Our three-part guide to the East Bay's best boutiques starts this month with Walnut Creek and Pleasanton.
Boutique shopping is all about finding a really special outfit—one that isn’t likely to follow you down the street the day you wear it. Whether you’re in the market for rare European styles, a brown and pink polka-dot trench coat, or a pair of bejeweled Manolo Blahniks, this guide to our best boutiques will help you pick a direct route to shopping nirvana.
This month we hit Walnut Creek and Pleasanton. In our May issue, we’ll go to Lamorinda and Danville. In June, we’re off to Berkeley and Oakland. East Bay boutiques are blossoming with their spring collections, so grab your wallet and walk this way.
1372 N. Main St., (925) 934-0938,www.belindamdesigns.com
Belinda M lures the most bling-resistant passerby. Owner and designer Belinda McNeely, a New Zealand transplant, houses her own fabulous lines of clothing and accessories here, along with chic and girly fashions by other designers.
Highlights: Sara Campbell’s semiformal frocks in dupioni silk and other luxurious fabrics; reversible silk and cotton jackets; and little suede skirts.
1387 N. Main St., (925) 935-1195,www.bonnenuitlingerie.com
Bonne Nuit displays its exquisite collections of European lingerie and loungewear in a suitably shabby chic, Parisian-style boutique.
Lacy treasures: Bras, bustiers, chemises, and panties from top French lines; the hot, high-end Italian line Cotton Club; and a selection of wallet-friendly Hanky Pankys.
The sexiest: I. D. Sarrieri, a Romanian line, makes Victoria’s Secret look dowdy.
Bridal beauties: Look out for divine bridal peignoirs and chemises by Santa Monica’s Jonquil and romantic camisoles by Beverly Hills’s Claire Pettibone.
1424 S. Main St., (925) 930-0214,www.clarissabridal.com
This boutique has been bringing some of the best couture to East Bay brides since 1981. It also offers a wonderful selection of after-five dresses, purses, shoes, and jewelry.
Trend: Sophisticated, strapless Audrey Hepburn–style dresses are running out the door.Most beautiful: Exquisite gowns by Italy’s Atelier Aimée. As light as tissue, their layered silk skirts often spill from beaded bodices like delicate waterfalls. Prices are understandably steep at around $5,000.
1506 N. Main St., (925) 933-7489, www.deliciouz.com
This Moroccan-flavored boutique with salmon-pink walls and a midnight blue ceiling is the perfect home for its high-end, edgy collection of European shoes and bags. Whether it’s a pair of sparkly brocade heels or an espresso-colored cowboy bag, everything in Deliciouz is a work of art.
Most unique: A wooden kitten-heeled sandal in Italian leather by Johnny Montini ($270), with braided chocolate brown tassels tying at the ankles and ivory wooden beads at the toes. Perfect for pairing with a fresh spring pedicure.
1550 Olympic Blvd., (925) 287-0320
Opened last summer by self-confessed belt-junkie Nancy Katz, Diva has plenty of fun and funky goodies to explore. There are Nancy’s favorite-fitting jeans by City of Angels, embroidered shirts and tops, the ever-popular Free People garb, and affordable jewelry by Sausalito’s Arianne Jeannot.
Best of the belts: Diva carries gorgeous stretchy forged metal and chain belts ($150 to $350) by Toronto designer Suzi Roher (who was featured in The New York Times’s fashion section last summer).
The tweens corner: Fun T-shirts, tie-dyed sweatshirts, and cute belts are perfect for the tadpole shopper.
1367 N. Main St., (925) 939-1188
Owner Annie Shaw joins creative forces with designers and tailors in China to create elegant silk and linen jackets, pants, dresses, and tops specifically for the boutique.
The style: These special-occasion clothes are generally more fitted and made with brighter fabrics than traditional Chinese garb. Striking tops with mandarin collars can be paired with blue jeans or worn in the evening with Chinese-style pants. There are also some men’s tops, jackets, and shirts.
And the rest: Beaded bags, shoes, and jewelry made with pearls and semiprecious stones are displayed alongside silk bedding and tablecloths. Oh, and all the Chinese furniture in the boutique is for sale.
1192 Locust St., (925) 906-9500
With its sky-high windows framing hip party dresses, this corner boutique has been a favorite of trendy spenders for four years. Hot lines of denim by True Religion, Hudson, and Paige Premium pair perfectly with tees by Michael Stars and Splendid. Dressier togs lead the way to the embroidered, beaded, and lace gowns and cocktail dresses.
Celeb fashion alert: Gwen Stefani’s trendy L.A.M.B. line. Not quite as out there as its rock star creator, L.A.M.B. still shouts attitude with great graphic tees, tanks, and track suits.
Second stop: A second Elisa Wen opened on Sacramento Street in San Francisco last year.
