Vintage value: my day as a market trader


“I’m not going to buy anything.” Great. Exactly what you want to hear from your first customer of the day. The woman, dressed in one of my grandma’s old petticoats, turns from the mirror back to look at me and says: “I’m set up over there, so if I make any money today I might come back over and snap this one up.”

I’m at EPIC Dalston on a Sunday to take advantage of Hackney’s largest indoor vintage market. But this time, instead of having hands ready to rifle through the trash and treasure, I’m on the other side of the cash register.

My mother and I used to run a vintage clothing shop online at, and since closing the shop have quite a haul of beautiful vintage clothing left over. So, we thought we’d try our hand at being sellers for a day.

IMG_1015There is big hype around this kind of pop-up vintage market. The Facebook event page for Sunday February 21 alone had over 600 people click “attending” and over a thousand people “interested”, so a good turn out was expected. But would this translate into our sales?

The nice thing is that absolutely anyone can set up a stand in the events hall on Stoke Newington Road. All you need to do to qualify is book in advance and pay the £35 fee for a 7×7 foot pitch. A display table is included should you need it, but you must provide your own clothing racks or specialist displays. Everyone is a seller, from full time market vendors who are old hat at the selling game, to shabby young couples clearing out their wardrobes.

In the process of setting up the stand we think it will be funny to dress our display mannequin in a blue and white checked Dorothy dress with a raccoon fur hat on top. American white trash meets road kill. Maybe someone would get the joke.


Our stand is conveniently set up facing the bar, which sells coffee, cakes and (naturally) a variety of artisanal sausage rolls. “Are you a trader?” the barman asks as I eye up a wild boar and apricot roll. “I call myself a trader but I sure haven’t sold anything yet,” I reply.

“Not to worry, it’ll pick up around one,” he assures me. Ah, so that’s what’s holding us up. The great hungover Sunday sleep in.

And it certainly did pick up around 1pm. Soon we are bombarded with stylish mums with their tiny toddlers, groups of girlfriends out for a good old natter and a browse, and a whole lot of dogs on leashes. It seems Dalston pooches have a taste for vintage, too. The stylish mums talk to me through their children, putting hats much too large for them on their adorable little heads just for fun.

People are so fascinated with the box of petticoats and corsets that the restyling of the box becomes my full-time job in gaps between customers. The corset we have laid on top of the pile has been picked up lovingly by about 70 per cent of the visitors to the stand by this point, but it’s so impossibly teeny that we don’t expect it to sell.

The most generous customers we have had all day have been sellers themselves. In the last hour of the market we become tempted to start packing up, but a lady from two stands down comes along to try on a jade green coatdress. A quick visit to the mirror and she’s sold. “Making a sale is like pulling teeth,” she says. “But you’ve got some great stuff here.”

After eight hours on our feet we’re worn out and settle down excitedly to count our takings.

At first it looks pretty good – £36! But then we remember paying £35 for the pitch, leaving us with a thrilling profit of…£1.

The Old Dalston Market is part of Hackney Flea Market, which organises pop up events around London. To find out about upcoming events go to

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