Fresh style insights, tips and commentary by Michelle Tea, Michael Braithwaite, Leo Plass, Page McBee and Carrie Leilam Love.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where'd you get THAT?!

For a long time, I didn't tell anyone where I shop.  In a sexist world, femmes are trained to be uber competitive with each other and I wasn't about to give anyone else the jump on where to get the good stuff.

Luckily for me, I realized that was dumb.  If you are yourself, authentically, your swag is un-jackable, period.  My revelation is good news for you too, dear IBC readers, because I am going to tell you where I find the finds, and answer the question, "Where'd you get THAT?!" for my most complimented items.

I am sticking only to brick-and-mortar establishments for this post. I love online shopping as much as the next girl (I'd be lost without etsy and modcloth) -- and also, I love the experience of going into a place and feeling fabric in my fingers. I love getting close enough to see the little imperfections in a linen skirt or being delighted at a secret ric-rac trim on the hem of a dress lining.  You understand, right?

First, Candy Store Collective: I love this boutique, and not just because my friend Jennifer Jones owns it.  Candy Store's clothes are well-edited and appeal to a woman who is mature, stylish, and not afraid of a little drama or whimsy.  Here are my picks from their current offerings:

Captain Dress by Dear Creatures
I have an unexplained obsession with Anne of Greene Gables, and therefore tween fashions of the turn-of-the-century.  This dress would allow me to indulge said obsessions without the discomfort of wool underthings.

Dragon dress by By Francine
If I were going to one of Holly Golightly's cocktail parties, I'd wear this little black dress that nods to the mod. I have seen this number in the store: it is really well made and looks like it would probably be more flattering on a curvier gal than the model in the picture.

Balla Top by Lorick
Zipper Legging Jean by Found
This top and jeans together is an easy, comfortable outfit for any casual occasion.  Like feeding pigeons or eating tamales. For me, a true mark of good fashion, and good art in general, is the quality of gracefully embodying opposing ideas.  The soft, clean silhouette of the top and the long, lean lines in the jean contradict the dark colors and hard teeth of the zippers in the best way.

Just up the street from Candy Store Collective is The Bell Jar. This shop tends to be pricier than Candy Store and also is much heavier on special-occasion wear.  Last November, I was walking up 16th street on my way to work when I almost fell off the sidewalk because I saw something shiny and purple and exploding with tulle in the window.  I had a very special occasion coming up (my first ever B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls Prom) so I went ahead and splurged on the dress:

Yours Truly in Isabella dress by Carmelita Couture
I don't smoke, btw. That cig was a prop forced on me for this photograph by a mischievous and thoroughly predatory fellow derby girl. True Story.  The point is, don't be afraid to wear a real party dress.  When I wore this dress, I felt exactly as I did at 4 years-old when I used to pull on my ballet tu-tu under my school dress and pretend I was at a ball. Exactly

Here is more from The Bell Jar's current racks:

Naomi dress by Eskell
The jewel tones and patterned skirt of this dress remind me of the tiled façads of Lisbon. You could take the bold color in this dress and send it up with even bolder colorful accessories, or you could work it with the nude shoe trend and zero accessories apart from your soft, romantic hairstyle. Either way this frock would easily get you through summer wedding season.

Constant Rain dress by Evil Twin
I almost wrote this blog on 80s power dressing. This dress would have been included.  Just looking at it makes me want to eviscerate someone with my tongue and then ride off in my DeLorean. Fallon Carrington Colby, meet Carrie Leilam Love: your match. Btw, you can watch all of Dynasty online. For free.  You're welcome.

Next on the list are my favorite places for vintage and thrift:  

 I scored this 80s velvet dress-up blouse at Clothes Contact on Valencia in SF.  

The same people who own Clothes Contact also own Mars Mercantile on Telegraph in Berkeley, where I got the vintage tennis skirt I'm wearing above (yes, at one time people played tennis in black polyester).  If you look close you can see the pleats and the flat front. It is wrap-around, goes on with velcro at the waist and NEVER wrinkles.

The owners of Clothes Contact and Mars own a third shop, also on Telegraph, called Sharks, where I got these boots.  Dear Prince, I am sorry I was only in first grade when you filmed the video for Purple Rain.  I am ready now.

Buffalo Exchange has several locations, but I always do best at the one on Telegraph in Berkeley. It's where I got this Betsy Johnson summer cocktail dress in textured cotton with gingham appliques and embroidery for $30. Not a mark on it. 

Still in Berkeley but a few miles north, is Twisters Vintage, where I bought this little chunk of bo-ho-heaven.

Back in Fog City, across the street from Candy Store, is Idol Vintage, where I picked up these boots. The bows are kind of kitschy but to me they also feel graceful and lighthearted, like winged seed-pods.  

I have no pictures but honorable mention goes to Maribel in Oakland, where I once got a pair of earl jeans (when they were still high-end before the re-launch of that brand as mid-range denim) for $60, and the "boutique" section of the Salvation Army on 6th and Webster in China Town where I bought a strapless 80s velvet cocktail dress with a sweetheart neckline and bustle skirt for $6. 

There are no more secrets in my shopping bag, people. Now spill yours! You know that thing you wear that everyone compliments you on all the time? Where'd you get THAT?



  1. HA! You snagged two stores I was going to feature. I LOVE Candy Store Collective and The Bell Jar! The Bell Jar also has a great collection of odd home decor items that I constantly covet.

  2. Oh no!! I was going to do one on 80s power dressing and one on poiret, fortuny and house of worth. You want? In any case, more motivation to find more great boutiques to feature. Love you, MvonB.

  3. I used to answer the question 'where'd you get that?' by simply stating 'Paris', or, 'Europe'.