Part two of our three-part guide to the East Bay's best boutiques, featuring Danville and Lamorinda.
Walnut Creek is not the only shopping Shangri-la that’s popping with one-of-a-kind boutiques. Hot on the Creek’s heels, Danville and Lamorinda are home to a bevy of shops for everyone from hip teens to stylish grandmothers. You can deck yourself out in serious Euro-chic at Blackhawk’s Alina B., don a pair of red-hot Antik Jeans worthy of J.Lo’s behind from Danville’s Ella J., or get snuggly in a gorgeous Margaret O’Leary sweater from Orinda’s B. B. Gear. Hey, Lafayette’s Specialtees, an Erin Paige Boutique, houses so many different styles, you could spend a whole weekend in that boutique alone. Whatever your wardrobe is wanting, Danville and Lamorinda won’t disappoint. Happy shopping!
3427 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, (925) 736-8115,
For more than 20 years, Polish fashion-ista Alina Bialobrodsta had a boutique in Oakland’s Jack London Square, where she dressed KTVU anchors and reporters. Today, her store, with its sophisticated, sexy collections from Paris and Milan, fits perfectly in ritzy Blackhawk Plaza.
The Wares: Bialobrodsta doesn’t like to share the names of her lines for fear of copycats, but count on edgy, chic knits with beautiful details down to the last button; crushed velvet jackets paired with jeans from Italy; an unusual collection of beaded, chained, and grommetted belts; and an Italian line of leather jackets so light that they could easily be packed in a suitcase.
The Whole Shebang: “We don’t just sell clothing,” says Bialobrodsta. “We sell the total look.” Women come here for entire outfits, down to the shoes, handbags, earrings, makeup, and even hair color suggestions.
Serious Service: Successful, busy women frequent this boutique. For a one-on-one style consultation, call for an appointment.
Bella Belly Maternity
700 Hartz Way, Ste. B, (925) 820-1115,
Brand new in March, this maternity shop caters to women who expect to look good when they are expecting. Bella Belly features everything from casual shorts, tees, and swimsuits to evening and office wear.
Labels: The boutique sells designer duds including Elin Otto, Habitual, Momzee, Liz Lange, and Homme Mummy from the UK.
Bundles of Luxe: Even infants will get royal treatment here, with cute handmade clothes by Cade & Co., as well as “couture” diaper bags by Caden Lane and Fleurville.
Bellies n’ Babies
166 E. Prospect Ave., (925) 837-7100,
Opened last fall by four Danville moms, Bellies n Babies carries hip lines for, well, you get it. There are Chip & Pepper jeans, metallic maternity tees by Michael Stars, and evening dresses, not to mention nursing bras and undies by Bella Materna and pj’s by Esme. Baby and toddler bests include Baby Nay, Best of Chums, Luna Luna, Little Giraffe, and Juicy Couture.
Cutest tee: By 2 Chix, this maternity T-shirt comes in a rainbow of colors and is splashed with giggly phrases such as “What’s kicking?” “Oh, boy!” and “Tickled pink!” for $42.
Bump skirt with attitude: By NOM (Naissance on Melrose), a distressed denim skirt made of torn, vintage Levi’s with built-in maternity panel for $126.
Precious booties: Fifteen styles of Ralph Lauren shoes for the under-twos.
Cotton & Lace
814 Sycamore Valley Rd. W., (925) 837-6876,
This warm and friendly boutique houses a variety of individual styles in sizes 6 to 14 from lines such as New York’s Art to Wear, Mel & Lisa, Xiao, Beluva, and Colette Mordo.
Most original jacket: Wearable art by New York’s Florrisant. These short, fitted pieces are decorated with reproductions of works by Matisse, Dalí, and da Vinci. Sometimes reversible, sometimes sheer, these jackets can be dressed up or down and cost roughly $200.
Store mascot: Cotton & Lace has a real-life, in-store dove named Fred who has been charming shoppers for 17 years.
114 E. Prospect Ave., (925) 820-8367,
Teens to thirtysomethings flock to this mother-and-daughter-owned boutique to paw through trendy lines favored by celebrities. Highlights include supersoft sweatpants, shirts, vintage-inspired tees, and tanks with screen-printed artwork, all by 2 B Free. Denim lines, such as True Religion, Joe’s Jeans, and 7 for All Mankind, balance dressier items like halter dresses that convert to strapless by Rachel Pally.
The it-girl pants: Light pink and navy blue bleach-splattered Primp sweatpants (seen hugging the hips of Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton) come complete with rainbows and hearts sewn into the back and cost $132.
