Stella’s SoHo shopping secrets

Disclaimer: as a non-New Yorker, Stella humbly recognizes that all information below may be inaccurate, out-dated, or frankly irrelevant.

I love shopping in NYC. I love to shop in SoHo. But do not have the budget to match.

However, over the past several years I have learnt to navigate the cute and snooty boutiques and extract some original and stylish bargains. On my most recent trip, I hit the shops in mid-August – an excellent shopping season for those who can keep shopping through the heat. Everyone is desperate to empty limited retail space ready for the fall. So here are my naïve, non-New Yorker tips.

Preparation
It is critical that any shopper has the stamina for a two- to three-hour trek, which necessitates a good lunch. I am a big fan of the Spring Street Natural Restaurant, which has a great selection of vegetarian foods and is not overpriced. A glass of carrot juice and grilled tofu in a lemon sauce with green beans and jasmine rice put me in good stead.

Route
I go back along Spring Street to the intersection with Crosby so I can make a quick stop for a Muji product at the MoMA store. In England, there are several Muji stores in London and Manchester, but here, in the tiny old US of A I have to make do with the basement of the MoMA store. If we follow Plato’s notion of ideal objects, then Muji has pretty much produced the ideal pen, the ideal notebook, and the perfect eraser. (Dave B – I can only hope this is an accurate interpretation of my college philosophy classes.)

First real stop is tutu at 55 Spring Street. The store is cute as a button and I get a lovely blue t-shirt for $20. Sadly, I wore it that night at Café Joule, splashed olive oil on it and it’s been waiting for that special attention handwash in my laundry basket for weeks. (N.B. next door is Ceci-Cela—a fabulous French patisserie.)

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I move along with excitement to Nancy Koltes. This chi-chi home furnishing/clothes store has the best $20 sale rack ever. On previous trips I got fabulous pyjamas, a red cashmere camisole, and Tour Eiffel juice glasses. But I arrive and I’m surprised that they’ve expanded. And, horror of horrors, no $20 rack. No $4 glasses. No SoHo bargains.

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I am marginally consoled at the Crumpler store at 45 Spring Street. Not only do I get a nifty camera case for $5, but they are giving away the tiniest match boxes ever.

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It’s time to get serious. I head to the Henry Lehr store at 11 Prince Street, between Elizabeth and Bowery. First I go into the t-shirt store where they are selling select stock for $10. I get one short-sleeved and two long-sleeved tops by Christine Lehr and Petit Bateau. They’re cotton and simple and $30 for three. I’m happy.

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Then into Henry Lehr proper, my favorite jeans store. They give you an honest opinion about your ass in various jeans. These are real men—men who are not afraid to answer the question “does my ass look big?” The sale is skewed toward the skinnier gal, but I squeeze into a pair of size 27 James jeans for half price/$80. Let’s not get into the definition of bargain. I have to come back the next day to get the tailor/manager to prep them for alteration, but they’re so nice and so good, it’s worth it.

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At this point I’m in full shopping binge mode. I once read that when a shopper makes the first purchase of the day they move from browsing mode to acquisition mode and then they can’t stop. I can’t stop. I regret not having time to stop and relax at Café Gitane, but there’s no time.

I wander up Elizabeth. At Jirisuda (248 Elizabeth Street) I find a very nice SoHo bargain. It’s a handmade t-shirt with a screen print by a Mexican graphic artist, Macu. It’s $48 and worth every penny, because it feels special, summery, and looks cute. When I get home, I even find my bra can be reconstructed to work with the back. Jirisuda is quite an interesting store—most of it is not me, but there’s always something. I regret passing up a vermillion netted dress the last time because I couldn’t think where to wear it. Life is too short not to create those opportunities.

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I need to stop spending. I got a lot for $183 (in SoHo currency), but then I see an opportunity to expand my stash. In Nancy Koltes they had lovely silky headbands, but they were an outrageous $40. I stop outside Daily 235 on Mott and on the $1 table I get three headbands and a diamante hairpin and a Virgin Mary bracelet for a friend. This totally rebalances my expenditures. Suddenly the cost per item of the whole trip plummets.

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My day is done and I end it in the only way possible. I display my wares to an attentive audience which validates my trip, my assessment of the bargains, and that my ass is just perfect in those jeans.

The next morning I have to make one quick trip to West 8th Street, between Fifth and Avenue of the Americas. On the best block for shoe shopping, I get $40 knee-high boots and $20 sparkly slippers. They apparently get out last winter’s boot stock in August. Good to know. But most stores on that block don’t open until noon, which was probably just as well.

Conclusion
Pretty blue t-shirt $20
Three t-shirts/tops $30
James jeans $80
Designer tank-top $48
4 hair accessories and one bracelet $5
Boots $40
Sparkly slippers $20

Value of goods: $195
Average cost per item: $15
Momentary illusion that I live in New York and shop in SoHo: Priceless

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9 responses to “Stella’s SoHo shopping secrets”

  1. Dave says:

    Loved this post. You are amuch better SoHo shopper than this new New Yorker.

  2. bryan says:

    WOW. nice jeans (ass included).

    will you take me shopping somehow next time you’re up here? I agree with Dave. I’m not as skilled — not even close. I do love the idea of taking an average at the end of the day.

  3. Adriana says:

    One of the things I love about New York is that it’s a different city for every person who experiences it. I love hearing about other people’s New York — it’s the city that almost can be all things to all people.

  4. WW says:

    Based on your most excellent sugggestions, I went to Daily 235 on Friday. The headbands are still there! I scored a lovely Pucci-esqe band that I wore the rest of the day, and felt like I belonged among all the fashion week fashionistas.

  5. Stella says:

    I’m so glad! Sometimes $1 can actually go a long way.

    Bryan – I’ve never done boy clothes shopping, but we can try…

  6. Slade says:

    stelllLA! — my, what a great ass you have….

    you should charge for that shopping trip — and perhaps for that ass too.

  7. Lisa Parrish says:

    Oh, believe me, she charges for that ass.

  8. Just ask Lisa Tremain.

  9. Lisa Tremain says:

    Wait just a minute, here. I am an engaged woman and I have never had the pleasure of being charged for Stella’s ass (but it does look nice).