BEST KIDS' BOUTIQUE 2007 | This Little Piggy Wore Cotton | Shopping & Services | Phoenix
We know what you're thinking: "Quit wasting my time. Everyone knows the best place to buy kids' clothing is Target."

Yeah, yeah, we've been on that Target high, too. And so have you, and you, and you, and you — and we know that because last week on the playground, six little girls were all wearing the same Circo dress. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes — like on The First Day of School, or Picture Day, or a major national holiday — we like to break away and dress our kid in something that didn't cost less than $5.99. And for those occasions, you can find us in our version of hog heaven, This Little Piggy Wore Cotton.

The shop features all the high-end regulars, like Baby Lulu, but our favorite items come from the Piggy's own collection: Comfy cotton items in everything from dresses to itty-bitty boxer shorts (they even make those in adult sizes), printed with patterns that change seasonally. Our current favorite is the crazy-looking Chinese dragon on a bright turquoise background. We're also partial to the pink toile (not sure that pattern comes in boxers).

You can also find a wonderful variety of accessories, books and other must-haves — all stuff that they don't sell at Target, not even in a knock-off. Not yet, anyway.

T-shirts with bike prints that expand the eco-consciousness. Skirts dolled up with kitschy flower patterns. Hand-sewn, hippie-friendly hemp bags and wallets.

These are just some of the items you'll find at the Collectively Operated Local Artists Boutique (C.O.L.A.B.). More than a dozen artists communally run the space dedicated to serving the community with handmade fashions and accessories for men, women and children. Approximately 95 percent of the hippie-dippy goods are handmade by local designers such as Sticker Club Girl Fashions and Spraygraphic Apparel. Since there's no middle man or woman, those earrings, lingerie and hats are sold to the public at very affordable prices. The space also features monthly First Friday exhibits with an emphasis on textile design.

Boyfriend/girlfriend textile duo Cory Hazlett and Jen Davis decided to ditch the pre-fabricated, rent-heavy storefront concept for a more personalized approach. Hazlett and Davis sew a variety of hot threads from their home, then ship to any address nationally or internationally. Every Black Cherry item is handmade, ranging from men's Civil Disobedience T-shirts bearing snarky comments like "We Didn't Give Up on America, America Gave Up on U.S." to women's accessories. Halter, strapless, and "pretty pin-up" dresses are customized based on measurements, and the kids' line includes made-to-order sundresses for girls and bowling shirts for boys, all which are available through online and mail ordering.
It's pretty easy for chicks when they want to sauce up the old wardrobe. The options for tops alone are endless. Tube top, halter top, tank top, spaghetti strap, empire waist — and so on. But for dudes, it's button-up, collared or T. It's no wonder that they rely on color, pattern and printed designs so heavily. On Mill Avenue, there's now a mecca for interesting T-shirts, Brand X Store. Not only do they sell their own zany T's, but customers can walk in with personal designs and have a custom T-shirt printed right on the spot. Soon enough, there will be enough variety around this town that the girls are going to get jealous.
Want the latest jeans design by True Religion? Then get your butt down to Chandler and wiggle it into a pair — or try another brand, like Rich & Skinny or People's Liberation. Moody Blues has dozens of options, all designed to show off your rear and lighten your wallet, but hey, for some people, finding the perfect pair of jeans really is a religious experience. This place has the blues — and a few reds and blacks, too, as well as hats, jackets, shoes — even home accessories.

Not that anyone's going to be looking around your house, with the rear view you'll be offering.

Where else can you find professional athletes competing against B-movie actors competing against aging talk-show hosts — all broadcast on a hit TV show — other than in the arena of ballroom dancing? Thanks to Dancing with the Stars, ballroom is hot hot hot right now. And we've discovered the place in the Valley to get the most important equipment you will need for America's newest favorite "sport" — dancing shoes.

Suede soles and heel height seem to be the most important factors for the serious dancer, and if you mean business, you're in luck here. From casual "social dancers" to the most competitive of the ballroom crowd, folks are heading to this Tempe store for their extensive selection.