Favorite knit: Cashmere and wool sweaters by Lily McNeal. Look out for the V-necked, striped woolen hoodies ($196) that kept Jennifer Aniston cozy on Friends.
Most unusual jeans: By Antik Denim and favored by J.Lo, these jeans feature a western-stitched back pocket and hand-stitched hem, and cost $276.
Sister store: Ella J. recently opened a second store at 2005 Crow Canyon Pl., Ste. 170, in San Ramon, which offers a selection of togs for men, including jeans by 7 for All Mankind and True Religion, and popular rock ’n’ roll–inspired tees.
Escapades 406 Sycamore Valley Rd., (925) 820-9639
Escapades has shaped the wardrobes of women in their mid-thirties to mid-seventies for no less than 18 years. Expect denim by David Kahn and Level 99, and coordinating jackets, pants, and tops by BGN Paris. Oh, and Hanky Panky thongs, too!
Best-seller: The comfortable-beyond-compare cotton gaucho pants by XCVI. They come in white, black, and khaki for around $100.
Fabulous bag: Handbags by Betsey Johnson with brushed gold and Western-inspired details, like studs, buckles, and cargo pockets. They’re available in cream and brown.
169 E. Prospect Ave., (925) 831-9923,
Decorated in pink, white, and black, with chandeliers dripping from its ceiling, this fun and flirtatious boutique feels like a French boudoir. Owned by a stylish mother-and-daughter team, Flaunt caters to fans of both New York and Los Angeles fashions with casual and dressy lines from Citizens of Humanity, 12th Street by Cynthia Vincent, Ella Moss, Theory, Blue Dot, and Laundry by Shelli Segal.
Summer wardrobe: Flaunt carries soft, cotton tees ($55–$80) by Sharon Segal, daughter of celebrity fashion magnate Fred Segal, and funky vintage print tees from Made U Look ($32–$40). Denim shorts, miniskirts, and capris from 575 Denim ($120–$198) feature paint-splattered washes and unique distressing, and fit likeyour favorite pair of old jeans.
Berkeley gems: Colorful 14-karat gold and sterling silver charm necklaces, bracelets, and contemporary chandelier earrings by Berkeley’s own Viv and Ingrid. Incredibly popular, these baubles are now carried nationwide and cost between $30 and $200.
411 Hartz Ave., (925) 362-0813, www.flobell.com
Moving this month from Railroad to Hartz Avenue, this airy boutique, owned by sisters Flora Gemdelman and Bella Mitchell, houses upscale collections from the likes of Gerard Deral, Irene Van Ryb, and Tehen, as well as sought-after bags by Barbara Milano and Amankai.
Most Exotic: The sleek black and brown evening bags made of authentic snake and crocodile skins by a European line called Ancrino, costing about $350.
Look out for: An Argentinian line called Penelope. Its use of silk, fine cottons, and colorful embroidery give a distinct ethnic flair to arty and signature pieces, like a tie-dyed turquoise-and-brown chiffon top.
Sisters’ sister shop: The Flobell sisters opened a second store in Saratoga in 2004.
Forget Me Not
3462 Camino Tassajara, (925) 736-1262
Forget Me Not was born in Berkeley in 1981 with the intention of helping women stay hip and contemporary without looking like teenagers. It moved to Danville in 1998.
The Wares: Jeans by Joe’s Jeans, Citizens of Humanity, and Rock Revival; heavily embroidered tops, skirts, and pants by Johnny Was; embellished stretch-lace tops by Ann Ferriday; jewelry by Chan Lu and Kalan Designs; and high-end leather handbags by Carla Mancini.
Ultraluxe: The new creative line Lulu Lamé. The pearl- and gold-lace-embellished cashmere sweaters and silk tops by this Los Angeles designer range from $125 to $300.
Look out for: Color and print stretch-mesh tops, skirts, and dresses by San Francisco–based clothing line Weston Ware. Formfitting yet forgiving!
408 Hartz Ave., (925) 837-6595
With its floral carpet, pink walls with hand-painted trellises, and antique cabinets and furniture, this 17-year-old boutique oozes Victorian romance.
The Wares: Vintage-inspired clothes, suchas sweaters embellished with faux fur trim and denim jackets with rhinestones and crystal buttons hang elegantly alongside purses, scarves, hats, jewelry, and gift items. Shoppers of all ages will be interested.
Even more vintage: Girlfriend’s also carries vintage-inspired small evening purses. The beaded bags with silver chains come in a rainbow of colors and range from $35 to $40.
