a list. Maybe being flexible isn’t everything. Maybe having a list and being organized is key. Angela said that vest had been on the rack for “like five minutes,” so it’s good that I knew I wanted one. Otherwise I’d have undoubtedly missed out. Looks like I won’t be upcycling a men’s denim jacket into a vest after all.

Vintage shopping at Bellwethers Vintage. A nineties vest.
My vintage find.

Here’s how I styled my vest when I got home. With my black light-weight Vince turtleneck, black and white striped Uniqlo tee shirt, black Aritzia dress pants, black Cole Haan Chelsea boots, and my new black, cross-body bag from COS.

Vintage denim vest, striped tee shirt, black turtleneck, black dress pants, black boots, black cross-body COS bag, on deck overlooking the river.
Dress pants and denim vest.

I like the wash of the vest. It’s faded just enough to look great with black or navy.

I think I’m pleased with my purchase.

The cross-body bag is my one new purchase this year, so far. I bought it when I was in Montreal shopping with my niece. Oddly enough I saw it at COS when I was in Montreal in the fall of 2022, but didn’t buy it. I wanted to check out the similar style bags at Uniqlo. Sadly I thought the Uniqlo bags looked cheap, so I ended up with neither. But my niece Ashley says that since it was on my 2022 list it shouldn’t count for this year. Ha. She’s so supportive.

Vintage denim vest, striped tee shirt, black turtleneck, black dress pants, black boots, black cross-body COS bag, on deck overlooking the river.
Spring pieces, but layered.

Outfit #2 is a double denim look. Not usually my cup of tea, but I like it. I’m wearing my vest with my Levi’s men’s 511 jeans, my navy cashmere Uniqlo turtleneck, my Vejas sneakers, and my old, some might even say vintage, bag from Holt Renfrew. I bought this bag back in the nineties, so it’s the same vintage as my vest.

Woman in double denim outfit. Nineties vest is the result of vintage shopping in Ottawa.
Double denim look.

You know, I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d had this much fun shopping. I came home from my vintage shopping adventure energized. And chatty. So chatty that I’m sure my mum would have said my tongue was wagging just like the “clapper” on a particular part of a goose’s anatomy. A favourite expression of hers when we talked too much. Don’t ask me what a “clapper” is; I’ll leave you to puzzle that one out on your own.

Nineties vest and nineties bag.

Here’s a closer look at my vest. I’m wearing one of my mum’s vintage brooches. Looks good on the vest don’t you think?

Vintage on vintage.

So. This Rule of Five thing has turned out to be pretty good for me. Luckily I don’t really need any new clothes. But the “rule” has stopped me being tempted. And the journey to becoming a better secondhand shopper has been illuminating and lots of fun. Bellwethers Vintage is such an inviting store, I know I’ll go back. And like I said in my Rule of Five Update post, Trove Fashion and The Recollective consignment stores are inviting as well. So, I’ve added three new shops to my arsenal. Not that the rule of five pledge is a battle or anything. Not yet anyway. Ha.

Here are the Instagram links to all three stores if you want to follow them: Bellwethers Vintage, The Recollective, Trove Fashion.

By the way, I’m heading to New Brunswick at the beginning of the week. So there won’t be a post next weekend, March 23. My sister and I will be visiting our other sister. It’ll be a sisters weekend. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll catch up with you in two weeks, on Easter weekend.

P.S. Here are some links to pieces I’m wearing with my new-to-me vest: Outfit 2… Levis 511 men’s jeans, Uniqlo cashmere turtleneck sweater, Vejas sneakers, black Holt Renfrew messenger bag. My bag is unavailable since it’s old, but there is a selection of similar bags here on Etsy. Outfit 1… Vince light-weight turtleneck, Uniqlo striped tee shirt, Aritzia dress pants, Cole Haan Chelsea boots, COS cross-body bag.

P.P.S. All of the above links are affiliate links except for the Ariztia product. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will earn a commission which helps to pay for the blog. The Aritzia link is included as a courtesy since Aritzia doesn’t have an affiliation with small bloggers like me.