Erica Rae’s Unique Boutique
1208 Boulevard Way, (925) 934-1588, www.ericaraes.com
This hip new boutique is packed with jeans, frilly slip dresses and blouses, cool urban pants and jackets, tees, tops embroidered with attitude, belts with can’t-miss-me oval buckles, and ultrahip casual shoes.Don’t miss: The bright tie-dyed and marbleized cotton shirts, dresses, and skirts by Yemee. These fun and comfortable works of art can be worn as under- or outerwear. Local artists: Keep your eyes peeled for the faux-fur and canvas La-Di-Da bags by Lafayette’s Lisa Christophe, as well as the colorful lamp glass jewelry by Oakland’s Laura Bracken.
1365 N. Main St., (925) 937-3668,www.footcandyshoes.com
Manolo Blahnik devotees, walk this way! For the kind of gal who buys outfits to go with her shoes, this shoe Shangri-la boasts lines from top-end designers, including Jimmy Choo, Christian Lacroix, and Valentino. The best Blahniks: Big-spending Blahnik babes should look out for the cheetah-print sandal with a four-inch heel and rhinestone ankle wrap that drips down your foot like a diamond necklace for $995. Best buy: If your pockets aren’t quite deep enough for the Blahniks, look to Magnolia, a Brazilian line that makes a unique pink-and-brown-striped pony-hair flat for just $185.
1354 N. Main St., (925) 944-4874, www.myhush.com
UC Berkeley and Saint Mary’s College kids, as well as time-strapped moms, rush to Hush for effortlessly hip outfits. This house of casual chic prides itself on artistic clothing lines from New York, Japan, and Paris.
The vision: Understated, minimalist looks for day and night; denim; and exquisitely colorful leather handbags by New York’s Flavio Olivera.
Best accessory: Punk rocker–rebellious, hand-worked, distressed leather belts by Jeff Gallea in pink, brown, black, and white.
Jeu de Jupe
1519 N. Main Street, (925) 932-8122,www.jeudejupe.com
This brand-new boutique could have been plucked from the fashion groves of Barcelona or Milan. Owned by three women—one French, one Persian, and one American—Jeu de Jupe refreshes with chic and edgy Euro fashions.
Incredibly slimming: Jeans by Oligo Tissew ($180) are created by Kristopher Enuke, a former designer for BCBG. These jeans have made their way into the closets of Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman. And if that’s not reason enough to love them, a percentage of the profit goes to help children in Africa.
Green counts: From its cork flooring to its recycled shopping bags printed with soy-based ink, this house of style is ultra-friendly to our environment.
1539 N. Main St., (925) 935-9811,www.leparisstyle.com
Women in their twenties to forties, including a lot of homesick fashionistas from Europe, flock here to keep their finger on the style pulse of the City of Light.
The scene: This airy boutique features everyday wear by lines that are red-hot
The Euro difference: Maybe it’s that the colors of the clothes are more subdued (expect a lot of taupe, black, and white) or that the cuts are simpler, but there is a marked difference between Euro-style and what we are used to seeing. Many of the looks are flirtatiously tomboyish, so expect more pants than dresses.
Mom’s the Word
1628 N. Main St., (925) 937-6818,www.shop2bmom.com
Come check out a great range of both maternity attire and regular lines that have been specially adapted by the boutique. There are tees by Michael Stars; hand-beaded tanks; jeans by Seven, Citizens of Humanity, Blue Cult, and Earl; and dresses by Diane Von Furstenberg.
Best buy: A ruched jersey top by Precious Images Creations can be worn during pregnancy and after for discreet nursing. Comes in black, brown, or red ($54).
A favorite: Silk dresses in olive, black, and rosé by Chan Luu, which can be worn alone or paired with jeans ($174).
1388 N. Main St., (925) 935-5502
The new kid on the block, Sam is the glamorous sister store to Samantha Lee. This spacious, robin’s egg–blue boutique opened in March 2005 and is home to racks of upscale outfits, including shoes and leather handbags.
A favorite line: New York’s Twinkle by Wenlan. Famous for her fabulous beaded, charmeuse silk dresses, Wenlan also designs chunky, inexpensive costume jewelry like gold retro necklaces and bracelets with brightly colored plastic and metal charms.
fundraiser fun: Both Sam and Samantha Lee host monthly parties to raise money for charities.
1378 N. Main St., (925) 938-7267
Owner Samantha Campbell hunts down the latest stylish jeans, tees, belts, and accessories, and brings them to this hip cotton candy–colored boutique.
The scene: Samantha Lee pulls in the twenty-to-fortysomethings who crave a more individual, edgy look for their everyday garb. For dressier attire, visit sister-store Sam one door down.
Don’t miss: Colorful, beaded, sequined, and vintage–coin clad cardigans by rocker-girl line LaROCK and the funky, reconstructed pants by Jenny Jen.
