The window displays at Armstrong's are blissfully eclectic, but not in the annoyingly twee way that many vintage shops present themselves (all sweetness and light with roses and polka dots, til you get stung for the bill of overpriced clothing). Here the windows are a blank canvas which the sales team have transformed into a sort of safari holiday on acid. I'm immediately intrigued. A key advantage of vintage shops is that the windows will be constantly changing, owing to the one-off nature of the contents, so it's worth popping past a few times in one week for ever-changing visual merchandising.
Setting themselves up as specialists (read the white writing and you'll see just how diverse the stock sections are), this is a place that would have Mary Portas dancing between the rails. The outside bears a short mannequin (just seen) with a floral tank top and high-waisted denim shorts, which nicely caters to modern trends: these people clearly know what they're doing. What's more, you're getting the newest fashion from the first time around, so it's a win-win situation.
Another couple of outfits at Armstrong's. As you can see, another short mannequin body has been placed on the other side of the entrance, also bearing a tank top and high-waisted white denim shorts, but this time with a tie-dye print and a chunky black belt. The near-symmetry of these outfits is incredibly inventive for a fashion subcategory (vintage) that normally prides itself on having no two garments the same. Below that sits a skirted look that wouldn't be out of place in a 1960s or 70s office: the ambitious Working Girl before Working Girl was a film in the 80s. Great styling here.
From Armstrong's to the vintage section of the PDSA charity shop, which is just along from John Knox's house in the heart of Edinburgh. The staff here obviously know how to spot what is a vintage gem and what is a mainstream charity purchase (something I spent years trying to explain to my co-volunteers at a local hospice shop). It's easy for non-vintage lovers to overlook a battered leather bag as being tatty and unpresentable, or to assume that a naff jumper with a dog's face on will not prove popular; however, both of those examples are now hugely in demand, owing to the cyclical nature of fashion and the backlash against throwaway synthetic garments. Even just this week, Grazia magazine was announcing on its front page that jumpers with animal silhouettes are big news.
With stacks of records and stacks of enthusiasm, this charity shop really is a popular destination. The quality of the vintage section is similar to that of Armstrong's, and it's great to see that the charity sector is benefitting from the demand for all things retro. It also makes far more sense to buy original pieces from 30-80 years ago (when you can) than to go and grab the brand new version that's only pretending to be from Granny's wardrobe, because you're helping to reduce clothing waste and giving that item a new lease of life.