the story

After a few years in Morphett Street Adelaide, South Australia, Mabs opened in the late 70's in the East End of Rundle Street. The last shop closed in 1997 around the corner in Grenfell Street.

It was packed with authentic vintage, antique and cheap fun clothes and accessories. Around a third were men's.

Students and young and old came for clothes for few cents on the sales racks and antiques and collectibles for hundreds of dollars or more.

Styles come and go. I think the 20 year fashion cycle is driven mainly by each new generation looking for the clothes their mother wore.

But Mabs sold everything - not just the current fashion. It supplied film, museums, theatres, photographers, collectors and fashion designers all over Australia. Instead of hire, there was a guaranteed buy back price for anyone wanting something for a short while.

There were shops like this all around Australia. A steady stream of visitors said Adelaide's were the best.

The stock and fittings are now for sale - tens of thousands of antique, vintage and retro clothes and accessories - mostly Australian and lots of Australian labels. Some I haven't seen in shops for twenty years.

Mabs shops were run-down or due for redevelopment. Cheap rent let it buy almost all the clothes that were offered.

  • Grenfell Street

the last Mabs in Grenfell Street click to enlarge

  • Mabs close up
Mabs advertised to buy clothes including leafleting letter-boxes in affluent aging suburbs. Mabs had a policy to buy all the vintage fashion brought to it for at least the usual auction prices for prime pieces.

So for a couple of decades a steady stream came through the door from the public, deceased estates, second hand and antique dealers, rag merchants, collectors, customers, museums and charities.

A quarter of a ton of clothes a week were given away for free outside the front of the shop until the council stepped in to tidy up the footpath in the last year.

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Price paid varied with age, condition, style, colour, fabric, designer, maker, size, supply and demand.

The less interesting ones were given away or put on sale on the racks outside across the front of the shop so most that was put aside into storage was special. The accumulated reserves were ready to fill orders for just about anything.

  • sale-racks-looking-East from Tam o Shanter Place
Although there were a couple shops for a while Mabs never got around to expanding to the large floor area intended.

So after decades of giving away or putting on sale most that came in and keeping a select few for the shop and storage there is a huge collection of perhaps 10 tons of selected vintage clothes and antique clothes and accessories for sale in bulk wholesale. The Little Black Dress, the antique dress, the vintage dress – they are all here

  • 1910s-Dress
  • 20s-beaded-dress
  • Edwardian-Dress
Here are half a dozen pieces in front of the Grenfell Street shop.
  • Victorian-Skirt
  • mid-1700s
  • top-hats

Most have been stored, racked or packed away in bags and boxes for 20 to 35 years. Now they have to go. They are going to take a while to unpack as I get time.

Contact John for more details. Subscribe on the side menu for Email updates as things unpack or when shops buy them and they become available for sale.