1341 N. Main St., (925) 977-9799
Ditch conservative at the door. A haven for lovers of leather and silk, this boutique was opened last year by Iraqi native Suna Salim. Salim’s own unique line of clothes hangs next to similarly adventurous hand-dyed silk pants, skirts, and tops; tweed skirts; and silk, cashmere, and lace tops by New York’s Cynthia Steffi. Also check out embroidery-trimmed jeans by Xpect; funky knits by Akiko; and beaded tops by Sassy Thai.
The San Francisco designers: Look for skirts and dresses in flowing silk by Erin Mahoney, as well as corset tops, reversible halters, and zipper-clad denim dresses by Helen Olds.
Best extra: Salim will brew you a nice, hot, cup of aromatic tea kept warm from the steam of a special Arabic pear–shaped urn. Now this is the way to shop!
356 N. Main St., (925) 933-8050,www.atlasshops.com
This hip boy boutique carries everything from Diesel denim to dressy Ben Sherman and Robert Graham suit separates. Its trendy togs include khakis in tighter jean cuts and Italian hand-dyed boots. Custom cashmere: Atlas owners Jay Underwood and Jim Buschiazvo have designed a stylish cashmere zip hoodie for their own line, Surface ($250). Best accessory: Ultracool shades by Initium with super-wide frames, funky finishes like green-and-red tortoiseshell, and a rock-and-roll edge ($120–$170). PLEASANTON
All About Me
252 Main St., (925) 931-1009
In a charming white house with purple awnings, this little boutique celebrated its first birthday not long ago and is packed to the rafters with clothes, accessories, and jewelry.
The wares: Mostly casual clothes, including jackets, shrugs, cargo pants, and embroidered shirts by JW Los Angeles, and Rock Revival Jeans.
Best jean: LTB jeans. They’re low rise at the front but with a higher back and come in two lengths and a variety of washes ($85–$120).
Curves and colors: Ann Farriday’s stretchy, one-size tops, fitting the most curvaceous of shapes, are feminine in color (from cinnamon to pearl) and are often adorned with sequins, lace, and satin.
Aloha Island Trading Company
410 Main St., (925) 417-0560,www.alohaislandtradingcompany.com
With a floor painted to resemble a sparkling ocean, bright blue walls, and tropical palm ceiling fans, this boutique is home to racks of brightly hued resort-style clothing in authentic Hawaiian fabrics.
Best shirt: Not only does Reyn Spooner, the oldest Aloha shirt company of the islands, create men’s shirts for this boutique, but it custom-makes an exclusive, limited-edition shirt featuring labels from Livermore wineries.
Best swimwear: Designed by two former pro surfers and stunt women in Honolulu, Aloha’s swimwear is available all year round. Made with four-way-stretch, lingerie-style fabrics from Italy and Spain, the tops and bottoms are sold separately and cost between $100 and $120.
Did you know? Owner Debbie Donald is an airline pilot for United Airlines, and she flies back and forth to heavenly Hawaii most weeks.
Apparel & Co.
645 Main St., (925) 484-5111
Feminine and romantic are the key words here, although the style involves little fussiness.
The wares: Vintage-inspired clothes such as denim jackets with rhinestones and crystal buttons hanging elegantly alongside purses, scarves, hats, and gifts draw in shoppers of all ages. Also, hand-knitted sherbet-colored sweaters and a great selection of costume jewelry and shoes.
The unexpected: It’s not all about frills and bohemian romance here. The boutique also carries more modern career outfits with sleeker, cleaner lines.
sister shop: Apparel & Co. has a sister store in Danville called Girlfriends.
Blondie’s Shoes & Accessories
560 Main St., (925) 426-1317
Named in honor of its blond bombshell owners—mother-and-daughter team Valerie and Allie Kikes—this stylish turquoise and black boutique carries bags, belts, jewelry, and a show of shoes that would make the most seasoned shopaholic swoon.
The goods: Shoes, bags, and jewelry, from affordable to flashy.
For trendy tots: Fashion-forward infants and toddlers, toddle this way. Blondie’s carries Little Laundry, Chinese Laundry’s line for girls. Look for its funky pink, mauve, and aquamarine suede and leather clogs and shoes, sometimes topped with flower appliqués.
Pedicure to boot: At the back of the boutique, an indoor waterfall welcomes you into a full pedicure salon.
Pedi party: Blondie’s can be rented in the evenings for pedicure parties! Food, drink, and shoes—what more could you ask for?
Chic and Younique
111 W. Neal St., (925) 846-2442,www.chicandyounique.com
Chic and Younique is a one-stop shop for women in their thirties and up looking for original, arty skirts, pants, tops, and jackets.
Most popular: The “sweat-jean” by Bejewelled. It’s a hybrid sweatpant that looks like a pair of denim jeans and comes with a variety of embellishments. Funky, fun, and comfortable like you wouldn’t believe, they cost between $150 and $300.