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57 thoughts on “Joys of Vintage Shopping”

  1. I love vintage shopping. I live in Cape Town and volunteer for a charity called Vintage with Love which has both an online and bricks and mortar shop. We sell pre loved clothing to raise money for early learning programmes in the under privileged schools. This is a much needed area of education that is overlooked in our country.
    Would you mind sharing the name of the vintage shop in Lisbon Sue , as I will be there in June.
    Always enjoy your posts .

    1. My husband tried on Google Maps to locate the vintage shop we found, but we were not successful. I can tell you that it was not too far from Rosario Railway Station. We were on a small street that ran up hill, which I know is not narrowing it down since most of Lisbon is on a hill. We saw all kinds of vintage shops on the map but couldn’t tell which one was “ours.” So it looks as if there are many from which to choose. Have fun.

  2. What a fabulous shop , like an Aladdin’s cave . And what a coincidence that they had just what you were after & in your size too . Perhaps they read your blog & saw you coming – ‘ quick , she’s heading this way , get that on the rack ‘ . I’m loving Maggie’s outfit too . She’d make a good guest on here . That lime green pinafore dress made me very nostalgic. I had a canvas mack in the 60s , same colour & shape with the same metal ring on the zip . I felt like a proper 60s girl wearing that .I don’t remember it being very waterproof but that wasn’t important then .
    Last week I visited my local small shopping area to browse the charity bookshops & I passed a woman wearing your lovely green coat . I immediately thought of you . She probably wondered why I was staring & smiling . It looked very nice .
    Enjoy the trip with your sisters . You might find a good vintage shop there ?

    1. No vintage shopping this week. In fact no visiting our sister due to the weather. 25-30 cm of snow expected… so we’re not taking a chance with a five hour drive. Hopefully when Stu and I are here in late May we’ll be able to go down.

  3. Dear Sue, I absolutely love your weekly letters, it’s like hearing news from a real friend! This week’s one particularly interested me as I have always loved second hand clothes shopping ,from jumble sales ( I don’t know if you have them over there, usually held in church halls in aid of a charity, everything donated and very cheap !) up to designer emporiums . I even owned my own “ Nearly New “ shop , it was called “ Follies” for several years in the 1980s , it was a joy! The main thing I want to say is when shopping like this is forget the list! You must keep an open mind because if you are looking hard for a particular item you will miss a treasure! It can be exhausting but such fun and so thrilling when you do find that treasure.
    Best wishes from Judy Sparks in Brighton UK

    1. We have rummage sales here, where the clothes are donated. I’ve never actually been to one. My grandmother used to volunteer at the rummage sales at her church. She always made the tea. Now why does that not surprise me? Ha.

  4. I enjoy vintage and thrift shopping also but be careful when the prices are so low it’s easy to come home with something needed or not! Nice looking vest. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of use out of that and the brooch is perfect and is spot on.. did you notice that men were wearing brooches at the Oscars?

  5. I don’t shop in vintage shops. I never find anything I like. I do however, buy items on Ebay and Poshmark. I have good luck there! Usually I find items that I passed up in the stores last year or two years ago.

  6. What a score! And you’ve already managed to integrate your new vest perfectly in a few outfits. (Of course you did, because you’d made a list of what you needed and didn’t end up deviating from it — so organized!) Brava!

  7. You styled the vest perfectly. What a great find! Looks like such a nice store.
    And……Maggie is an inspiration for us all, isn’t she!

    I am going to be in Houlton, Maine in April to visit my son and family and to enjoy the 2024 Eclipse festivities. I’m very excited to see that part of the country…I am from Texas, so it will be very different. They have only recently moved up there.

