Vintage shopping in Belsize Park

You know what’s better than a lazy Sunday? Doing something exciting, something you’ve never done before! It could be archery, it could be pottery-making, it could even be riding the Emirates Cable Car! For me though, it was something entirely different; it was treasure-hunting (or rather vintage shopping at the Hampstead Old Town Hall). I’ve never done that before, as I always thought that vintage shopping is not for me. Maybe it’s the small sizing, maybe the smell… It always seemed a bit of novelty to me, but boy was I wrong! It is interesting, fun, a piece of living history! Without further ado, let’s talk about my experience!

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It was a rainy Sunday early afternoon, when we braved the cold and got into the tube for a short trip to Belsize Park. I am kidding; it wasn’t raining the whole time we were there and it wasn’t even terribly cold! Just a normal October day in London. So if weather-wise it was kind of what I expected, shopping-wise, I didn’t really a single clue! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to the odd vintage shop in Brick Lane, but as I said, I thought it wasn’t my scene! And you know it’s one thing to go for a browse and quite another to actually go treasure-hunting! This, I was not familiar with!

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The Hampstead Old Town Hall is an impressive, yet oh-so beautiful building. Firstly opened in 1878, it still has some Victorian elements, like the facade or the “Imperial Staircase” with its cast iron balustrades. The rooms are big and airy – with high ceilings – transporting you in another era, however if you look closely, there are details that make the building show its age. From the carpeted staircase to the wooden floor, this looks (and feels) like an old building (not terribly though, even by London standards), but I think that this is all part of its charm! I wouldn’t want it to look in any other way!

So we got in, paid a ticket of £3.00 each and went to the first room on our immediate left. Oh dear, it was full of people, colours and clothes! Old (from now on I will refer to them as vintage! They are vintage, Sofia, vintage!) clothes, accessories (I saw some beautiful hats and fascinators), some quality jewellery, you could literally find anything there! About the jewellery specifically, the first stall there had some quality pieces from the 1920s! This is so exciting, as it could have been something my great-grandmother would wear. Dainty, but also elegant, I’d definitely consider one of those brooches if I was in the market for something similar.

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After doing a walk around, we moved on to first floor, where you could find more clothes, more vintage dresses with tiny waists, more extravagant colour combinations! Seriously, what is it with colour and the 1980s?! However this room (being bigger mainly) had a more eclectic feel, with some quality coats thrown in the mix, again lots and lots of jewellery, and even a few lacy dresses! They were absolutely amazing, the lace was stunning and were so well-kept! You know what they say about investment pieces. Well, these lacy dresses are indeed timeless and a true investment! Among others, hidden among other dresses, was – what I suspect – a wedding dress, with lots of beading and satin around. I could be wrong though; it could have been a debutante dress.

The vintage fair didn’t feature only clothes though. There were stalls with old maps, others with wonderful (and dainty! Did I mention dainty?) tea sets and other interesting things! What really surprised me was three stalls, quite unique I have to say. The first one had re-purposed cases and cans into light fixtures, which I found fascinating! Some had a dimmer switch on, which is so convenient, might I add. Another stall had the cutest, little flower pots, made from shot glasses, tea cups and even jam jars and coffee pots! The lady there told us that these require only a teaspoon of water and can make great Christmas presents! Plus she makes them on her own. Finally, there was a stall full of (guess what) doilies, embroidered pillowcases and tablecloths! Honestly, my mind went to my home and my mum, who all these years embroidering has amassed a great collection.

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I think as an outing, it was successful, not only because I bought myself a beautiful beret (I love those things!) and I’d have liked to go through a rail with cream, white and beige silk (they felt like silk at least) shirts, but because I experienced what vintage shopping really is! Everyone there was interested in vintage clothes or home decorations or little nik naks; this was a purely cultural activity! Some traders were even dressed up like in the 1950s, with hair and makeup reflecting the same era, and that made me realise that they enjoyed what they were doing and had a lot of fun! And this is what matters in the end!

If you ask me whether I plan on going there again, I’d say of course! I’d like to experience this one more time (and hopefully find something on my size too!)

Till next time,

Sofia-Maria

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