There’s nothing better for a die-hard fashionista than someone enviously asking where you got your outfit, only to be able to answer “oh, this fab little boutique in Barrington.”
Around these parts, it’s easy to have that happen. One of the best things about the Bay area is the abundance of small, independent, well-curated local businesses. In the interest of hard journalism and looking uniquely fashionable this fall, we scoured local women’s clothing shops to put together this fall shopping guide. Your closet – and your ego – can thank us later.
MOST ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Sure, you’ll find a super-sized selection of women’s apparel that can rival most up-scale department stores. But it’s the impressive variety of accessories that has kept Feminine Fancies (items pictured left) a trendsetting hotspot for the last 30 years. From smoothing undergarments and sexy lingerie to matching handbags and shoes, owner-stylist Elaine Felag knows how to make women look their best. With labels by Nicole Miller, Milly and Nanette Lepore, you’re always in good company... and great style. 290 County Road, Barrington. 401-247-1087.
BEST MEN'S TAILORING
Buying a suit is a commitment. If it’s the right fit and style, you’ll wear it for years. Milan Clothiers understands the importance of both. With an in-house tailor, expert fit is paramount. A fine collection of European and domestic suits, shirts and ties are among the classically modern apparel options. Accessories range from leather belts, hats and cufflinks. The customer service and selection might even make a commitment-phobe a loyal devotee. 270 County Road, Barrington. 401-247-9209.
MOST INSPIRED BY THE BAY
With boating season winding down, a visit to Hollies on the Avenue will quickly lift you out of your nautical blues. Tasteful and quirky home accessories abound, along with a select array of coastal inspired bags, jewelry and clothing. Casual, comfortable and yet chic, expect dresses dotted in anchors, caps decorated with sails and Rhody pride t-shirts. Your stop will undoubtedly remind you of sunny days spend on the sand and water, and might just get you through the next three seasons. 8 Anoka Avenue, Barrington. 401-245-0090.
Ladies, it’s time to retire your trusty little black dress. Why garb yourself in basic black when ZuZu’s Petals (pictured right) has countless dress colors, patterns and textures? With an eye on dresses for every occasion, owner Lois Hollingsworth keeps her stores brimming with hard-to-find designers and modern styles. Her collection of frilly frocks, office appropriate shifts and flirty cocktail dresses keeps local fashionistas dressing to impress. Move over LBD. There’s a new dress in town. 338 County Road, Barrington, and locations in Providence and East Greenwich.
MOST LAID BACK
Walk in Jackie’s Loft and you’re instantly swept away to a beachside paradise. Located across Bristol Harbor, you can’t help but feel like you’re far, far away from it all. With colorful tunics, printed maxi dresses, cashmere throws and designer denim, it’s what you’d wear if you were jet setting throughout the Caribbean. With an ever-chang- ing unique line-up that’s always ahead of the season’s trends, you’re shopping trip might just feel like a vacation in itself. 448 Thames Avenue, Bristol. 401-254-4251.
BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Don’t you just hate sticker shock? It never fails: you pick something up that you instantly fell in love with but then let out a gasp when you see one too many digits. Well, that’s not going to happen at La Bella Boutique, where looking fabulous can be done on a budget. Colorful scarves, bold jewelry and modish handbags are intertwined with flirty dresses, hip sweaters and stylish outerwear for a fun shopping experience. Affordable yet fashionable, this bayside boutique is a bargainista’s dream. 78 State Street, Bristol. 401-253-3331.
BEST REASON TO CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE
There’s a reason the Tickle’s parking lot is always full. It’s practically impossible not to lose yourself exploring every display case, clothing rack and shelving unit in this sprawling, 7,500 square foot shop. UGGs, Vera Bradley, Alex and Ani, Pandora and NYDJ are just a few of the dozens of trendsetting lines featured here. And don’t worry if you get hungry during your spree. Construction on The Aviary, a bigger restaurant that’s replacing the Tea Room, should be complete any day now. So clear out a few hours and plan your visit. You’ll thank us later. 2219 G.A.R Highway, Swansea. 508-379-0717.
