Rave: Creative wedding gift ideas

If you’re like us, most weekends this summer are already booked with weddings, leaving you with the daunting (and expensive) task of buying many, many wedding gifts. Choosing something from a registry is definitely the easiest option, but not always the cheapest or most personal gift to give. And while we know the newlyweds will appreciate the gift (after all, they chose it themselves) there’s something a little unsatisfying about spending $100 on coffee mugs. So if it’s more meaning and less money you’re after, here are some creative wedding gift ideas.

Artwork: This idea works best for a couple you know well, as you’ll need to know their style and preferably what their home looks like. Whether it’s a photograph or a painting, there is no shortage of places to buy inexpensive, yet beautiful, artwork in Toronto. With a philosophy that “everyone should be able to afford a piece of art”, Art Interiors (446 Spadina) is the perfect place to start. They also offer a gift certificate option if you don’t feel confident choosing art for someone else. 

There are little galleries all around the city as well as art work for sale in lots of restaurants

Vintage: Buying vintage is another way to give a special gift without breaking the bank. While your friends may be registered for Riedel wine glasses, they are most likely not going to be given vintage champagne flutes. One of our favourite stores, BYOB Cocktail Emporium, has everything cocktail related under the sun. From vintage glasses to gimmicky wine decanters, this is the place to go for a unique yet useful gift.

There’s something special about receiving a one-of-a-kind gift.

DIY: Another vintage inspired option is to simply refinish something, be it a table, chest, old mirror or bookshelf. Everyone has a soft spot for a homemade gift, and if it’s done well, it will look even better than something new. 

Turn something old into something new and you have the perfect gift!

A part of the wedding: If DIY projects aren’t your thing, there are other ways to turn your skills into a wedding gift. Whether you’re a DJ, photographer, or in a 90’s cover band, lending your services to the bride and groom will help cut costs on both ends, and will add a personal touch to the wedding.

On second thought… maybe stick to DJ’ing.

Honeymoon: Our last idea comes in the form of a gift certificate. Plan something fun for the bride and groom, whether it’s a nice dinner or day of snorkeling on their honeymoon, or simply a his and hers day at the spa after the wedding. They will have done so much planning (and spending) themselves that they will love the idea of you completely taking care of something indulgent for them. 

A surprise adventure for the bride and groom? A+ gift idea.

The main idea is to try to be creative. With a little thought and research you will be sure to find the prefect memorable wedding gift. And if all else fails, there’s always a good old custom throw, right?

City Living: Buying Glasses in Toronto

While we may be a little late on the hipster bandwagon, we’re finally starting to realize that not all glasses have to make us look nerdy or feel like we are back in grade 11. Now on the hunt for the perfect pair of “cool” glasses, we began asking fellow four-eyes where they buy their trendy specs. We were delighted to discover that there are tons of stylish, vintage, quirky and classic options all around the city.  We’ve rounded up a few of our favourites.

Three stores: 752 Queen St. W, 55 Mill St. Building #53, 3342 Yonge St.

With three locations around Toronto, each one cooler than the next, Spectacle takes trendy eyewear to another level. Their licensed opticians and “frame stylists” are there to educate glasses shoppers on buying the perfect pair of eyeglasses, sunglasses or contact lenses. While you’re sure to find classics like Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Prada, we suggest you take advantage of the more exotic labels Spectacle has to offer – like Ic! Berlin, Mosley Tribes or Rudy Project. They pride themselves on introducing new European brands to Canada, so why not try something new?

A gorgeous store to house an impressive selection of glasses.
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2919 Dundas St. E
If you’re in the market for the ultra-hip, no-one-else-will-have-them pair of glasses, head over to the Junction. Located on Dundas West, this indie store offers high-end unused vintage eyewear, as well as contemporary independent designers. With a state-of-the-art edging lab and expert contact lens fittings on-site, they are not only serious about glasses, they treat them as artwork. 
Need your glasses custom fit or a quick repair? Looks like they have you covered.
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55 Richmond St. W.

If you’re serious, and we mean SERIOUS about finding the most exclusive, unique pair of frames, we can’t think of anywhere better than Aeroplane Vintage Eyewear. This exclusive retailer carries a huge selection of high-end vintage eyewear from around the world. While you may recognize brands like Gucci, Ray-Ban, Persol and YSL, make no mistake, all glasses are “new condition vintage”, hand picked for style, brand and history. You are sure to find the perfect statement pair here.

