Where to Buy Upcycled Clothing in Ottawa


I’ve been buying upcycled clothing since before the term was invented. I used to buy reworked vintage shirts and jackets at Barbdorf Gordman’s in the market in the 1980s, before many of the current upcycling designers were even born. Now that dates me.

Upcycling is a core part of the current crafting renaissance, often referred to as the design it yourself or diy movement. Borrowing from my other blog (www.slowknitter.ca), to upcycle refers to taking objects that are no longer used and reworking them into something new. Upcycling is different from “recycling” because recycling involves breaking something down into its basic materials (grinding up bottles for example) before making something new. In upcycling, while original objects may be somewhat processed, they are still recognisable in the new object. Because processing is minimized in upcycling relative to recycling less energy and materials are wasted.

I know of four stores that sell upcycled women’s clothing in Ottawa (if you know of others, please comment). The Workshop Studio and Boutique, Victoire Boutique, and Aurajan, are all in the Dalhousie Street area. Aunt Olive’s, the fourth, is just off of Elgin Street.

The Workshop Boutique was started up by two Ottawa women designers and carries a wide range of mostly local designers, many of whom create clothing, jewelry and accessories out of previously used clothes and found objects. Some of the upcycling/recycling artists you can find at the Workshop Boutique include:

  • precocious – dresses, sweaters, skirts, tees
  • embody clothing – sweaters
  • loot by stina b – dresses, sweater hats, tees -new and recycled
  • mod to modern – sweaters
  • ghetto couture – tees, dresses
  • lion and tie girls – button bracelets, tea towel, tie and tablecloth skirts, silk scarf tops
  • good morning morning – handbags
  • infineight – skirts, bags, jewellery

Aurajan was also started by a local designer and carries her line of recycled sari clothing (see photo above) as well as upcycled clothing by Montreal designer mycoanna.

Victoire Boutique sells mostly new clothing but they do carry the preloved label of upcycled clothing from Toronto.

Aunt Olive’s is a cafe and vintage clothing store, with many vintage items given a bit of an upgrade by the store’s proprietor.

Etsy.com is a great place to find upcycled clothing designers on-line. Babeinthewoods is an Ottawa designer who sells on Etsy.

Twice a year (Spring and pre-Christmas) Ladyfest organizes a “Not Your Grandmother’s Craftshow” craftsh0w in Ottawa. Many of the crafters who vend at these shows are upcycling artists. Check Ladyfest’s website for dates and locations.

There are many benefits of buying upcycled clothing: fewer old clothes go to the landfill, small local designers are supported, and customers get one of kind clothing items.

The Workshop Studio and Boutique, 242 1/2 Dalhousie, Ottawa, ON, (613) 789.5534

Victoire Boutique, 238 Dalhousie St., Ottawa, ON, (613) 321-1590

Aurajan Boutique, 59 York Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 5T4, (613) 241-8354

Aunt Olives, 209 Gilmour (at Elgin, (613) 565-0564

16 thoughts on “Where to Buy Upcycled Clothing in Ottawa

  • You might also want to check out Gemini Dream which is run by a local Ottawa designer, Pat Rowan, who re-engineers and repurposes clothing and works with recycled textiles to produce accessories, skirts and some home decor stuff (wallhangings).

    Her MySpace page is @ http://myspace.com/geminidream_space
    and points to her blog and the old webpages which are under reconstruction. You can buy online at her Etsy shop (there is a link to the shop from her MySpace page).

  • With the 70s and 80s back in style, I just loving vintage clothing from the thrift shops. You can find designers like Chanel and Armani for cheap there. Ebay is great too!

  • I still have a dress of Barbdorf Gordman and knew Gord. I moved to BC in 1995 and wished I had purchased more of their dresses. I still wear the dress to this day. Styled for REAL women, the type with curves!! I always wondered what happened to them and Allegro

  • I’m in the same age bracket as you must be lol, because remaking pre-owned clothes is something I’ve been doing since the ’70s. You have a beautiful and informative blog.Thanks for publishing it. could you possibly tell me where you get your labels/clothing tags from? Thanks, Lyn in Penetang

  • sorry if this appears twice, I am a techno ludite. Great blog! Looking forward to following your latest news ;0) Question: Where can I purchase clothing labels/tags please? You’rs are beautiful.

  • Wow… Barbdorf Gordman’s and Allegro retro fashions – talk about a trip down memory lane! Back in the mid-80s I well remember the countless times I pleasurably whiled away the hours in Allegro’s while I went thru their endless assortment of hip threads. To this day I still have my London Fog raincoat & old pair of Docs that I bought from them years ago. I seem to remember they were on the same floor as BG’s before they moved — or was that another retro clothing store? It’s been a while so my memory may be off – anyone out there remember?

    • I went to U of O and devoured the clothes at Bardorf Gordman. I moved away in 95′ and I am still holding onto a few dresses that I loved. I’ll be going back to Ottawa for a friend’s wedding and would love to know if they are still somewhere in the city. Websearches have yielded nothing. Last I heard they were going to move to TO.

      • You’re right about the websearch thing – absolutely nothing. Surprising given how popular Barbdorf’s was back in the day! Refresh my memory – do I remember correctly that Barbdorf’s was located right above Zunder’s Fruitland on the corner of the Byward Market and George St?

  • Barbdorf Gordman’s was right above Zunders Fruitland. They left in the early 90’s as did Allegro and James McIntosh Philatelist. Zunders shut down in 1992 and a furrniture store opened in 1994 or so. There is another furniture store now called EQ3 there.

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