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Style Focus: Old Town, Edinburgh

Edinburgh's Old Town is not just tartan tat and cashmere shops.

Hannah Zakari
Hannah Zakari

There are plenty of boutiques and vintage shops to explore. As every harassed city centre worker knows, The Old Town is the historical pulse of Edinburgh and absolutely thronging with visitors over the summer months.

Having been built on different levels over centuries, with steep streets, narrow steps, dark closes and bridges, it's a place to explore and to get lost in.

Colourful Victoria Street has shop windows filled with whole roasted hogs and tweed and the pungent smell of cheese wafting out onto the street. Then there's the Grassmarket. It may be a favourite area for stag and hen parties but it's still a pretty place to hang out with its gabled terraces and pavement seating. Artsy West Port, which was recently featured in the Edinburgh edition of Strippers, has the wonderfully dubious honour of being known as the pubic triangle, but juxtaposed with independent book shops and the Edinburgh College of Art.  

I've got teenage memories of going to Whiplash Trash on Cockburn Street to get my ears pierced, and stocking up on ridiculous sheepskin coats and leather trench coats from famous Armstrongs vintage store. I probably only wore those coats a couple of times, but the pleasure was in searching them out and finding something completely unique.

Here's my pick for places to visit

Armstrongs Vintage Emporium 83 The Grassmarket

With its musty, second hand smell and ceiling high racks of clothes, Armstrongs is a treasure trove of vintage delights. Friendly staff will help you pull down items from the top reaches, and it's all arranged by type - kilts, wedding dresses, tweed jackets, leather trench coats, old Levis, and boxes full of cravats, ties and hats.

Cookie, 29a Cockburn Street

Cookie has an excellent selection of vibrant printed dresses in all sorts of shapes and styles. In fact, they possibly stock the best selection of frocks in the city and it's a real dress-lovers paradise. Peter Pan collars, polka dots, flower prints, sailor-style, and also some boy's bomber jackets.

 Hannah Zakari, 43 Candlemaker Row

What began as an online shop selling quirky jewellery, clothing, interiors and stationary by independent designers, has become a boutique on Candlemaker Row. Owned by Rachael Lamb, she chose the name Hannah Zakeri to reflect her love of all things Japanese. The cutesie artifacts certainly have a Harajuku feel.

Rene Walrus, 30 St Marys Street

An accessory shop founded by an Edinburgh College of Art student, who designs and creates all the pieces in an Edinburgh workroom with her small team. They particularly specialise in wedding accessories but there are intricate 1920s style headdresses, such as the Black Mermaid collection, glittering pendants and Art Deco style cuffs. Rene Walrus was also nominated for a Scottish Fashion Award in 2012.

The Red Door Gallery, 42 Victoria Street

Victoria Street is home to one of my favourite shops in Edinburgh - The Red Door Gallery, selling artworks, printed fabric products and jewellery. As well as changing exhibitions of artwork, they have artisan gifts by Scottish artists, including Tatty Devine jewellery and Naomi Green hand-printed wooden badges.

 Lady JoJo's Boutique, 11 West Port

Lady JoJo's specialises in vintage inspired dresses and clothing, harking back to the pin-ups of the 40s and 50s. There are plenty of Joan from Mad Men style pencil dresses, retro swimwear, petticoats, polka dot circles dresses, funky little vinyl-inspired bags and photos of Old Hollywood pin-ups on the wall to offer some inspiration.  

Just G Boutique, 44 West Port

A friendly, independent boutique that stocks some great brands, including Nancy Dee, Sketch, A Postcard from Brighton and Fever. Owner Gail is good for fashion advice, and they do sizes from 8 to 18.

And for after…

Love Crumbs, 155 West Port

A bakery next to three strip joints and a vintage store - you can't get more retro than that. The lady bakers of love crumbs bake a mouthwatering selection of goodies. It has an artist's workroom feel with distressed floorboards, a piano which can be used as a table, and displayed in an antique bureau and baskets of huge meringue, and delectable cakes such as a lavender and blackcurrant Victoria sponge.  

 Under the Stairs, 3a Merchant Street,

This basement bar in the Old Town is a beard-lovers paradise, as well as offering table service for a civilised way to cut out the need for being crammed at the bar. The interior is shabby chic and eclectic, with odd pieces of furniture and lamps, a goldfish tank and changing artwork and photography on the wall. Try one of their seasonally inspired cocktails, or take a risk on the spice levels of a Chilli Palmer.

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