Your Style Salvation

Salvation Army shops are a fashion blessing
Words by Stephanie Orford
If you’re still shopping-hungry after Laugavegur and you want a real taste of Reykjavík fashion, head to the wrong side of the tracks, the grisly underbelly of Reykjavík style, the Salvation Army.

Well, that’s stretching it. Reykjavík doesn’t really have a wrong side of the tracks (even if there was  a railroad. Which there isn’t), and the Salvation

Army is actually a pretty nice place. The store’s down-to-earth image might lead you to believe that there should be a sign outside announcing, “Dowdy Folks Only,” but you would be wrong. In fact, on June 3 ‘Sally Ann’ brought her glamorous side out of the closet and onto the catwalk.

The Salvation Army teamed up with celebrities and a few talented stylists to put on a fashion show in Austurvöllur square downtown. Catwalkers included Jón Gnarr, Reykjavík’s new mayor, and Páll Óskar, arguably Iceland’s most fabulous gay icon.

Carmen Jóhannsdóttir was one of these stylists. She got involved when Dorthea H. Dam, who works at the SA, spotted Carmen’s style sense and asked if she’d be willing to help out. It was all very spur-of-the-moment. “We didn’t have any special ideas before the models arrived for the fitting. It was very random,” said Carmen. She was particularly fond of the show’s opening in which Jón Gnarr, Reykjavík’s new mayor, and actor Benedict Erlingsson appeared dressed as “Yugoslavian gangsters.” Carmen also enjoyed Jón’s appearance later in the show with his wife and two of his kids as a “white trash family.” Apparently, Jón specifically wanted to look like The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

Despite its glitz, the fashion show’s purpose was humble. “If we get more money into the shop, then we can help more people,” said Dorthea. “There are so many people in Iceland that need help because of the crisis.” Dorthea has personally experienced a real increase in the number of people coming to the Salvation Army’s day shelter for help, both in Reykjavík and at the location in Akureyri, where she used to work. All Salvation Army’s profits go to causes within Iceland.


The Salvation Army makes fabulous clothes available to anyone willing to search. Þórunn Ósk Rafnsdóttir told the Grapevine that she’s found tons of fantastic items for herself and her kids. “I don’t have a husband, so I don’t have much money to buy clothes,” Þórunn said. The Salvation Army is perfect for style on the cheap.

Anyone can appreciate that. “You can get a homeless dude or you can get a rich woman—all in search of the unique thing, the gullmolar [gold nuggets],” Dorthea said. “But we want to keep the prices so that it’s at a level for everyone.”

The Salvation Army gets goods in every day, so there’s always something new on the racks. “It’s just like treasure hunting,” Bára Kristgeirsdóttir, a graphic design student, said as she tried on a pair of mid-calf grey boots.

Along with shopping for her kids, Þórunn also sometimes finds fashion items for herself. Her favourite is a Chanel suit with gold buttons. Old money to the max.

“You can see the quality in the clothes,” Hanna Jónsdóttir, a local designer, said. The stuff you can find at Salvation Army has withstood the test of time, Hanna pointed out. It’s proven itself to be high quality—not the sort of poorly made clothing that falls apart in the wash.

Carmen’s closet is stuffed with Salvation Army treasures. She’s found some of her favourite items there—“a suede jacket from the late ‘80s, early ‘90s with gold clasps. Black suede shoes. Skirts, shirts, whatever. Lots of things!”

But as it stands, shoppers have to put in a little elbow grease. “You have to dig a little bit,” Carmen said. “If you’re interested in fashion and you’re creative, you can definitely find something there.”  


The Salvation Army Fashion Show

Reykjavík’s new mayor, Jón Gnarr, kicks off the show with all seriousness in a slobtacular tracksuit, then re-appears mid-show with bodacious wife and two cute kids in tow.Model sports undercut hairdo and snappy purple skirt suit. Pro catwalk moves.

Páll Óskar dons a blousey gold and black shirt, skin-tight black jeans, and slick black boots to perform his hit ‘Þú komst við hjartað í mér’ live on the catwalk.

Songstress Birgitta Haukdal, Iceland’s 2003 Eurovision competitor, sports a dusty rose floral cheongsam with matching white floral updo.

Model shows off an asymmetrical hemline black dress with artfully wrapped skinny belt, teetering on beige lace-up, peep-toe wedges.

Dance pop sensation Haffi Haff and his slicked back coif hamming it up for the crowd in several appearances, most notably in a chequered black and white blazer reminiscent of Max Headroom.

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