The Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show is back after three long years, and vendors are ready to show Ottawa that buying vintage is always in style. 

Following a hiatus because of the pandemic, the show returns to Carleton University’s Fieldhouse this weekend. More than 60 vendors from Ontario and Quebec will be on hand, including several ready to bring “slow fashion” to the capital. 

“We are absolutely thrilled to be (back),” said Catherine Knoll of Affiliated Showsales, the marketing and event management company that has run the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show since 2014.  

Knoll said vintage is in demand, noting, “the reason why people really love to come to the show is so they can get one-of-a-kind items.” 

Vintage clothing markets create a space to bring a large number of vendors and shoppers together. “It’s just nice to see people who appreciate the same things,” said Victoria Watson, vintage collector and seller.

The halloween store front of Claimed Vintage shop. The window is filled with halloween decor and vintage license plates.
The window display at Victoria Watson’s Claimed Vintage shop in Port Elgin, Ont. [Photo courtesy Victoria Watson, Claimed Vintage]

Watson owns Claimed Vintage in Port Elgin, Ont. and runs an online Etsy store. She also frequents shows such as the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show and its sister event in Toronto. 

Claimed Vintage grew out of Watson’s love for collecting vintage clothing. “It just got so overwhelming the amount of stuff that I had,” Watson said. “Finally, my mom and I were, like, we should just start selling because we keep finding good pieces.”

Now, Watson said, she’s excited to bring Claimed Vintage back to Ottawa for the return of OVCS.

“Last time we were in Ottawa, I noticed party dresses were a really big thing,” Watson said. This year she’s prepared: “We have a lot of ’90s velvet, but we also have some really cool ’40s day dresses.”

For Ottawa vendor Shannon Hamilton, the show is all about connecting with other vendors. “The community is amazing,” Hamilton said. “We’re all friends and … we all come from different backgrounds and different professions, but we all connect on this one thing.”

Hamilton is a teacher by day, but otherwise she’s pouring herself into her business, Wild Things Vintage and Flower Design. “I just do this on my weekends and my evenings and spare time, and I love it.”

Wild Things began as a market booth selling pressed wildflower jewelry eight years ago. Slowly, Hamilton also began selling cacti in vintage pottery at her market booths. 

Now, Hamilton frequents flea markets and vintage clothing shows with a sourced collection of vintage fashions and home décor.

This will be Hamilton’s first time attending the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show. She said she’s ready to bring all things vintage to the event, highlighted by her collection of “quintessential ’90s … casual everyday staples.”

Vintage shoppers brows racks of clothing at a vintage pop up
Shoppers browse racks of vintage clothing at Ottawa’s Wild Things Vintage and Flower Design [Photo © Laura Jasmine]

Vintage shops give shoppers the chance to dive into amazing pieces that have been specially curated, washed and cared for. Rather than spending hours in a thrift store sifting through racks of discarded fast fashion, vintage sellers do the work for you — ensuring that the piece you’ve found is going to last. 

“It’s all quality made,” Knoll said, “whether it’s a dresser that stood the test of time or a dress that has a zipper that’s never going to pop.”

For vendors such as Hamilton and Watson, vintage shows and markets are about much more than just the clothes. These events help change the narrative around shopping and fast fashion — cheap, mass-marketed items reflecting the latest fad. “We want to have people buy good clothing that’s going to last,” Watson said. 

As a lover of anything second hand, Watson said she’s seen her fair share of fast fashion filling up thrift stores. 

“There’s the fast fashion that you’re just throwing away in a couple of wears,” she said. “We want the opposite. We want you to get a piece from us and know that it’s going to be in your collection for a long time. That’s why it’s so important to us that the quality is good so that you know it does last.”

“There’s the fast fashion that you’re just throwing away in a couple of wears. We want the opposite. We want you to get a piece from us and know that it’s going to be in your collection for a long time. That’s why it’s so important to us that the quality is good so that you know it does last.”

— Victoria Watson, owner, Claimed Vintage, Port Elgin, Ont.

Hamilton agreed: “The thrift stores are full of these fast fashion pieces. And it all looks like (crap). It’s not made to last.”

The quality of vintage clothing is part of what has drawn people like Watson and Hamilton to buying — and selling — second hand. “I find that the vintage is so well made,” Hamilton said. 

To Watson, vintage shopping is “great in the sustainability, slow fashion kind of realm.”

It’s a way to find one-of-a-kind pieces and build a unique collection. As a vintage seller, Watson makes sure to care for each piece in her store. “They all have been washed and mended if needed. … They’re great pieces.”

The quality is not the only appeal of vintage clothing. For Hamilton, selling vintage clothing is all about creating a connection through the discoveries she makes. For example, she recently stumbled upon a bridesmaid dress from the 1980s. “It has huge puffy sleeves … with these brightly coloured roses and flowers all over it — and it’s so, so cute,” Hamilton effused.

Often after thrifting, Hamilton takes to her Instagram and Facebook to share what she has found. A former boss was watching her posts and noticed something familiar. “She sent me a photo of her wedding day and (the dress) was literally her bridesmaid’s dress!”

It’s these moments of connection that led Hamilton to fall in love with selling vintage clothing. “It’s the treasure hunt. It’s the nostalgia.”

An info graphic crated as a glossary for terms used in the article. These terms include thrifting, vintage shops, fast fashion and slow fashion
A sustainable fashion glossary [Infographic © Aly McCabe]