The unexpected: It’s not all about frills and bohemian romance here. The boutique also carries modern career outfits with sleeker lines.
Did you know? Girlfriend’s has a sister store in Pleasanton, Apparel & Co. Although it favors a slightly cleaner, less fussy style, most of its clothing lines are the same. The Pleasanton shop boasts hand-knitted sherbet-colored sweaters by Wind River and a great selection of costume jewelry.
The Honey Bee
405 Railroad Ave., (925) 837-1900 \\
Founded in 1972 by mother-and-daughter team Angie and Michelle Pontious, the Honey Bee has kept up with the times. For 30 years, the Bee was buzzing next to Albertsons on Diablo Road until it moved next to Andronico’s on Railroad Avenue last year.
The Wares: Casual to slightly dressier pants, vests, jackets, sweaters, and dresses for a wide range of ages. Even great-grandmas shop here! Crystal-clad jackets and jeans by Nancy Borne; Tommy Bahama favorites; and denim, suede, tweed, and moleskin separatesby City Girl.
Look for: Canadian lines. They’re less expensive than other wares and incredibly well made. Tribal is one such transplant, and it offers a wallet-friendly pair of jeans for just $69.
Vacation time: The Honey Bee has a year-round resort corner filled with colorful, acetate and spandex travel wear by TC; summery stuff by Tommy Bahama; and cropped pants, shirts, and shell-embellished tees by Surya.
Joanna’s Bridal and Tailoring
500 San Ramon Valley Blvd., (925) 552-6675,
This bridal boutique takes care of everyone in the wedding party, from the bride, bridesmaids, and flower girl to the groom, best man, and mother of the bride/groom. There’s even a selection of evening gowns, shoes, and accessories for the guests.
The Wares: Expect simple to billowing wedding gowns from Casa Blanca, La Sposa, Now and Forever, and Sweethearts.
Bridal best-seller: The Capri dress by Maggie Sottero. It’s a strapless, silk taffeta, corset-back gown with a dramatic full skirt and pearl-embellished sweetheart neckline for $830.
All the accoutrements: You can find everything here from shoes and tiaras to ring pillows. There are tuxedos for rent and an alteration service.
140 E. Prospect Ave., (925) 837-1407
Just over a year old, this fabulously bohemian boutique boasts casual and dressy clothes, jewelry, and belts from an impressive collection of European, Asian, and American designers.
The Wares: Asymmetrical graphic tops and full linen skirts with flamingoes in such colors as red with brown and pink from Spain’s Isabel de Pedro, got-to-have basics in Zelda’s impeccably tailored line of separates, fun and funky mix-and-match pieces in bold patterns by cop.copine, artful dresses by Italy’s Save the Queen ($250–$398), and high-end brightly colored Swarovski crystal–encrusted leather belts by Kippy.
Extra credit: Special tummy-tuckdenim by NYDG (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans). With a higher-rise cut around the waist, this jean claims to contour the hips, lift the behind, and enable you to wear a smaller size. That minor miracle costs $90.
Designer Gems: Local designers known as Twisted Silver have created pieces incorporating hammered silver, pieces of cutlery, crystal, and stone.
Sophie’s at Rue 137
398 Hartz Ave., Ste. B, (925) 837-1148
This small, marble-floored boutique is packed with edgy outfits for womenin their thirties, forties, and beyond. There are jeans by Red Engine, Cambio, and Mango Mango; French mohair sweaters by Poles; and stylish blouses by Sarah Pucini.
Best-seller: The black microfiber pants by Blanque. With a loose, almost Asian-style cut, these pants can be worn by just about anyone from size 0 to 16. They’re so flattering and comfy that they fly out the door for $298.
Zip-tastic: Sandy Ortiz, the owner, has a penchant for zippers. Look for sweats with chunky front zippers by Breakfast
175 E. Prospect Ave., Danville,
Here you’ll find a great range of out-of-the-ordinary shoes, boots, and heels at refreshing prices. Plus, you can get a pedicure while you’re shoe shopping, so you leave with both fabulous shoes and pretty toes inside them.
The Wares: Sandals, heels, wedges, and boots by the likes of Steve Madden, Yellow Box, Moda, Seychelles, Bronx, BCBG, and Me Too.
Favorites: An ethnic-inspired flat sandal with a rope sole and beaded top by Matisse ($50), BCBG’s gold, strappy wedge made of metalized linen ($92), and a blue-toned espadrille with a silk ribbon top by Apepazzo ($104).
Sister shop: Tootsies has a sister shop in Rockridge at 5525 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 595-7272. So you can get good shoes on both sides of the tunnel.