    When I discovered how close it is to New Brunswick, I told them we have to go there when I go back in the fall (too much already planned for this trip)….anxious to see your Fredricton, 🙂
    Have a nice visit with your sisters. Safe travels!
    Hope you take the vest 🙂

  8. Sue, This was fun, as I have never been in Bellwethers even though I pass by there on my way home from work.

    I used to be a constant vintage shopper, but when I first moved to Ottawa again about twenty years ago, having been accustomed to bigger city vintage shopping, I was disappointed. Another factor is that I can’t really dress in a funky way at my job. When I was young I had lots of fun with vintage. Now I do vintage via sewing but in a toned-down way. I do miss the fun and creativity of hunting for just the right look at a price I could afford as a student.

    I don’t enjoy regular shopping anymore in North America, for the most part. It’s just an in and out when I need something, e.g., a pair of jeans or a sports item. When I’m in Paris or Italy I do enjoy shopping more, because it’s more of an experience and there are more unique, small shops and so I can wander streets with boutiques and have conversations with the owners (especially in Italy).

    All that said, fun to see this featured and to imagine vintage “coming back.” (I presume it never went away for some people, and sometimes I envy those people, especially the ones in arts jobs, who are eccentric with their style.) I will go in and browse sometime and maybe dream about funky dresses. I like your find and I like the denim on denim outfit best of the two.

    Maggie looks terrific. I hope I have her continued interest in fashion and having fun with my look when I’m in my 80s. Perhaps I’ll run into her there sometime.

  9. Thanks for taking us along on your fun shopping trip. Such fun on this return to winter this week. I love to poke around in shops like this, and what a beauty that one is, only downfall is that when you find a treasure then find it is in the wrong size, and of course there in not another like it. I would have loved to find a vintage shop when we were in Lisbon in the fall, but alas, not everyone I travel with is into those like I am. Great find with the vest, now you will not have to sew anything, ha.
    When you were chattingg with Maggie did she share any of her special shops with you? I find that lovely ladies like that often mention shops that I did not know about, and sharing info is such fun.
    Have a wonderful time with your sisters and I eagerly await your tales from home.

  10. Great blog today. Love the vest and you have styled it well. Just to let you know, there is an online store called Poppy and Peonies that sells mainly accessories and their crossbody bags are awesome. My daughter in law and granddaughter and several of my friends have them and I intend to have one soon. I love that it is a Canadian company owned and run by women and it is out of Owen Sound in Ontario (south end of Georgian Bay). Keep up the good work and enjoy your time with your sisters in NB.

  11. I occasionally enjoy vintage shopping, but as a tall woman with big feet, I generally find nothing that fits. I then meander over to the men’s area and find a treasure or two — with my best score being a leather flight jacket from the 70s. All in all, though, it’s a question of time — how much time am I willing to spend shopping? If I could get the human interaction you found at your store, then yes, it would be worth it. Otherwise, I take my list to eBay or Poshmark, where I can see the actual item I’m buying, its condition, and its measurements.

  12. It’s curious to me that so many people shop at Poshmark and eBay but never mention Mercari. I have found a lot of great items on that resale site as well.

  13. Dear Sue,

    As an avid enjoyer of your blog, I was saddened to think that people may be surprised at seeing style in seniors: i.e Maggie. I am 82 and will continue to dress with nuance and care as I have done since age eight. Here’s to stylish seniors and let’s raise one to dear Iris Apfel.

    1. I have known many seniors who were careful with their appearance and who looked attractive. What Maggie’s look suggests is something more hip and modern (hairstyle especially), which I find is more unusual here (we’re rather conservative in style overall). I also admired Iris Apfel.

    2. So sorry, Mary. I meant no disrespect at all. Maggie is so chic she’d inspire me no matter what her age. But I do agree with Stephanie, Ottawa is pretty conservative when it comes to fashion and style. I know lots of over eighty friends who love clothes, but don’t have the edge that Maggie has. She inspired me to take more risks with my clothes.

  14. I’m loving what you have been doing with your style lately! Maggie reminded me of a neighbor I had in Germany who was in her late eighties, a former ballet dancer with perfect posture, and had a great sense of humor. She opened my eyes as the first senior citizen I had seen wearing leather pants. Her style put my thirties self to shame and inspired me to up my game.

