Story & Photos by Lauren Foster & Shelby Taylor
Just like a road trip, you can’t predict everything you’ll stumble into on a boutique shopping spree. Sure, you might plan some big stops but ultimately a great trip allows for that element of chance to lead you through to the unexpected. For our outline of some of the best local boutiques and consignment shops we decided to follow a serendipity theme. We provide a window into the shops you can’t miss but leave the rest up to you (or should we say fate) to discover the perfect finds. Fall into a world of chic possibility on our winding road to unpredictable treasures.
Deborah Larkin-Morgan, owner of JinJor, 613 Capitol Way S., calls herself a fabric snob and her boutique is proof of it. From beaded dresses to Italian bras, her clothes are made of premium materials. “I’m always feeling the quality of the fabric and I’m always looking at the craftsmanship,” she said.
From the comfortable and relaxed to the extravagant, the shop is filled with quality. With a full rack of James Perse, the brand of T-shirts and sweaters known for their comfortable cotton feel, even the basics are exceptional at JinJor. She also has dozens of delicate dresses for special occasions. But the quality has to have purpose – it has to be wearable.
“I’m always looking at, is this going to fit a lot of bodies?” she said.
After working most of her retail years in the lingerie department of Nordstrom, Morgan knows how to fit curves and is certified to personally fit bras.
“I love details; details set you apart from the mall,” said Morgan of her buying strategy.
If Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde” could design a store, Sweet Life, 522 Capitol Way S., would be it. The amount of pink that goes into this space is borderline blinding. With big pink ostrich feathers drooping out of glass vases and a pink -and-green peacock wallpaper covering the back wall, this place is not ashamed to be fabulously girly.
But while the decorations are flamboyantly loud, the clothes are charming and often quite simple. The boutique has been open five years selling women’s clothing.
Sweet Life’s style is diverse; from sweet little sundresses to sweatshirts. It offers everything from modern comfort with loose-flowing fabrics and 1960s flair to form-fitting dresses with ’80s cuts.
The boutique sells brands like Wildfox, the company made famous for its vintage-looking comfy knitwear with printed graphics, as well as Alternative, Free People, Rich & Skinny, and a variety of others. And don’t underestimate the jewelry selection. From simple chains to colored beads, Sweet Life’s jewelry is distinctive but not over the top.
Too Hot for a Mall Shop
Hot Toddy, 410 Capitol Way S., is the epitome of retro chic. It’s like the authentic version of those chain stores that spend millions to create the ambiance of vintage elegance. Hot Toddy is the real deal, but doesn’t need to flaunt it. As two girls walk in, one drops her mouth and the other goes “I know, I love this store.”
If you’re looking for a cute new vintage-looking dress, Hot Toddy is the place for you. Dresses range from $38 to $280. Hot Toddy also offers 60s-style swimsuits by Esther Williams, old-fashioned aprons, oven mitts, funky jewelry and colorful belt buckles.
But besides the old-fashioned clothes, the boutique has the most-extensive collection of tights, with every pattern imaginable. Hearts, feathers, flowers, whatever you want, it’s there. You can even have a European illustration of a few gentlemen walking in the park clinging to your legs.
Owners Sydney Hann and Daniel Schreiber also have two more shops within a couple of blocks. Balsie Birdwell offers vintage clothes as well as costumes. Full of character and color, this boutique is like Hot Toddy but with a funkier twist. Yolli Shoes has the authentic ambiance of the two other stores but with every kind of shoe imaginable. From basic flats and button-studded boots, this is your stop for rare foot finds.
If you’re looking for jeans in the South Sound, Bloom, 4779 Point Fosdick Dr. N.W., is your shop. Quite possibly the world’s most adaptable piece of clothing, jeans can easily be dressed up or down for any event. Selling all the premium denim brands, Bloom has Hudson Jeans, Paige Premium Denim, Joe’s Jeans and AG Jeans. Offering a style that is comfy, casual and generally simple, Bloom sticks to quality basics like Ella Moss, Michael Stars and Joie for T-shirts, sweaters and more. But while Bloom goes for classy and simple most of the time, the boutique doesn’t shy away from showing off a little sparkle. Bloom offers Gorjana and Lisa Freede jewelry for simple silver-and-gold hoop earrings, pendants and chains. Bloom also offers candles, handbags and nail polish.
All in a Name
At Orange on Sixth, 3715 6th Ave., the name itself speaks to what the consignment is all about, from saturated walls to racks of mod wear down to the plastic fruits that dangle from eaves and shelves. Orange also happens to be owner Laurel Lawson’s favorite color.
“I shopped this way – vintage (and) thrift in college. I always wanted to do fashion,” she said. Even though she majored in social work, the fashion bug never left. Now she’s happy to be doing what she loves. And also like the color orange, she stimulates enthusiasm and creativity in shoppers with current and retro taste.
Collegiates tend to go for the inexpensively trendy picks. But many different decades are featured at Orange on Sixth.
Fifties housewifery? Look no further! Sixties styled blouses? Sure thing. Seventies statement plaid pants? Are you kidding? Eighties prom dresses? Those go fast!
There are plenty of accessories, too. Printed clutches, bold bobble necklaces and chunky bracelets liven up the everyday outfit. There are also brooches a plenty.
Pretty and Pink
No need to drive! Stretch your legs with a stroll to Vanity Fashion Boutique, 3903 Sixth Avenue, yet another shopper trap. The girly girl of the group will be tickled pink.
The layout is straight out of grandma’s bathroom vanity (save the sink). Mirrors are many, one-of-a-kind jewelry is placed just so on plush fabrics, walls are coral and everything is bathed in a soft, mid-century glow. Floral arrangements and statuesque lamp bases peer down at the bargain huntress.
Just like at Orange, resale rules the rooms. Rest assured that the selection is well-edited, thanks to owner Melanie Peterson’s taste, in cultivation for many years.
As Peterson tells it, she’s been hoarding her own vintage stash since age 13. “I was not a mall shopper; I didn’t want to look like everyone else,” she said.
Today’s teeny-boppers can relate, wanting to set their own styles when it comes to special occasions. Saved are they from the horror of showing up in the same dress as someone else, thanks to ensembles that span the decades. Daughter goes home with a uniquely fashionable find, and mom saves money. The same holds true for Vanity’s everyday vintage and newer wear.
Big Chain Competitor
Tucked in with the buildings of yesteryear is Kristy’s Boutique, 113 W. Meeker St., a revolving door of new dresses, blouses, sweaters, shoes and more. Move over, Anthropologie!
Owner Kristy Hobson has been at the business for 10 years and can spot the beautifully fashion-forward just like the chain retail stores. Expect the sweet tops, the flouncy skirt table and girly flourishes — they’ll be there — well under Anthropologie’s prices. So too is Kristy’s intimate and inviting with its warm cream-and-brown walls.
One more reason to choose boutique over big retail? Here is clothing that tells a story. Hobson hand picks everything, from fashion style, whimsical and bohemian down to detail, rhinestones and hand-embroidered designs to flatter the modern woman. All head-turner headpieces are hand-crafted by the owner herself. Dark-wash embellished jeans nestle in a denim bar that Hobson’s hubby built.