Where have the budget boutiques gone?

Our fashion maven's search begins in Fremont but winds up elsewhere.
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The Frock Shop in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. (Frock Shop)

Our fashion maven's search begins in Fremont but winds up elsewhere.

Spring is a magical time in Seattle. The trees are in bloom, gardens begin to erupt with colors, and we revel in the warmth of the occasional sunbursts. Springtime is also the time when we look into our typical Northwest closets full of black and tan and think, "Can my wardrobe be any more boring?" My job as an image consultant is to teach lessons that will change the way my clients dress, the way they shop, and, as I like to tell them, ultimately enable them to "present your best you." Part of this process is making an effort every season to assess our wardrobes to make sure things fit properly, don't look too dated, and make us feel great every time we walk out the door. As I looked into my own closet and sighed, I realized it was time to set forth and practice what I preach. I went on a mission to find a few current, kicky pieces to update my spring wardrobe. I knew, having grown up in the Northwest, that Fremont was the place to go for inexpensive clothes that aren't seen everywhere else. So I went to Fremont to check out the boutiques. I had some parameters: I was looking for a flirty spring/summer dress for under $100, I didn't really want to spend over $300 in total, I needed to find size 10/12 bottoms and 14 or XL tops, and it all had to be age appropriate for an almost-40-year-old so that I would feel comfortable wearing each piece. As I perused the shops, I realized that Fremont still fits the bill for having great boutiques with unusual merchandise. The quality of the merchandise has risen exponentially. Unfortunately, the prices have as well. I was a bit stunned by the lack of size range and the cost of most everything. So that led to the question: Where, oh where have the budget boutiques gone? After much research (and driving around all over Seattle), I found a few shops that I consider to be great budget boutiques. The majority of merchandise these stores carry is appropriate for women ranging in age from 20- to 40-something and is priced under $100. These three shops also carry at least a minimal selection of 12/XL, which can generally compensate a grown woman's curves.

  • Frock Shop, 6500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103 Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The owner, Suzie, is a former fashion designer for Nordstrom who got tired of not being able to afford clothes in boutiques for herself. She has a great selection of new dresses, tops, and skirts that tend to have a vintage vibe. I find the vintage vibe instantly adds a bit more maturity to the current styles. She even has a small plus-size section. There are pretty fabrics and fun designs. I didn't find anything on my first visit, but two of my clients did. Suzie says she adds new inventory weekly, so I'll definitely be checking back.
  • Damsalfly, 5346 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle, WA 98107 Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m. This tiny shop is nestled between two more-expensive boutiques. Damsalfly carries mostly junior sizes, so for me it took some trying to find stuff that fit. They do carry some XL sizes and Tina, the shopkeeper, knows the cuts well and can tell you if something will fit your body type or not. I found a cute red striped top with ruffles, a fabulous stretch denim pencil skirt (that I plan to wear the heck out of), and a fun necklace all for under $100.
  • Kick It Boots and Stompwear, 2607 N.W. Market St., Seattle, WA 98107 Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m. This place specializes in boots under $150, but they also have a selection of apparel. The owner, Angela, says she tries to get in at least one XL in every design. I really liked the sundresses here. There were none left in my size, but they had some cute ones for around $60. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to stop thinking about a pair of sassy red and brown cowboy boots on sale for $65 (really not part of my current budget, but oh so tempting).
There are a couple of shops in West Seattle that aren't inexpensive but are worth mentioning because they have great sale racks (lovely items marked down substantially). Sale racks can be hit or miss, but a solid hit would be a lovely, well-constructed cocktail dress for under $100. These shops are Carmilia's at 4528 California Ave. S.W. and Sweetie at 4508 California Ave. S.W. Let springtime be the catalyst for adding some color to your everyday life. This morning it is sunny outside (hopefully for at least 30 minutes or so) and I'm wearing my fun colorful top I bought at Damsalfly for $24. It's amazing what a cheap top can do to add some zip to a pair of jeans and Chucks. Now that you have the short list of budget boutiques, you can go forth and shop without worrying about breaking the bank on pieces you may be wearing for just a season or two.   

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