Vintage fashion and the retro look are a perfect fit in Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s offbeat bohemian quarter.
The scruffy-chic maze of cobblestone streets, blind alleys and terraced patios provides refuge for the alternative, a safe-haven for the different and a cure for the non-conformist.
Here you can wear your heart on your sleeve, and anything else for that matter. And the older the label, the more distant the make, the better the look. After all, this year’s collections are next year’s hand-me-downs.
Bairro Alto is proud of its left-field attitude. The neighbourhood is nourished by a healthy disregard for the norm. Refuse to comply and you’re welcomed with open arms.
Shopping for vintage apparel is more than just making a fashion statement. It’s about writing your own manifesto. Truth is, an original and creative mind seeks more than a high street fix.
Instead, a free-spirited individual needs a wardrobe that’s compatible with their imagination. No matter that it once belonged to someone else. Indeed, perhaps that’s part of the appeal? More to the point, vying for vintage can be fun and inexpensive because vintage has never really fallen out of fashion.
So, next time you’re in Bairro Alto try these places for size. They’re very you.
This pocket-sized boutique on Travessa dos Fiéis de Deus is named after the cult 1966 Michelangelo Antonioni film Blow Up, though much of the stock dates from the 1980s.
Blow Up’s staff have first-hand knowledge of the second-hand scene, and the clothes here are best described as urban vintage, for the guy in the street, the girl about town.
Lads, check out the original Fred Perry polo shirts and American homage T-shirts. Lasses, try on the brushed suede jackets or pure wool jumpers.
That great feminine double-act – shoes and handbags – includes a star appearance by Dorothy Perkins c.1984.
The choice is predominantly geared for women, but sporty brands score too – Lonsdale, Adidas and Nike: the messenger bags and holdalls are in mint condition, the trainers born to run.
The mark up on merchandise is minimal because as Blow Up’s co-owner Jean-Pierre explains, “Vintage is not supposed to be expensive.”
The Grande Dame of Bairro Alto’s vintage fashion scene, El Dorado on Rua do Norte has been nurturing the nostalgic since 1978.
Look carefully and you’ll find some beautiful Edwardian white linen embroidered dresses amongst the ‘60s and ‘70s gone-bys. The footwear is mostly retro, with platform shoes Roxy Music would record again for.
The antique inventory also numbers some remarkable collectors’ items including an Art Deco tea service, a set of French Vallauris ceramic tableware and rare examples of Portuguese romantic-risqué postcards.
Clock the quirky stuff: a 1950s baby’s rattle, a hairdryer from the same era, a pair of chunky chrome Elvis sunglasses that must have looked really cool in 1972, and an assortment of rings, broaches and earrings that would make a magpie weep.
And don’t forget to browse the vinyl, anything from Old Blue Eyes to The Beatles. Shop owner Fernanda prefers The Rolling Stones, but she’s happy to dust down the gramophone and spin requests.
A solid block stone ceiling arches itself over the wares of this vintage shop on Rua Luz Soriano. It’s housed in the basement of a refurbished town house in one of Bairro Alto’s oldest vicinities, a location that lends the “Ace of Spades” a singular character.
The elegant 1930s and early ‘40s is celebrated in style at this unusually designed vintage shop. The retro accessories like the Bésame cosmetic kits (not tested on animals – hooray!) and assorted hats, shoes, braces and ties hark back to the golden age of Hollywood and the pin-up calendar.
For brylcreemed boys and beehived girls, there’s a stomping collection of ‘50s-style Hawaiian T-shirts and patent leather jackets to rock ‘n’ roll over.
More than just doyens of style, co-owners Bruno and Tiago are convivial hosts too.
The proprietors’ propensity for parties means that after dark, boutique becomes bar where cabaret-style entertainment, including Burlesque, takes place under flickering candlelight.
All images © www.paulbernhardtphoto.com