Brand X
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.

Great American Dancing Shoes
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.

Tony's Shoe Repair
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.

Small Change
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?

The Trunk Space
The Trunk Space's JRC and Steph are always up to something cool. And lately, they've found a new funky fashion stream of consciousness. Swap-o-Rama is a national thingy that pit-stops in Phoenix on Grand Ave. Just grab your crazy clothes and hand-me-downs that are meant for Goodwill or the Second Hand Rose in your family, and tramp on down to the Trunk Space the next time they host Swap-o-Rama. Throw your stuff into the pile of fabric, and mix and match your favorites until you find the pieces of your almost ready-to-wear puzzle. Take your new load to one of the local sewing machine pirates standing by, and watch as they bodkin and rip up old seams and create a new outfit for you, per your instructions, using the clothes you picked out from the community cauldron.

The idea behind the do-it-yourself workshops comes from artist Wendy Tremayne, who wants communities to explore the reuse of recycled clothing and stop textile waste.

It's like the Build-A-Bear workshop fucked a Mongolian BBQ grill and then inbred with a Christmas Cookie Party and a White Elephant gift exchange — then spawned all-fabric offspring. And we love it.

Most of us might be a little squeamish about digging through the treasures of the recently deceased or even just tromping through the homes of folks who are on their way out of town for good, but lucky for us, the nice guys over at Michael Todd's are not. They use their discerning eye for good design and collectible treasures on our behalf, and pick out the best furniture, linens, and odds and ends from better homes all over town. Then they schlep it all back to their new location over on East Camelback Road, where they carefully arrange it all in such a manner that we see the beauty in every corner. Just ask the hallway in our home, which now sports a giant gilt-framed mirror and side table that we never would have had the nerve to dicker with Granny over. Here's to Michael Todd's, a store that boldly goes where we care not to, in search of wonderfully, gently used furnishings to brighten our homes.
It's a mean old world and when things start to get us down, we head not for our favorite watering hole (or the roof) but straight for Seventh Avenue, where we know great treasures and low prices await us. We start at Seventh and Thomas for a quick run through Willo Antiques, where high-end antiques at affordable prices always tempt us.

Then we scurry out the door and, heading north, stop off at Brandeis University Bookstore (3343 North Seventh Avenue), where we always find at least one slim volume to add to our personal library. Continuing up the street, we crash our favorite thrift shop, Flo's on 7th (4116 North Seventh Avenue), just north of Indian School, where we load up on housewares (last time, our big score was a dozen Mikasa crystal goblets and a set of Norleans china, for which we paid next to nothing; thank you, Flo!). A mad dash into Rust and Roses (4200 North Seventh Avenue) and Retro Redux (4303 North Seventh Avenue) to make sure they don't have that elusive teacart we've been searching for since the 1980s (and maybe, like last time, to add to our collection of tiki vases) precedes a leisurely stroll through Home Again, where we're bound to find some big honking piece of gorgeousness that will necessitate our shifting every stick of furniture back home to make room for it.

Then we pop in to Hollywood Regency (right around the corner at 708 West Montecito), because owner Heidi Owens has the exact same taste that we do, and we always end up maxing out our credit card there because, well, we want to own everything in her store. A quick peek into Qcumberz (4429 North Seventh Avenue) and Figs (4501 North Seventh Avenue), where we get our shabby-chic fix for the day, and we wind up our afternoon exhausted but happy at White Dove Thrift (5035 North Seventh Avenue), where we always score something (most recently, a giant punch bowl set for $18 and a box of funky silver napkin rings for five bucks). Who needs Tanqueray when there's a whole stretch of city filled with so many intoxicating, happy-making bargains?

Best Of Phoenix®

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