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The Toronto Vintage Show returns: 7 tips for attending Canada’s biggest vintage event
A deep silver retro jumpsuit from The Vintage Dabbler. Photo courtesy Toronto Vintage Show
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The Toronto Vintage Show returns: 7 tips for attending Canada’s biggest vintage event

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Toronto's biannual vintage show and sale is back Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Here's what you need to know about attending

Hunting for a perfectly worn-in vintage denim jacket or a statement scoop chair? You’ll find both at Canada’s biggest biannual vintage show, which returns to Toronto for its fall edition on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

It’s a veritable treasure chest of vintage goodies at The Toronto Vintage Show and the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show: More than 125 vendors pack into 50,000 square feet of floor space at the Queen Elizabeth Building at Exhibition Place selling everything from vintage clothing, streetwear, jewellery and accessories to advertisements and art, kitchenware, home goods, small furniture and decor, records and more.

A mid-century Kosta Boda glass bowl from Samantha Howard Vintage. Photo courtesy Toronto Vintage Show

Heading into the holiday season, shoppers can expect to find lots of seasonal wares: small gift items, barware and host essentials, sweaters, coats, and sparkly cocktail attire will all be on deck.

The show, which has been running since 2014, is a special one, says Andrea Lalonde, founder of Toronto’s Nouveau Riche Vintage. It's a mix of newer vendors as well as established dealers — and some of the sellers on the show floor only come out for this particular event.

“There are vendors who hold 50 years of knowledge," she says. "These people know a lot and have stuff that’s really old and really special.”

1960 Courrèges bright orange jacket from Le Walkin
1960 Courrèges bright orange jacket from Quebec dealer Le Walkin. Photo courtesy Toronto Vintage Show

The event is, indeed, a “show” in addition to a marketplace: vendors pull out all the stops for their booth setups and many bring their “show pieces” — rare, museum-quality and collector items as well as gems that have appeared on the silver screen. It’s like a living history museum and market all in one.

To that end, there is an admission fee for the show of $15 (sign up for the Toronto Vintage Show’s email list to get $2 off admission).

But there are more than showstoppers. Part of the Toronto Vintage Show’s appeal is the wide cross-section items available at high and low price points. For every collectible Madonna True Blue–era tour T-shirt or Netflix-starring 50s ball gown, there’s an affordable 60s-era box clutch or a sweet set of milk-glass vases.

7 top tips for attending the vintage show

1. Make a day of it.

Vintage lovers turn out in some pretty fabulous looks for the show, but be warned: the venue has concrete floors, and, especially if you’re visiting every vendor, it can take hours to move through the event. Still want to wear your 1960s heeled mary janes? Pack a pair of flats or sneakers.

“Treat it like a hike,” says Andrea of Nouveau Riche Vintage. Dress comfortably, and bring a fuelling snack (there is very limited food onsite) and water. Plan to be there for at least half a day or longer — you’re paying admission, so make the most of it.

Antique dresses from Ian Drummond Collection: 1920s and 1930s cotton (left and middle) and 1920s silk chiffon (right). Photo courtesy Toronto Vintage Show

2. Don’t be intimidated!

Vintage is for everyone, and indeed, there is something for everyone at this show. Several clothing vendors specialize in inclusive sizing and many arrange their inventory by colour, size or discovery — not by gender.

Vendors want you to come in and explore their booths, even if it’s got furniture that says “please don’t sit on without assistance.” Walk in and see the pieces up close — that’s what you’re there for!

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3. If you plan to shop for clothes, wear a tight under-layer.

A few clothing vendors feature pop-up change rooms in their booths, but otherwise, you need to try things on in the communal fitting rooms. A thin, tight layer of clothes means you can easily pull stuff on in a booth.

If you do need to try clothing on in the communal fitting rooms, which are located at the back of the venue, you’ll be asked by the vendor to leave a piece of collateral (ID or credit card) when you take the piece out of the booth.

It can be difficult to remember which aisle the booth you took the clothing from is when you return from the fitting room.

Andrea at Nouveau Riche Vintage advises when you leave a booth for the fitting room, to make note of something at the end of the aisle as a marker to get back.

A 1970s gold lamé dress from Styles by Mariam Vintage, modelled by Liz Lau of Granny Puckett Vintage. Photo courtesy Toronto Vintage Show

4. Ask questions.

Vendors are busy at the show, but never too busy to answer questions from shoppers! If you are curious if they have more information about a piece, or want to know something about history or provenance, ask them! They are friendly and kindness goes a long way.

5. Bring cash.

There are ATMs on site and most vendors accept credit and debit via Square. But cash is always preferred. If you’re driving, you must pay if you park in the CNE grounds lots near the building (usually a $20 show rate), as well as the show admission fee.

A circa-1950s picnic set from Sofie Dabishire. Photo: Toronto Vintage Show

6. Limit the negotiations.

Vendors spend a lot of time collecting and preparing for this show — they source all year long, reserving their best pieces, and then spend weeks mocking up their booths and organizing inventory before a full day of setup pre-show. It’s not a garage sale. Prices are as marked.

If you do need to ask if there’s wiggle room, we advise you to do it politely (i.e. an item is listed for $155 and you say, “I’m wondering if you could do $150”) and respect the decision if the vendor says no.

If you’re at the show in the final couple of hours of the second day (Oct. 1), you may find some items marked down or vendors more willing to move on price. Don't expect deals on the museum-quality pieces.

Woman against wall wearing deep silver retro jumpsuit from The Vintage Dabbler
Full-length shot of The Vintage Dabbler's jumpsuit. Photo courtesy Toronto Vintage Show

7. Share your experience!

Chances are, you're going to pick up some fabulous pieces with that much to choose from in one room.

“Share your finds on social media,” suggests Catherine Knoll, organizer of the Toronto Vintage Show.

“Vendors at any show put a lot of time, energy and love into sourcing amazing items. Spread the good vibes on social media. It makes them so happy to see happy customers!”

Tag the sellers when you post and they’ll likely reshare.

Stay tuned to our Instagram page this week for more insider tips!

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