A Guide to Vintage shopping in Norwich
Norwich as a place, is all very arty, so it's not all that surprising that its saturated with more vintage shops than any other city I've visited. The School of Arts means the streets are brimming with expressive minds, and I think that's what takes it to another level of beauty. It's so evident as you walk about that there are lots of unconventialists who express themselves incredibly creatively. And it means that the vintage shops are not a detached part of the life of the city. Many students are clearly wearing the vintage and retro clothing I see hung up and hidden in boxes in all sorts of truly unique stores.
We must have been a bit on the tired side when making plans, because we picked bank holiday as the shopping day. Felt proud of myself for that one.
Yet wandering down Magdalene street there was one vintage shop that was still open, simply because independent or not, it is so enormous. Looses Emporium is so marvellously huge and full of wonders. I'd been there a couple of times, and am always trying to get back.
Upstairs is the place to look for clothes, but I even spotted some 'revamped' clothes before heading up the stairs, where people had done some upcycling. My favourite was a dress made out of a Sari material in fuschia, it was truly beautiful, and if I didn't already have too many sari dresses in that colour I would have snapped it up straight away.
Magdalene street is always a great place to start for out-of-the-ordinary shopping endeavours. Its a fairly tired-looking place, but with lots of shops with plenty of life in them. Every shop is so quirky and I love the amount of character packed into the place. It's also a dream for a sewer like me, as there are plenty of fabric shops selling the most beautiful and original designs, with every corner chock-full with material.
Then there are the churches. Yes, there are two churches dedicated to selling vintage in Norwich. These really do feel like curious spaces when you step inside, and it always feels like a novelty when I'm in them.
I approached the owners to ask how it happened and how the idea came about, and it's all linked to just how many churches there are in Norwich. Frequently you walk down a street and there are two churches within 50 metres of each other. It seems comical at times.
My dad tells me there's an old saying, that there's a church for every week, and a pub for everyday of the year in Norwich city centre.
That's probably not too far off the truth, although I'm not so sure about the 365 pubs.
Over the last year on various visits I've bought some pieces I've picked up some treasures from the churches, including that deep green dress I took to Corfe castle, some whacky purple jodhpurs for riding, and a scarlett beret that makes me feel oh so French.
Theres also the market (the largest permanent outdoor market in the country I'll have you know). I can't get over how colourful it is, I wouldn't like it half as much if it wasn't painted different shades of the rainbow.
I've picked up some pieces that have become real staples in my wardrobe from a couple of stores there, so they're always a fond place for me to return to. I have some very old vintage sunglasses from there which I'm looking forward to popping on this summer- I think I paid £2 for them.
Norwich also has charity shops specific to vintage- and these are truly helpful. They're actually more organised than the independent shops, so if clutter feels overwhelming to you, I'd recommend focusing your search in these.
Lady B in the Royal Arcade is another very tidy option. In fact, it's interior is altogether a delight, with a white winding spiral staircase (those are always to die for) and plenty of light from all directions. This is a replica shop, so it's clothes aren't originals, but based on the 1940s-1960's style. There's always something I manage to fall in love with in there, and my only request is always for smaller sizes to be stocked! The '50's rockability fit and flare dress is so flattering to the feminine figure that it's often stocked in larger sizes because its usually curvy women who recognise they look good in the shape- but I would be all too grateful for a petite section! It would mean the longer skirt lengths wouldn't cut my leg off at an odd point either- we aren't all tall!
They mainly stock Fabulous Miss K and Banned Retro if you're familiar with those brands, which are great options if you think replica might suit your wardrobe better.
It's down the arcade, a place which I think might be in a post on my Instagram somewhere early on, because it really is a beautiful alley.
Lady B doesn't have the advantage of the low prices most of the vintage shops tag their clothes with, but they are brand new and ready to last a lifetime. Plus most of their clothes have been made in the UK and ethically sourced, another big tick.
The only advantage to going on bank holiday, was I got to plan anther shopping trip two days later. It was then that I was able to slide into Lady B, and choose a dress. It’s a dark, rich green colour (an emerald of sorts), and I can’t wait to give it some wear. My only doubt is whether I’ll be bold enough to wear it enough to justify the price tag. Living in a modern house, I find it so hard to walk around in a ‘40s dress. Give me stone tiles and rustic floorboards anyday, but cream carpet just doesn’t quite let me relax when wearing a vintage dress...
In case you're wondering, I lived in Norwich for four years, and it's never quite left my heart. I have some sort of emotional attachment that can't be described by any other name than the feeling of 'home', even if I've been living near London for the past six years.
Now comes the hard part of convincing you I'm not being biased, but this place truly is an astounding place for a vintage lover. I do feel that there are so many option, you do need a day or two if you want to search for treasures without stress on your hands. Shopping vintage is certainly a slower process than high-street, but every so often it rewards your patience with something extraordinary.
I''m feeling another week away may be in order...
Looses Emporium- Magdelene Street (clothes upstairs)
Churches- St George's and All Saints Antiques and art centres
Market- Taxi Vintage shop
The retro room
Lovering and co vintage retro
Charity shops- Pact boutique charity shop
Sue Ryder vintage and retro
Lady B - The Arcade