Toronto: The cat’s vintage closet

Like its name suggests, The Cat’s Meow (180 Avenue Rd., 647-435-5875, thecatsmeowcouture.com) delivers the best of the best when it comes to vintage couture. With a striped awning framing mannequins in color coordinated dresses, it seems like Betty Boop could stride by the cartoony exterior at any moment.

Inside, the shop is very casual with a constant flow of Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday in the background. The racks include the likes of Hermès, Pucci, Chanel, Chloe, Missoni, YSL and Dior mixed in among other more obscure, but equally classic pieces. When I visited, I saw a stunning Jacques Fath cocktail dress, which, on closer inspection had decorative feathers between the delicate, crystal details. It made my heart skip a beat!

Another piece of Paris couture that owner Louise Cooper is ecstatic about: A beautifully fitted cocktail dress hemmed with rosettes. It’s label-free, likely because “original dress owners often removed them to avoid taxation” she explains. Without any labels to go by, it can be difficult for the average shopper to identify when a piece was made, but Cooper, a former fashion student, can spot the decade from a mile away. Here’s a few of her quick pointers on determining the decade:

Silhouettes from the ’50s have more flare, the ’60s dress is more A-line and fitted.

Metallic zippers were used between the ’30s and ’50s, while nylon zips did not appear until the 1960s.

Vintage shops like this one is like an invaluable visit to the museum–minus the glass casing. The sales room in the back of the store is not to be missed. I walked away with the most adorable YSL tie embroidered with little rabbits. Cooper updates the store’s blog when she brings in an especially exciting find.