Love vintage shopping for clothing? Why not try vintage shopping for glasses?

LF Optical
4 locations: (Downtown) 333 Bay St. Unit 14 C, (Thornhill) 1450 Centre St., (East) 131 Sunrise Ave. E, Midtown 2782 Dufferin St.

When we first discovered LF Optical, we thought we’d better keep this gem of a shop our little secret. Little did we know that everyone and their mom had already discovered it as well. With a new location downtown, they are becoming an even more popular destination for glasses. While you won’t find any vintage glasses here, the selection is extensive (they have over 3,000 models to choose from in each store), the prices are even better, and if you find glasses somewhere else, they will order them for you. Now that we don’t have to make the journey all the way to Dufferin or Thornhill, you can bet that we will be checking out LF Optical for our next pair of glasses.

Glasses in all shapes and sizes.

With all this selection, we think we might forego our contacts for a little while (good thing because we just ran out) and try out some new frames. Glasses can be a great accessory, and perhaps the easiest way to change up your look once in a while. 

Fashion-able: Thrifting Tips

Come January, we find both our wallets and clothing a little stretched. If you’re fighting the urge to spend on new clothes, consider adding to your wardrobe while sticking to a budget with a few vintage or thrift store finds. We love a good hunt through racks and racks of odd clothing, in hopes we’ll spot that one perfect find hidden behind the moth-eaten sweaters and ’80s sequined dresses. Here are some tips for making the most of vintage shopping.

Go prepared to work

Cranky, tired, rushed, heavy bags, uncomfortable shoes: all setbacks to your search! Good thrifting calls for much more patience and persistence than regular shopping. While the thrill of the hunt energizes diehard thrifters, most of us need to be in a good head space to sort through racks of stained, ill-fitting articles for buried treasures. 

Where to start?

Bonus tip: wear a cross-body purse, so you can have two free hands to rummage through boxes of accessories. Also, wear a close-fitting outfit for slipping into your finds over your clothes.

Know what to look for and skip the rest

Enter the store with a plan and know what you’re looking for to keep from getting frustrated or overwhelmed. We love buying “fast fashion” brands like H&M or Old Navy in-store, but these can be passed over when shopping second-hand. They don’t hold up well to wear and tear from previous owners. Skip them. Ditto for the T-shirt racks. 

Mitzi Cocoa

Night Lights blog

Spend your time searching for well-made blazers, dresses, coats and skirts. These items are often worn less frequently before being donated, so they’ll be in better condition and you have a greater chance of scoring a fabulous item. Also look for scarves, jewellery and inexpensive accessories.
It’s a fun and very affordable way to spice up your winter wardrobe.

Check all sizes

Sizing varies depending on brand, country of origin and decade. Expect to size up considerably when trying on vintage dresses or skirts. Pull items of interest off the racks to see the size, rather than flicking past based on the tags. In stores that group items by size, check sections with smaller and larger sizes than you’d normally wear.

Quality checks

The holy grail of thrifting is finding authentic, undamaged Dior or Chanel that the shop owner has overlooked. While it happens enough to keep the myth alive, it’s much more likely that you’ll be looking at garments that are unlabelled or that you don’t recognize.

Use these quality indicators to get a sense of what you’re looking at:

  • Lining: if the manufacturer took the time to put a lining in, they probably took care with the rest of the construction.
  • Seams: high quality garments have finished seams (the edge of the garment isn’t a raw edge, it’s carefully and cleanly stitched under). Patterns on fabrics at seams are aligned on well-made items. 

A lovely finished seam. 

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  • Fabric: check the tags for fabrics like silk, wool, cashmere, cotton and linen. Try to avoid items that are primarily made of synthetic materials, unless you’ve scored a sweet polyester suit from the ’70s. Exceptions made for that.
  • Condition: use a critical eye to check for stains (especially under the arms; bring your nose into this one, too), tiny holes, rips, missing buttons, broken zippers, or fabric or stitching that is overly worn or stretched. You may be able to do some repair at home, but judge carefully to determine if it’s salvageable and worth the effort. Realistically, are you going to replace the buttons, re-hem the bottoms and stitch the three tiny tears?

