I am in need of your help. On a recent trip to New York, I was introduced to a cool woman, and we hit it off to such an extent that she is coming out in the end of May to check out Portland. One of the things I noticed about her was that no matter the occasion or the time of day she knew how to dress--the sign of a dedicated fashion shopper. She has already asked me if there is a Lord & Taylor here (I know there isn't), but I'm taking this as a sign of serious interest. There must be plenty of places where cool, sharp women's clothing is sold that I can steer her to, but I don't know any of them. Can you help me out?
What a cliffhanger, fashion standing in the path of true love! Never let it be said that your Look columnist failed to provide sweet salve for the urban shopper's restless itch. No doubt your lady friend appreciates your many fine qualities, but then, she would prefer to appreciate them in a low-heeled Sigerson Morrison satin pump. I understand. That's why I've provided this short list of tips to ease her transition from Manhattan to Portland.
Learn boutique schizophrenia. In a sprawling metropolis like NYC, it's simple to turn to the big, blocklong department stores for a one-stop wardrobe. Here, we know no such thing as the Big Brown Bag. But don't fret, my pet. Different stores serve different urges--Mimi & Lena for girly dresses by Tocca and Diane von Furstenburg, Mercantile for satin cargo pants and Juicy knits, Nordstrom Rack for the odd pair of Cynthia Rowley powder blue mules on mega-sale, Halo Shoes for Costume National come-f$$$-me pumps.
Embrace the mailbox. The Internet and catalogs exist to service far-flung burgs like ours, and it's truly amazing what you can get in the mail. Fashion websites like Girlshop.com and Bluefly.com are stalwart favorites for label markdowns. Ebay has developed whole "stores" that sell nothing but end-runs of Kate Spade, Marni and the rest of the usual crew. Yes, there are fakes out there, but she's too smart for that, isn't she?
Respect your elders. She's not the first fashion babe to get lost in the woods. The dusty boudoirs and padded hampers of our Good Old Houses are crammed with finds: Lilly Pulitzer wrap skirts picked up on a jaunt to Bermuda, an ill-advised Thierry Mugler "new romantic" pantsuit from the '80s, furs, jewels, and scads of so-aged-it's-tasteful schlock. The Oregonian prints a reliable list of estate sales every week. Color-code a Portland map with the ritziest neighborhoods and rev up the buggy (she will need to learn how to drive if she stays Out West).
Go native. Portland thrives with local designers who blend their creativity with a folksy P-town approachability-- banish those spooky visions of Patsy and Edina groveling at the feet of Christian Lacroix. Many clothiers will create a custom garment--even copy one off a page savagely ripped from Vogue--if she asks nicely and tips generously. Having a personal seamstress would be prohibitive in a larger city--here she's giving a sweet young stitcher a leg up and feeding her fashion greed at the same time. Doing good by doing well (isn't that what Nanny taught her)?
Get a shot in the arm. If she needs a couture transfusion, there is Mario's. There is Saks Fifth Avenue. Portland isn't quite the boondocks, since she can still stand outside Tiffany & Co. windows munching a brioche in last night's cocktail dress (it's on Southwest Yamhill Street at 3rd Avenue, by the way).
Halo Shoes 1425 NE Broadway, 331- 0366
Nordstrom Rack 18100 NW Evergreen Parkway, Beaverton, 439- 0900, and other locations
Mercantile 735 SW Park Ave., 223- 6649
Mario's 833 SW Broadway, 241- 5034
Mimi & Lena 823 NW 23rd Ave., 224- 7736
Saks Fifth Avenue 850 SW 5th Ave., 226- 3200
Tiffany & Co., 330 SW Yamhill St., 221- 5565