By Rose Behar – March 30, 2011
Price, atmosphere, quality, and style: these are the four essentials to consider in rating a good boutique. Without consideration of these four simple factors, shopping advice can so easily go awry. Miscommunication over subjective terms such as “cheap” and “high-quality” run rampant among gushing girls. But have no fear, Halifax shoppers: after scouring the town, we’ve analyzed every trendy young boutique in the Port City. No more will you make the trip across town to check out a “great new shop” only to find that it’s a minimalist cube sparsely decorated with a few unimpressive tank tops. No more will you arrive at your destination and realize every item is aggressively out of your price range. And absolutely never again will you have to pretend to admire a pair of hand-crafted dream-catcher earrings while edging towards the closest exit. It’s time for our pick of the six best boutiques in Halifax. Below, in no particular order, learn why they’re worth a stop in for your shoppin’.
The Black Market
Why it makes the cut: Its accessories. Unique and effortlessly cultural, they have become its main draw
as the shop has changed and morphed over its 23-year existence.
Atmosphere: Fun, warm, and incense-y.
Price range: As friendly to your wallet as the hippie staff are to their customers. This is one of those places
where you can pick up something great for just a toonie.
Quality: The quality exceeds expectations. Although their Thai-imported dresses and shirts may not last long, they are inexpensive and surprisingly trendy. Most of this store’s stuff is imported from areas such as India, Bali, and Thailand. That the hand-crafted wooden ring you buy will not be a dime a dozen.
Menswear: None in specific, but the fashionisto can always find much in the way of androgynous jewellery.
24 Twenty Eight
Why it makes the cut: Because of its urban cool attitude towards fashion, with hip off-duty surfer-wear from lines such as Warriors of Radness, Kill City, and Groggy.
Atmosphere: Fresh to death. They don’t have a large stock yet, as the shop opened his August, but there’s enough good stuff to make a trip worthwhile. The owners, Lee Fraser and Logan Hudak, are also quite the Halifax renaissance men: both also DJ by night. Price range: Pricey, but can go as low as $20 for some tees.
Quality: High. Fraser describes himself as very picky when it comes to the right brands, saying that before opening the boutique “both myself and my partner shopped exclusively online.”
Menswear: Yes, and plenty of it.
The Clothes Horse
Why it makes the cut: It’s the most consistently excellent vintage store in a city brimming with them.
Atmosphere: Organized, pleasant, clean. This store is perfect for vintage browsing: the staff are friendly and helpful, able to pull off giving you advice without being annoying.
Price range: Affordable. Most casual clothing is priced between the range of $12 and $40.
Quality: For a vintage shop, the quality is impeccable. Owner Merle Bryant prefers to buy vintage with the tags still on, a refreshing change from the many Value Village-style second-hand shops around the city.
Style: Interesting and unique pieces are everywhere in the store, and the variation of types of style is also extremely wide.
No menswear here, but they do sell jewelry and occasionally children’s items.
Why it makes the cut: It’s a high-end boutique with high-end goods that overcome its high-end price tag.
Atmosphere: Expensive and designer. At times it can feel snobby, but that is to be expected with any high-end boutique. To avoid raised eyebrows from the staff, use your indoor voice and try not to touch too many things.
Price Range: Expensive. One could easily blow hundreds here.
Quality: Foreign Affair carries some very big name designers such as Alice + Olivia, Elie Tahari, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Ca Va De Soi, so the high price tag makes some sense. The boutique is also one of the only places in the city that carries designer denim. Chronicle-Herald fashion correspondent Eva Hoare says Foreign Affair is among her top boutique picks for this reason. “It’s like a mini trip to Saks,” she says.
Style: Good quality, good material, new ideas. The cutting-edge designers offer only the hottest trends.
Dressed in Time
Why it makes the cut: You never know what you’re going to get.
Atmosphere: Eclectic, novel, unique. The out-of-theway store is brimming with spectacular finds, costume wear and gimmicky ironic hipster apparel. It would be somewhere the average fashionista could lose themselves for days. However, in doing so they would inevitably come in contact with the owners, who staff the store primarily and are decidedly moody individuals. One day you’re laughing together over a vintage pipe, the next you find yourself banned from trying on a skirt because you might “stretch it.” These types of insults have led to a few indefinite boycotts from patrons, but most go back.
Price range: Affordable: shirts range around $20. It can get more expensive when dealing with formal vintage or costume wear.
Quality: Some of their stuff is a little worse for wear, but that is hardly escapable with quirky vintage wear.
Style: Always unique and interesting. You won’t go wrong with a Dressed In Time purchase.
Menswear: One of the few stores where menswear is present, and extremely well-represented.
Other items sold: Novelty items such as pipes and compacts.
Why it makes the cut: It offers timeless looks for ladies of all sizes.
Atmosphere: Classic, pretty, simple. Owner Cadence Macmichael describes the boutique as “very girly and very feminine.” Macmichael says one of her main reasons for opening the boutique was inclusion: to make a place where any woman, from size 2 to 26, could go to shop for classic and flattering items. Laura McLean, writer of the blog “A Fashionista’s Guide to Halifax,” calls Pretty Things one of her favourite boutiques, gushing that “Pretty Things holds a special place in my heart for carrying plus sizes and being so fun.”
Price range: Reasonable for the high-quality dresses it stocks. An average frock is around the $120, but sales prices can go as low as $50 a dress.
Style: The 50s- and 60s-inspired clothing sold at Pretty Things isn’t that unique, but that they are timeless and will last a lifetime. A fitted cocktail dress à la Mad Men’s Joan Holloway can never go wrong. Other Items: Vegan and paraben-free cosmetics are another draw to the store, as well as jewellery and other vintage-inspired knick-knacks.