Ok, ok. We know you don’t want to think about winter yet. Neither do we. But as the warm summer days transition into cool autumn nights, you’re going to want to reach for a sweater – and there’s no better place to stay warm (and feel all warm and fuzzy) than Sisters of the Wool in Westport. While the store specializes in knitting supplies, they also sell a selection of the kind of knit accessories that will keep you warm against the coldest winter winds. Think sturdy hand-knit sweaters and scarves in luxury wool blends. If you’re hooked (see what we did there?), the Sisters might even teach you to knit your own. 782 Main Road, Westport. 774-264-9665.
Yoga pants are great – if you’re actually practicing yoga. With everyday essentials for the everywoman, Bristol’s Aqua proves that you can dress comfortably and look stylish. Versatile layering tops and cozy cotton basics juxtaposition with bright colored mini-skirts for fun, carefree shopping. Owner Emily Wheeler who owns sister store Salt in Tiverton Four Corners and Boca Grande in Florida, tells us to expect colorful sweaters, classic outwear and new designers come fall. Sounds like cool comfort to us. 295 Hope Street, Bristol.
THE BEST RX
Need a quick fashion fix? Then you need a little Therapy. Housed in New Leaf Hair Studio, this boutique stocks apparel and accessories that add instant pop. Light and airy, you can’t help but shake off your wardrobe funk in this one-stop beauty emporium. Statement pieces like bright, chunky necklaces, textured tops and bold infinity scarves are just what the doc ordered... for a standout look that is. 18 State Street, Bristol. 401-254-9333.
While Aqua in Bristol is the on-trend younger sister in Emily Wheeler’s fashionable boutique family, Salt Boutique in Tiverton Four Corners is the more mature, confident older sister. Salt tends towards nautically-inspired, breezy fashion. Think relaxed, gauzy linens that create a chic, coastal style. Clientele is a steady mix of fashionable locals and tourists looking for that Little Compton look of a little bit of prep and a little bit of ocean. Summer might be winding down, but that means you can get great deals on brightly colored straw beach bags and quick drying shift cover-ups in lovely nautical patterns. 3845 Main Road, Tiverton. 401-816-0901.
BEST SPOT FOR FRIENDS
Stacey Downing and Lisa Hurd have a lot in common, not the least of which is Stalise, the fabulous boutique that the two friends own together in Portsmouth. The women’s clothing store carries gorgeous dresses from hard to find lines like Tribal, Joseph Ribkoff, Lilla P, Ecru, Cullen, A Woman and Peace of Cloth. While the clothing is always young, modern and on-trend, it’s Stalise’s jewelry and accessories that will have you coming back again and again. After all, what is it they say? You can make one dress into a week’s worth of looks with creative accessories, and the fun, funky ones they sell here will have you feeling creative every day. Stacey and Lisa also offer wardrobe styling, private shopping parties and in-home closet consultations. 105 Clock Tower Square, Portsmouth. 401-293-5445.
If you’re just window shopping, then you’d think Daisy Dig’ins is just a pretty florist and gift shop. But walk in the multi-room storefront to see how this venerable Barrington shop takes personal style to a new level. Impeccably decorated and carefully curated, you’ll find beautiful items for both you and your home by lines like Vera Bradley and Trollbeads. Season must-haves like oversized beach bags, luxurious cashmere sweaters and embellished pashminas are just as fresh at the just picked items in the floral cases. 123 Maple Avenue, Barrington. 401-245-0580.
