After spending nine months of the year going to school in Toronto, coming home to the significantly smaller Ottawa for the summer can be a little dull at times. Sure, we may have the best bagels in the world (shout out to Kettelmans!) but at the end of the day it’s a city with no subway system, no CN tower and no H&M (seriously though, what is up with that? Mississauga has three). But as hard as I may be on my city at times (okay, most of the time), I have to give credit where credit is due — as I’ve written before, we are home to an eclectic variety of independent and vintage clothing stores. So when Isabel, the brains behind the style blog Hipster Musings, announced she was coming to town to visit, I immediately began mapping out all the best places to go shopping in downtown Ottawa without stepping foot in the Rideau Centre.
Stop #1: Aunt Olive’s Vintage (209 Gilmour Street)
Aunt Olive’s is a café/vintage clothing hybrid of a shop, packed with lots of crazy old clothes. This is a good place to shop if you seek the unconventional and are willing to get creative with your clothes — in other words, if you are the typical Worn reader. I figured I am probably too practical for some of the wilder pieces (“How exactly does one wash a gold sequined tube top?” “Uh… Febreze?”), but for the fearless Susie Bubble types among you, you will be pleased to know that Aunt Olive’s is currently in the middle of a bag sale, this weekend only.
Stop #2: Mags and Fags (254 Elgin St.)
I have a love/hate relationship with this place. Love it because it’s one of the few places in the city where you can buy international magazines, hate it because without it I’d probably be a lot richer (did I really need to spend 17 dollars on an Australian fashion magazine? Yes. Yes, I did). Plus, I always get a huge kick when I see Worn in stores, especially when it’s stuck amongst giant airbrushed faces of Lara Stone and Cameron Diaz. We spent some time here, flipping through various glossies neither of us could really afford before settling on copies of Teen Vogue; laugh all you want, but I could never hate on a magazine that named Isabel as the most stylish girl of the week. What can I say? They have taste.
Stop #3: Victoire Boutique (246 Dalhousie St.)
1. It is completely necessary that I own a pair of custom-painted heels by Tyson Bodnarchuk.
2. There really are about 14 different ways to wear a complexgeometries tank top, and about twice as many ways to get tangled up in one.
3. Even if the store isn’t that busy, that does not mean that all the fitting rooms will be empty. Opening a change room door without checking to see if anybody is in it first can lead to awkward results.
As I’ve mentioned before, Victoire also happens to be the place where I bought my first issue of Worn while still in high school. It is, as Isabel calls it, the “mother of all independent boutiques.”
Stop #4: Workshop Boutique (242 1/2 Dalhousie St.)
Workshop is a sizable store that sells an array of dresses, skirts, blouses, slacks, bags, jewelery, and underwear — all made by Canadian designers. Wearable things aside, what really caught our attention were the “action figure dolls” crafted by Winnipeg artist Suzie Smith. The dolls included the above pictured John and Yoko, Missy Elliott, the Guerrilla Girls , and Courtney Love, who happens to be one of Isabel’s biggest idols. This is of course referring more to early-90s-Kurt-Cobain-dating-baby-doll-dress-wearing-Sassy-covering Courtney Love, and less to 2009′s angry Twitter updating Courtney Love — although both get points for originality.
Stop #5: Young Janes (203 Dalhouse St.)
I always figured that if Aunt Olive’s was like a crazy older relative passing on her funky hand-me-downs, then Young Janes would be like your cool best friend who lets you raid their closet — you know, in exchange for money. Still, the store always has a calm atmosphere: owner Mika (pictured above) is always very friendly, and the clothes (second hand) are versatile enough to cover many different styles. In other words, there are enough floral dresses to satisfy both a love of girlish whimsy and Isabel’s aforementioned obsession with the 90s. Young Janes is also home to a cushy couch and a stack of various fashion books, so it’s a good place to hit up at the end of the day when you need a bit of a rest. If I was the type of person who used expressions like “shop ’til you drop,” I would find it’s quite applicable here.
*Title chosen in reference to this movie. To the late John Hughes, may you rest in peace.