Welcome back to the Where I Shop Series where I take you into my closet, show you pieces of my wardrobe, tell you where they came from and offer you shopping tips for a variety of shopping experiences. If you missed the first installment, you can catch up right here: shopping tips when you’re shopping at TJ Maxx.
Today we’re going to talk about boutique shopping. There’s a lot to love about boutiques but they can be tricky too. Let’s explore!
My early experience shopping boutiques
Shopping boutiques used to be the only way I shopped. But that was way back in the day.
What day? It was back when I was married and the kids were young.
Two things changed everything.
One: One of the pre-school moms talked me into having my colors done.
Two: A long distance friend came to visit and eagerly shared all the things she’d been learning about fashion and style from an image consultant in her hometown 500 miles away. I was fascinated.
This was between 1983 and 1988. I was a young, stay at home mom, about ten years into a marriage with three little kids and not a lot of time.
There were two boutiques in San Anselmo, my hometown, and two in downtown Mill Valley that suited my new found style perfectly.
I’d say I was a good boutique shopper. I shopped carefully. I added pieces to my wardrobe slowly. Store personnel had great product knowledge of their stock. (I LOVE product knowledge!)
I started growing my wardrobe with pieces I loved. It didn’t take many items to feel totally satiated. I loved having clothes that were high quality and sophisticated. I looked in the mirror and loved and respected the woman looking back at me. This was great for me it but marked the beginning of the end of my marriage.
Jackets from boutiques
Why boutique shopping became less appealing
I chased my dream to become an image consultant and started my business in 1985. One thing I did not want my clients to experience was a panic attack about shopping for a fashion season versus picking things up here and there all season long like they used to do. What if after we shopped together they woke up the next morning wondering, “What the heck have I done?”
I wanted my clients to feel 100% confident that if they got scared they could take everything back the next day and get their money back. I started to look at boutique shopping differently.
The big glitch in shopping boutiques is their unfriendly return policy. If you purchase an item, it’s yours. Some boutiques will allow returns within a few days but only for store credit, not cash back. If you’re paying attention to a budget, it can be a big blow if you buy things in haste and then have regrets.
Tips for shopping boutiques
While boutique shopping may work well for certain people and their lifestyle, it may be prudent to lean on it as a source and not the only source. So here are some tips I have for shopping boutiques.
- Go in expecting no return options. Figure out in the store how this item can work into your wardrobe.
- Be very careful about boutique shopping with friends if you’re easily influenced by others. They can talk you into things they love on you but when you get home, you look at them and realize you’ve made a mistake. I have one client who has put a stop to making purchases while shopping with her friends because those items seldom worked out. It’s easy to get pressured in to do things you wouldn’t normally do on your own.
- If you’re unsure about an item, go home and sleep on it. If you wake up still thinking about it, chances are it’s safe to go and buy it knowing you’ll be happy. You could also wake up feeling totally relieved that you didn’t spend the money because you realize it really wasn’t what you needed.
- Boutiques can be great places to find signature pieces. I’m so very happy with the Calleen Cordero leather cuffs and handbags that I’ve purchased at Robindra Unsworth in Petaluma. I like the look and know that I wear them a lot. I can trust myself to add another piece to my wardrobe and have it work with ease.
- Boutiques can be good sources of novelty pieces. I’m talking unique items you don’t find on department store racks. I purchased the long blue crinkled jacket and the yellow asymmetrical one (above) at two different boutiques and get compliments on them all the time.
Jewelry from boutiques
I love bracelets, bangles and cuffs and look for them everywhere. I told you last week about the ones I found at TJ Maxx, but I am willing to buy one now and then at a boutique (and pay more) because I know it will fit into my mix.
The source for this fringed Italian bracelet above is Hutchinson Jewelry in Larkspur Landing.
In the pictures above you’ll see the two leather cuffs I mentioned by Calleen Cordero. I wear the metallic blond one a lot in the summer and the black one gets used a lot in both winter and summer.
Handbags from Boutiques
I’m not big on buying handbags with designer labels on them. They don’t suit my wine country living and my more relaxed style. My favorites have come from boutiques.
When I first started wearing clothes that were right for my coloring and my style, I shopped at boutiques. It was easier to shop in a small store that wasn’t packed with merchandise that distracted me. These small boutiques were well edited for my taste. Another important note is that my boutique shopping was being sponsored by my husband’s income.
Things changed: divorce, relocation, fear of turning into a bag lady, learning how to earn my own living, taking care of my family and all that. As I got into my career I got more and more style savvy.
Fashion also changed. People aren’t as loyal to single designers. We’re mixing things up much more. I like creating high-low looks: some items in an outfit may be on the expensive side while others are from discount sources. By staying true to my style, I can make things look great no matter what the price tag. I’ll shop at boutiques but with great discretion.
How do you shop these days? Do you buy things from several resources? Have you had luck at boutiques? What don’t you like about boutiques? Please share!
My current “Where I Shop” boutique sources
Calleen Cordero’s West Hollywood location on the Sunset Strip (been there, big fun!)
Robindra Unsworth in Petaluma where I’ve purchased handbags and cuffs
Hutchinson Jewelry in the Country Mart in Larkspur Landing (tiny space with lots of mouth watering jewelry pieces)
J.James in Sonoma for clothes, jewelry, scarves, bags, and small gifts
Studio Collections Jewelry in Sonoma, CA (great jewelry which has worked well for several clients and me too!)
Specialtees Boutique in Lafayette (Interesting separates, some designer jean labels, Eileen Fisher, well edited lifestyle store)
Junction Shoes in San Anselmo (European designs and great belts)