BEST HEAD-TO-TOE FASHION
Sometimes, fashion can’t be tamed. That’s why Deni’s Closet in Westport just moved to an expanded location to offer a bigger selection of fashionable women’s clothing. Think denim from French Dressing and Not Your Daughter’s Jeans and bathing suits from Miraclesuit. Deni’s carries chic day-to-night fashions, and everything you need to go under them (and we mean everything) in expanded miss and plus sizes. Regular tent sales at Deni’s ensure you’re getting current fashion for great deals. Stop in now for their end of summer sale, and to get a taste of fall fashion. 767 Main Rd # 6, Westport. 508-636-0063.
CUTEST PORT OF CALL
There’s a difference between nautical prep – think three layers of ice cream-colored polos with popped collars – and nautical chic. Pink Pineapple, in Clock Tower Square in Portsmouth, decidedly falls into the latter category. While it’s easy to find navy and white shirts with anchors on them around the Bay, and the store does stock quite a lot of those cute staples, along with gifts, jewelry and accessories – Pink Pineapple takes the theme one step further, with custom designed clothing. Their ‘70s-inspired Newport nautical t-shirts are adorable, and their own cashmere – with phrases like “Holy Ship” and “I refuse to sink” will have all of your friends asking enviously where you got them. 106 Clock Tower Square, Portsmouth. 401-293-5490.
For fashion with a world view, check out Isadora’s Beaux in Warren. The chic spot isn’t your typical storefront: Isa- dora’s is housed inside a home on Water Street, but is as spacious and sunny as any other shop. Fashions range from flowy, casual maxi dresses to more formal evenin- gwear, and are hand-selected for a more mature woman who still wants to look current and modern. Owner Dora LaRue spent years as a buyer for one of Providence’s upscale women’s stores, and her eye for blending classic style with trends is unparalleled. Check out well-tailored staples from Angel Apparel and gorgeous pants from Lisette. 277 Water Street, Warren. 245-2089.
MOST FASHIONABLY PRACTICAL
As much as we hate to admit it, clothing isn’t always about being fashionable and on-trend. Sometimes it’s about keeping you warm as you shovel snow (not that winter’s ever coming back) or protecting you from the sun as you spend long hours in the garden. Westport’s Country Woolens proves that these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. While they carry what they affectionately describe as “practical clothing,” they carry it from brands that still have some personality to them, like North Face, Woolrich, Pendleton and Fresh Produce. The sale basement is open year round and always has great bargains, if you don’t mind spending a little while among the racks. 842 Main Road, Westport. 508-636-5661.
BEST BIG CITY STYLE
Tess and Carlos has been a staple in the Boston area for nearly two decades. Over that time, owners Tess and Carlos Pava have offered a blend of chic, urban, decidedly unfussy clothing that is memorable for its effortlessness – and people have noticed. What started as one store in Cambridge is now six stores in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, the newest being in Tiverton Four Corners. The store specializes in high-quality and hard to find European lines, like Stephanie Sung and specialty Italian cottons. 3879 Main Road, Tiverton.
Have you heard the dish? Mother-daughter duo Keri and Sara have been serving up cute classic womenswear at DISH Boutique in Warren for a decade. The store specialzies in easy-to-wear cottons that are super cute (and don’t look anything like your ratty old yoga pants), with a focus on sustainability. Check out tunics from Raw Earth Wild Sky, made with raw organic cotton, and Prairie Underground, which manages to be super chic and environmentally responsible. DISH’s commitment to being green doesn’t end there – every time you reuse one of their shopping bags or bring in your own, you get 10% off an item in the store. 155 Water Street, Warren. 401-247-7705.
An eye for beauty comes in many forms. In the case of Alyssa Wood, hers comes in the form of professional photography, and of curating other people’s art for others to enjoy. Her businesses are two: Isa Images, a professional photography studio, and Shop Isa, an artisan boutique on the banks of the Sakonnet River in Tiverton. Shop Isa carries one-of-a-kind handmade art from Rhode Island and Massachusetts artists, including clothing and accessories. Among the finds there: up- cycled hats from Ape and Bird in Providence, and Brevi Manu t-shirts. 1793 Main Road, Tiverton. 774-526-6108.