  15. I loved this post! I have enjoyed thrift and vintage shopping for clothing as well as household items for years. Love the “thrill of the hunt” and finding those treasures. A favourite a set of 6 La Rochare dragonfly wine goblets for the cottage! Love looking for particular labels I love as well!
    I often feel regarding clothing prices, especially designer price points just because you can(afford to spend$$$) doesn’t mean you should!

    1. I have fond memories of antique shopping with my friend Mary who collected old wine goblets. Shopping for vintage household items is so much fun. And no worrying about trying stuff on. Ha.

  16. Great find with the vest. I really like it with the brooch on it. I inherited a lot of brooches from my mother so must start wearing them.
    There are quite a few charity shops around us but I’ve never had much luck finding anything I’ve liked/wanted/needed. However, a couple of friends and I used to visit some of the better ones in the city during school holidays and I scored one of the best buys ever. I got a beautiful red cashmere cardigan with little heart shaped buttons which I’m still wearing 30 years later. A real bargain.
    Enjoy your visit with your sisters. I have a cousin’s granddaughter from Scotland arriving today to stay for a few days which will be lovely. She’s been here working on a horse stud for six months and is heading home. Her father grandfather and great-grandmother have all been over to stay with us at different times.

  17. Your vest looks great and brooches just add that little bit of something else. Love consignment stores, but sometimes you find something whoaza but then it isn’t in your size.

  18. Fabulous vest…good find. Love shopping second hand, pre loved, antique, vintage etc. I always imagine a story behind the item. My favorite is a consignment store called Treasures, and I always find something there. Happy hunting Sue.

  19. About fifteen years ago, I read about the amount of resources used to produce new clothing and vowed to cut back on those kind of purchases. Since then, I’ve very rarely bought anything new except underwear, socks and occasional footwear (one per year), and I’ve even found my favorite bras, new with tags, on Poshmark. Jewelry, purses, and other accessories are also thrifted; My lifestyle is causal and I’m retired, so my wardrobe is flexible, but I almost always feel suitably dressed.
    Because I can sew, items do not have to fit perfectly. At five-foot-one, I’ve done my share of hemming, both on pant legs and sleeves. I urge anyone shopping second-hand to learn a few basic sewing skills; many can be done without a sewing machine. If you are uneasy trying things on in a thrift shop, measure your favorite items laid flat (hips, waist, bust, rise, length, etc.) and bring a measuring tape to the store.

  20. Serendipity! I love that the vest just leapt onto the rack for you to find. I look forward to seeing all the ways you style it going forward, and the appearances of many brooches.

  21. That denim vest was a real find! I like both ways that you styled it. I would go with the double denim look myself. It looks cool and fun and the bag is perfect with it. You have inspired me to search my local vintage clothing store for bargains.

  22. Hello from England, UK.
    Here a vest is underwear, sleeveless, often cotton.
    What you are calling a vest in this post, we call a Gilet.
    Cherry 🍒

    1. Yes, I’m aware of the language variations around fashion. Like how we say “pants” and mean trousers, while you are thinking we’re talking about underpants. 😀

  23. Fabulous vest and you look splendid in it. I’m happy that you’re taking to thrift and vintage shopping, and admire your commitment to the Rule of 5. We don’t seem to have appealing thrift or vintage clothes stores here, or maybe I just don’t know about them. I also lack the patience for looking through lots of racks trying to find things I like and which might fit.
    I do know a few good vintage places for homewares where the stock is well-presented and I’ve found a few treasures. Perhaps our thrift and vintage clothes shops will get on board the excellent presentation bandwagon too.
    I hope you have a blast with your sisters, enjoy!

  24. The vest looks great, especially with the vintage brooch. And you didn’t have to rip out seams and restitch anything! A win, win.

    The store looks so neat and organized – very appealing. I always enjoy a good vintage shop. You have me thinking about where I might find one near me.

    Have a good visit with your sisters.

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