Best bag: The celebrity-endorsed Motorcycle Bag by Besso. Made with Italian leather, this handbag comes in two sizes with zip and buckle biker accents ($175–$200).
J’aime Bridal & Weddings
252 Main St., (925) 846-8459,www.jaimeweddings.com
This bridal boutique carries everything from flower-girl frocks to cake-top jewelry. Wedding dress specials include hourglass satin and silk creations (they come in fuchsia and teal for the truly adventurous!); streamlined chiffon gowns; and traditional, custom-designed ball gowns.
Copy cat: Designer Alfred Sung specializes in making reproductions of celebrity wedding dresses. A current favorite is the Monique Lhuillier dress worn by Kevin Costner’s bride, Christine Baumgartner, in 2004. What might cost the stars $20,000 can be yours for as little as $1,200.
The garden: Bring your bridal shower to the Enchanted Garden, a pretty flower-bordered lawn behind the boutique that can be rented out for parties and other gatherings.
350 Main St., Ste. B, (925) 846-1950,www.lilyanns.com
Whether you’re looking for a $650 Argentino velvet bustier or a pair of $9 panties, it’s here. Affordable lingerie sets balance superluxurious European lines such as Ravage, Barbara, Cotton Club, and Rigby & Peller (corsetiere to the queen of England since 1960!).
Best-seller: “The most boring, plain bra you ever saw!” as described by owner Carol DiSalvi. Made by Triumph, it is a smooth, ultrasoft, and comfortable dark nude bra that gives a very natural look. “It feels amazing!” says Carol. “Ladies throw their bras away and wear this one out the door.”
A to J: LilyAnn’s specializes in hard-to-find sizes from a 28 A to 44 double J.
Me & Emmi
549 Main St., (925) 600-9670
Casual girly garb is what you’ll find here. Lots of embellished and embroidered, figure-hugging jeans; long tees and tanks; sweaters; leather bags; and dainty gems.
Best-selling denim: True Religion. Famed for its great fit that sinks at the front but rises at the back, this line of denim jeans and skirts (costing about $240) comes in a zillion different styles with patch and rainbow-stitching embellishments.
Best jackets: Look for an army-style, short-waisted Lacoste pea coat in green cotton polyester ($195), or styles by Los Angeles designer Wendy Hill.
serious service: If the jeans you buy are too long, Me & Emmi will take ’em up, keeping the original hem—for free.
440 Main St., (925) 931-0775
Passionate Athlete is not heavy on serious athletic wear. Yes, it has Speedos, but most of the merchandise is cool, comfortable, outdoorsy-type street wear.
The snug stuff: Expect soft, stretchy, and stylish pants, tees, and jackets. Some of the most fun tees include embroidered, sequined, and silk-screened numbers by Hard Tail, Life is Good, Prana, and Jake’s Dry Goods.
Best-seller: The little $25 Dakine backpack. Made in seemingly every print and color, this nylon, bungee-cord bag is a huge hit with high school girls.
And the rest: You’ll also find messenger bags, all kinds of hats, and jewelry.
660 Main St., (925) 485-4380,www.puregirlsclub.com
A karaoke stage, mini-makeover area, funky fashions, and beginner bras. What more could a girl ask for? This new specialty boutique and party space is packed with fun and edgy togs and accessories for ages six to 14.
The clothes: Pants aren’t too low, and tops aren’t too high, but they’re all happening fashions. Expect cheetah print–lined jeans, boot-cut jersey sweats, turquoise velveteen blazers with butterfly prints, graphic baseball tees, and gauzy dresses.
Tween attitude: Check out the short-sleeved Too Shy tees in purple, pink, green, and white, with cheeky, glittery, and embroidered slogans such as Hippie Chick, Love Bug, and Groovy Girl.
The fun: Pure Girls hosts great theme parties, fun programs about the proper use of makeup, and first-time bra fittings with underwear by Teen Tubz.
350 Main St., Ste. E, (925) 931-9130,www.accsentials.com
A high-end boutique for him, Acc’sentials kits out men from head to toe in premium denim, embroidered retro party shirts, luxury Italian woolens, and trench coats and cashmere driver jackets by Mario Valente. There are shoes by Michael Toschi and Sondro Moscoloni, cuff links by Burberry, and a bunch of gift items. Hey, there’s even a 14-karat-gold pen on sale for $921.
Suit yourself: Don’t miss the made-to-measure suits and tuxes by Jhane Barnes. And Acc’sentials offers a Canadian line named Coppley that will create a fabulous, custom-built suit.
Most extravagant: A baseball cap is a baseball cap, right? Wrong. Borsalino makes its own out of 100 percent cashmere, and it’s on sale for a mere $178.
For the ladies: Italian leather handbags by Deborah Lewis.