Tucked away on the largely residential Mountgrove Road, Cafe Vintage joins a petite parade of independent shops. Sisters Aysha Sparks and Nadia Allman head up the bijou boutique-café crossover and offer a distinctly nostalgic nod to 1940s Britain. The charming café (featuring homemade, retro-influenced cakes and artisan breads) leads to a small backroom rammed with personally selected, washed and ironed vintage. The wartime era is well represented here, but '80s and '90s outfits, shoes and accessories also feature and, though the space is small, a good scour is usually well rewarded. If you have spare threads yourself, Cafe Vintage also runs a competitive consignment service, with 50 per cent of the sales price going back to the seller.
Clothing and accessories are piled up on every surface of this long, narrow shop in Chalk Farm Road, but don't be put off by the madcap merchandising. While this store is lacking a little in presentation, the varied stock and helpful owner more than compensate. She'll ask what you're looking for and pull out several items for you to try on - a rare service in vintage shops. We were tempted by an immaculate '60s A-line pure wool dress, for £25; as well as a '70s coat suit at £30. The quality of some items is a bit hit and miss, but, with bags for £10 to £20 and tops starting at £10, prices are reasonable for the area.
We're delighted that former Camden Lock stallholder-turned-music-video director Deborah Woolf has returned to the world of vintage. Her shop offers a fantastic mix of clothing and accessories from luxury brands through to high street. As well as a passion for Eastern European folk garments, Deborah also has an amazing collection of '50s, '60s and '70s costume jewellery and precious pieces by top designers - and she has supplied stock to the V&A shop as well as films such as 'X-Men: First Class'. The shop itself is organised and easy to browse, as Deborah keeps her overflowing archive (which you can visit by appointment) across the road at Alfies Antiques Market. Prices start at £60 for dresses, but the quality and attention to detail of each piece ensures that paying £260 for early '80s Yves Saint Laurent is entirely reasonable. While womenswear is the focus of the shop, there is a small selection of menswear, including ties and cufflinks.
Here's where to come for vintage finds at reasonable prices; we found a Moschino tailored jacket in fair nick for £65. But most of the small store is filled with tightly packed rails of classic vintage - armfuls of silk blouses (£25) and retro-waisted dresses (£35). The shop has a friendly, local feel to it - and staff are welcoming and game for a gossip.
This easygoing store could do with a tidy up (Converse sneakers, £21, were strewn on the floor at our last visit), but it's a cheap and unpretentious place. Episode is an Amsterdam-based chain and stocks mostly European brands. There's a uniform price policy, so all dresses are £21, whether it's a Paula Yates-style fuchsia and black cocktail frock, or an on-trend orange and brown paisley shift. It's the place to go for hats, especially berets (£8.50), and accessories in general; gloves are £12.50, bags £21.This is a warehouse and dead-stock outlet, rather than a hand-picked experience, but everything is well displayed and it's easy to locate what you're looking for.
Owner Amelia and her dog Rose can often be found behind the counter watching 'The Good Life' in this beautifully presented shop just away from the main thoroughfare of Crouch End. The shop predominantly sells clothes, accessories and a few curios - such as Derek the taxidermied crow who, as we went to press, could be purchased for £150. If that's a little dear, evening classes in DIY taxidermy take place in store. With this and the animal skulls on the wall are taken into account, Amelia's 'no fur or leather' policy can seem a little odd. Keen eyes can spot real vintage rarities, such as the £250 Christian Dior 'Beetlejuice' suit and the stunning £115 Jean Varon mint-condition dress we spotted. There is also a small collection of men's shirts and jackets, a variety of vintage cameras on display, old milk bottles and desk lights - including a cracking '60s white and gold lamp discarded by local actor James McAvoy. Silly man.
Juliet Da Silva and partner Ochuko Ojiro are a couple stuck in the past - in a good way. Da Silva scours Italian markets and stores for fashion from the '60s, '70s and '80s, and showcases them in the fashion branch of Pelicans and Parrots. A few doors up, Ojiro sells stylish vintage furniture and ornaments, as well as the odd bit of clothing, from Pelicans and Parrots Black, the homewares outpost. Both stores are beautifully turned out, with neatly presented stock, stylish art deco fixtures, and a selection of product bought with the Dalston hipster demographic in mind - think silk blouses, £30, and Barbour jackets, £80. Not cheap, but good value.
If you're unfamiliar with the rabbit warren layout of Alfies Antiques Market it can be daunting, so we recommend a beeline for the cosy vintage shop on the second floor. Owned by Gwyneth Trefor-Jones, who is also responsible for Essex Road boutique Past Caring, Persiflage has been going for an amazing 25 years and is frequented by fashion students, stylists and even, apparently, Whoopi Goldberg. The shop features a wide variety of pieces from the '20s right through to the '80s, as well as Victorian items, with prices ranging from £30 to £200. If you're into restoring or recreating vintage clothing, then you'll love Persiflage's secondhand lace, buttons, beads and sequins, as well as sewing patterns and books on how to become an expert dressmaker.
Hoana Poland is a veteran vintage buyer and is quietly amassing a chain of excellent vintage stores across north-east London. Strut of Stoke Newington was her first, and it is still the best in the area. The large three-roomed premises sells a good variety of well-priced vintage with a mix of designer and no-name stock - we spotted a Marc by Marc Jacobs paisley dress for £60, as well as a statement chunky cardigan for £30. Changing rooms are far more civilised than most, and staff are happy to pop their head round the door to help you with suggestions and a bit of fashion banter. The store hosts buying days on Mondays, when you can sell your own seconds. Stroll (at number 111) is Poland's psychedelically painted high street store selling recent wares from Reiss and Whistles rather than retro styles. There is also a new contemporary vintage store by Broadway Market (see East).
Owners Anna and Mike recently moved from the second floor to the ground floor of Alfies Antique Market, giving them a street-facing shopfront. Velvet Atelier is already a favourite with the 'Downton Abbey' wardrobe department and designers such as Nicole Fahri because of pieces like a '20s flapper dress or a '50s creation by Marilyn Monroe's designer Ceil Chapman. They can also be rented for 20 per cent of their cost, a great option for brides-to-be who only need one day in white. If you're after something a little more contemporary, the shop also stocks a carefully chosen selection of '80s and '90s pieces from the likes of Moschino, Vivienne Westwood, Oscar de la Renta and Alexander McQueen.