Twenty One Tango
100 E. Prospect Ave., (925) 837-2721
Hunting for a bargain? This five-year-old boutique sells the same happening duds you might find in Nordstrom but with much smaller price tags.
The Wares: None of the clothes here are last season’s. Expect current trends from Joe’s Jeans, Rampage, 7 for All Mankind, Blue Cult, Dolce Vida, and Kathy Van Zeeland. There’s also a smattering of generic belts, bags, jewelry, and other accessories.
The Savings: Usually around 20 to 40 percent. While a pair of YMI jeans might set you back $74 in a department store, they’ll run about $45 to $54 at Twenty One Tango.
Twenty One At Home: The shop recently started offering Designer Home Parties, which take their trendy selection of denim and handbags into private homes. In true home-party fashion, the hostess earns a commission on sales.
B. B. Gear
2 Theater Sq., Ste. 110, Orinda, (925) 254-6111
An expertly picked selection of clothes for both work and play hang in this Orinda boutique. A favorite with the over-thirties, it carries everything from shoes, jackets, pants, blouses, and vests to evening dresses from such sophisticated lines as Max Mara Weekend, Magaschoni, Zanella, and Marina Rinaldi.
Sweaters to keep: B. B. Gear prides itself on a variety of hand-loomed cashmere and cotton sweaters by Ball of Cotton and Margaret O’Leary. Whether for casual or special occasions, the knits are unique and cost between $200 and $350.
The Bling: By Dana Kellin of Los Angeles, who is famous for her delicate silver- and gold-wire-wrapped semiprecious-stone necklaces, bracelets, and earrings ranging from $100 to $600.
Lori’s Perfect Tan
Moraga, (925) 376-4433
With summer just around the corner, this 3,000-square-foot vacation boutique is the place to shop. Lori’s Perfect Tan carries year-round cruise and swimwear for men, women, and kids, including everything from swimming goggles and fins to sun hats, beach bags, and jewelry.
The Swim Stuff: All the swimsuits cost less than $100. There are tummy-control suits by Sirena, Hawaiian print tankinis by Leilani, and for the fearless, a selection of sexy Becca bikinis.
Best-seller: The lightweight, washable rayon boardshorts, sundresses, cover-ups, and Hawaiian-print shirts by Santiki.
Better Than Barefoot: Lori’s carries a staggering selection of beach-worthy sandals: more than one thousand pairs in leather and fabric by Reef, Rainbow, Flojos, Groove, and Roxy.
The tan: If winter has left you a little on the pale side, check out the tanning salon. Lori’s offers spray-on Mystic Tan as well as a popular ultraviolet leg tanner.
Did you know? Lori’s carries up to size 26.
Sandy’s A Unique Boutique
3569 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Ste. A, Lafayette, (925) 284-2653, www.sandysuniqueboutique.com
After 28 years in business, this cozy shop has become a Lafayette tradition. Casual capris, tops, decorated sweaters, jackets, and sportswear by the likes of Ixia and Q Point are balanced with prom frocks by Precious Formals and mother of the bride outfits by Spencer Alexis.
Best-seller: The incredibly easy to wear, comfy separates by Jostar. Made of acetate and Lycra, these machine-washable clothes refuse to wrinkle. A three-piece set of pants, tank top, and jacket perfect for your next trip costs $84.
Did you know? Sandy’s Unique Boutique has become a favorite shopping stop for local members of the Red Hat society, a 40,000-chapter-strong worldwide club of women who socialize in flamboyant style by wearing their purple dresses and, well, red hats!
Specialtees, an Erin Paige Boutique
977 Moraga Rd., Lafayette, (925) 283-5114
This 5,000-square-foot fashion feast is the culmination of owner Ann Rubin’s 30 years of experience. Packed with seemingly every label imaginable, Specialtees has managed to become a successful, one-stop shop for high-school girls, their mothers, and their grandmothers.
The Wares: There really is something for every age of trendsetter here, from Michael Stars tees to True Religion jeans to edgy tops and skirts by Trina Turk, and sexy evening dresses by BCBG. Twentysomething Score: Funky handbags by Montreal’s Matt & Nat. These affordable, vegan-friendly bags (made from synthetic “leather”) come in great colors such as bright lime, sky blue, and punk pink, and cost between $65 and $95.
Best-Seller: Gorgeous, embroidered, handmade, fitted sweater-jackets by Nanette Lepore for $395.
Did you know? The boutique is named after Rubin’s two daughters, Erin and Paige.