We've gotta warn you, this place isn't easy to find. After more than three years at this location, Great American still doesn't have a sign over its door (evidently, it doesn't need one). Sandwiched between a nail salon and a wedding shop in this nondescript (formerly Michael's) plaza, you will find only a small sign on the door as a welcome.

Inside, you'll know you're in the right place: There are walls of men's and women's styles to choose from — from the sensible black "practice shoe" to full on blinged-out sandals. Anything you don't find can be special-ordered. You'd better really wanna swing and salsa, though, as the average price runs $140 a pair (they do have some clearance styles). Totally worth the price tag, the die-hards tell us.

You've skipped your daily dose of Starbucks for a month to buy those half-off Guccis you've been eyeing, only to snap a heel on the first wearing. Never fear; Tony's Shoe Repair will fix your heels faster than you can say "Manolo." Fixing kicks in the Valley since 1940, Tony's Shoe Repair is the insider fashion secret that keeps last year's Prada looking like this year's fashion must-have. With locations in Park Central and Christown Spectrum malls and Old Town Scottsdale, Tony's can rework a heel, a sole, a sneaker, a boot, and everything in between, with same-day service if you're lucky. Don't throw away those sad, one-heeled Guccis; bring them to Tony's. Your high-heel emergency will be our little secret.
Nothing says 1984 (to us, at least) quite like a trip through the Lilly Pulitzer time machine. We're sure the brand has been updated since our high school preppy days, but not that we can tell, walking through the relatively new L.P. outpost in Scottsdale. All pink and green, all the time, harkening back to the days we felt the need to layer a pale pink button-down over a green polo shirt over a hot pink polo shirt. In Phoenix, in September. Yes, we were sweating and stiff, but hey, it was the only way to really pull together that pink-and-green belt. You know, the one with the cute little frogs on it. That kind of thing now makes us a little nauseated (and sweaty), but if you're into it now (and we know you're out there; we've seen you walking to La Grande Orange, polo collars proudly turned up) head to the Borgata for some pink grosgrain and tiny palm tree prints.
With so many people confusing "old" with "retro" and "retro" with "vintage," it's refreshing to have a place like Gold Lion, where true vintage lovers — and newbies, too — can sate the craving for a '70s romper or a '60s swimsuit. Simply, vintage means a rare item at least 20 years old.

Owner Emily Blanche has hit on several keys to success in the resale world: location, inventory and price. Unlike some other vintage shops we were really rooting for (rest in peace, La Dolce Vintage), Gold Lion's actually got a good, accessible location in central Phoenix. And on top of that, once you get into the place, it's tough to leave. The selection is just that good. It's a relatively small space, but it's easy to waste an hour or so in the store playing dress- up with the hundreds of sundresses, heels, belts and purses, as well as the random kitsch floating around, like a brass unicorn statue we spotted recently. The inventory leans mostly toward '60s, '70s and '80s (yes, some '80s items are vintage now... even though we can remember them from the first time around), and best of all, Blanche has done an awesome job at making sure the store is stocked with a variety of sizes, not an easy thing to do in the vintage biz. The shop turns a year old in January — here's hoping Blanche makes it.

Sadly, we can't afford the children's boutique at Neiman Marcus. Not even the sale rack. Not even the sale rack at the N.M. outlet. That's where Small Change comes in. We swear, every bored wealthy mom between Fountain Hills and Paradise Valley must bring her kids' barely worn clothes, shoes and toys here — that's how plentiful the merch is. Everything's in great shape and, somehow, still in fashion. One of our favorite scores of late is a three-piece ensemble — jean jacket, black tee and tulle skirt — all trimmed in hot pink leopard print, with "ROCK" embroidered on the back of the jacket.

Our only disappointment is that Small Change refuses all clothing from Target. Old Navy, too. And even the good stuff we had, they gave back — too worn. That's okay, we don't blame them. We know we're not worthy. Just let us keep shopping there, okay?

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