Seek inspiration online
There are fantastic fashion blogs dedicated to showing and styling thrift store finds. Check out these sites for inspiration on how to modernize thrift store purchases so they’re wearable and hip. Some of our faves are My Edit, by Hamilton-based blogger Jentine, and Night Lights by Mitzi Cocoa in British Columbia.

Jentine from My Edit in a thrifted skirt and sweater.

Be smart with your money
Know your prices and be smart. Don’t be cheap, but at the same time don’t overpay for items that you could purchase new for a few dollars more. If there are too many “ifs”: this will be cute if I shorten the hem, this will work if I wear a sweater over it, this will be great if I lose/gain 10 pounds, then pass. It’s not a great find if it sits at the back of your closet until you continue the cycle and give it away.

Favourite spots in Toronto

While there’s an unwritten rule that a good thrifter never divulges her spots, these are a few spots to check out in and around Toronto:

  • Kensington Avenue and Augusta Street in Kensington Market: A bit picked over and sometimes overpriced, but worth a look. Don’t miss Courage My Love and Bungalow.
  • 69 Vintage: Carefully curated finds. Less digging through Grandma’s castoffs than most places.
  • Salvation Army Thrift Store: Classic spot for thrifting, with lots of stock and quick turnover.
  • Goodwill: Similar story to Salvation Army.
  • Value Village: Controversial in the blogosphere due to perceived over-pricing, but worth a look. 
  • Out of Town: A lot less picked over and more likely to have a true “treasure”. Check out Talize (Mississauga, Hamilton, London, among others), Bibles for Missions (across Ontario) and the usual suspects (Salvation Army, Goodwill, Value Village). 
  • LAB Consignment: Designer goods at a fraction of the price. Toronto’s fashion set consign their barely-worn duds here.

Do you have a favourite thrift store in or around the GTA? Spill it! Tweet us @rockitpromo.


Rave: Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess

Last week the TIFF Bell Lightbox rolled out the red carpet for the opening of Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess. We were lucky enough to snag an invite to this black-tie cocktail soiree and be among the first to view the collection of memorabilia from the iconic princess.

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We love our princesses, and the chance to be (pretty much) mingling with royalty while enjoying cocktails and canapés is not something we could miss.  Royal newlyweds, Prince Albert II of Monaco and his wife Princess Charlene were also in attendance to say a few words and celebrate the opening. 

Once inside the exhibit, we were instantly drawn to the couture, and of course, the jewels (see 144 diamond tiara below). It may have felt a little like reading someone’s diary, but we enjoyed looking through the handwritten correspondence from family and friends like Alfred Hitchcock and Bing Crosby.  

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We had to check out the special room designated to Kelly’s famed wedding gown, which served as inspiration for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress last spring. Designed by film costumer Helen Rose, it took six weeks and three dozen seamstresses to create the dress she wore down the aisle in 1956

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Among one of the most photographed women of the 20th century, the style icon’s timeless glamour and sophistication continue to be an inspiration to designers today. Her classic style and elegance were evident from the stunning gowns and accessories, and we may have gotten a few style tips ourselves.

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We definitely recommend checking out the exhibit – what better way to spend an afternoon than watching a classic film and checking out a style icon’s wardrobe?  Right now you can purchase a pass that includes both for $22. The exhibition is currently open at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and runs until Sunday, January 22.

City Living: Drake’s Fall Market

We’re always on the hunt for festive fall activities and we found a market that is the perfect Saturday outing to celebrate the season.

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Tomorrow, Queen West’s favourite fall market is back at The Drake Hotel. Twice a year, artists and artisans come together to showcase and sell their wares on Drake’s café patio, in an urban market that combines bake sale with yard sale. If you’re looking for vintage clothing, handmade cards and jewellery, original paintings or even fresh flowers, then look no further.

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Forgot your wallet at home? The FREEcycle table, back by popular demand, has you covered. This section of the market offers gently used Drake items for free. We definitely suggest you check it out, you never know what treasures you may stumble upon. Last year we found an old silver teapot which we’ve repurposed as a fancy, “antique” watering can.

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We think you’d agree that no outdoor market is complete without baked goodies. Staying true to harvest season, the market will offer caramel apples, mini pumpkin pies, as well as chocolate chip and bacon cookies (leave it to Drake to be right on-trend, bacon is appearing in everything these days) and more.

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The Drake Fall Market will take place on Saturday, October 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Drake’s café patio at 1150 Queen St. W. See you there.