Dallas has a long tradition of meaningless membership requirements, mostly because of antiquated liquor laws. But membership at REI outfitters is actually a tangible benefit. Your 15 bucks get you back 10 percent of your money at the end of the year, and they also help support REI's impressive wilderness conservation efforts. But the real benefit of REI is the selection. Not everybody needs a $600 North Face triple-layer Gore-Tex jacket, but they've got it just in case. Even better, they've got the $80 REI brand alternative. REI is also one of the only places, if not the only place, around these parts that rents good outdoor gear at decent prices. Just the fact that the store will rent you a tent you're going to use once, instead of forcing you to buy it, is enough to justify a trek to this store.
Most of the hard part of shopping has been done for you at Ahab Bowen. The clothes here have been inspected for coolness at least twice, first by the original owner and second by the store's buyers. If you find something you like, the chances of having friends and acquaintances run screaming in horror are correspondingly small. Despite the arrival of heavyweight competition in the form of "vintage" boutiques around town, this small Boll Street shop still reigns supreme atop the retro-cool heap, relying on quality instead of quantity.
Krimson & Klover
Entrepreneurial sisters Kathryn and Kristin Anderson started this Soho-esque shop featuring up-and-coming designers two years ago in an old house near Uptown. The idea seems to be silky, lacy, colorful girly-girl clothes that make any damsel feel like flirting. Slip a soft shrug over a lacy camisole. Or pair a flowing tunic with embroidered vintage jeans. You'll also find one-of-a-kinds, like bolero jackets made of vintage Mexican fabrics. We're not talking work clothes here, unless your place of employment is the set of Desperate Housewives.
Designer T-shirts and their hefty price tags may confuse a certain subset of shoppers (you know the type--they're the same people who actually balance their checkbooks). Fifty-dollar T-shirts? What, are they dipped in gold? No, silly, but they are so cu-ute. Witness Cheeky tees, a line of T-shirts emblazoned with pithy sayings such as "Go Ahead and Stare," "Juicier" and "Gotta Lota Flava." We hear Jessica "Daisy Duke" Simpson is a fan of the brand. And who needs a better testimonial than that? In any case, the best place to get your Cheeky on is Mesho at Mockingbird Station. This boutique features a wide variety of other designer lines, and there's a clearance section that is rather tempting. Seriously, we almost bought a studded trucker cap just because it had a slash through the original price tag. Why? Because we have a problem. If, unlike us, the therapy you need is of the retail variety, check out Mesho. The service is friendly, and we like the dressing rooms, too.
The motto: "Think Women. Think Pink." Well, this boutique's merchandise is not necessarily pink, but it's definitely ultra-feminine underthings that any woman worth her push-up bra would appreciate. And any man who can't find a nightie or teddy here that his honey will not only adore but actually wear has been watching too many episodes of Nip/Tuck. Elegant silk nightgowns and matching robes almost look suitable for a night on the town, and lacy bras and panties from European designers leave Victoria's Secret in the dust. The "spa wear" (who knew there was such a thing?) is great for lounging around in at home. Ask owner LoriLynne Ross about setting up a private party or bridal shower.
In the fetish-inspiring shoe departments at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, finding glamorous, sexy, trendy or investment-worthy shoes is a breeze. But finding shoes you don't want to fling off your aching tootsies into a corner the moment you get home ain't easy. At this tiny shop tucked into the backside of Inwood Village, you'll find the biggest selection of women's Birkenstocks and Danskos in the city. Classic Birkenstocks--open-toed sandals and clunky clogs--are comfy. But this store proves that the earth-mama look has changed. In addition to the perennials, Heart & Sole has Birkenstock sandals with colors, patterns and trims that look positively trendy, in a quiet, let's-not-get-all-excited kind of way. You won't find any high heels, but some Dansko pumps and boots provide a lift without leading to foot cramps by 3 p.m. And the red patent clogs? Get in line.

Readers' Pick
DSW Shoe Warehouse Multiple locations
Emeralds to Coconuts
There's really no denying it--the mall sucks. Who wants to max out a credit card amidst the aroma of overpriced cinnamon rolls? So what's a woman in need of clothes to do? Her best option is Emeralds to Coconuts, a clothing/accessories/gift shop that will make a girl forget about all those other bad places. Emeralds' selection is diverse in style and size, which means no worries of being a Target clone. The help is friendly and talented, proven this summer when shop girls Jessica and Ruth put together the "

Readers' Pick
" outfit in the Dallas Observer's makeover contest. And the atmosphere is welcoming and comforting--no bad lighting or fast-food fumes. All those flouncy, folky gypsy and peasant styles clogging the pages of the fall mags? This shop has had those glad rags hanging on the racks for years. At affordable prices. Ladies, seriously, could you ask for more?

Readers' Pick
Neiman Marcus Multiple locations
OK, it's really a small room in an office building near Mockingbird Station. But work with us here. One wall is covered with a giant photograph of a lovely beach, complete with palm trees and pristine blue water. Artwork depicting a placid whale adorns another. Ask massage therapist Marci Novak to play the CD with the ocean sounds and turn up the heat a tad. Choose your aroma of massage oil (Jasmine? Grapefruit? Coconut?). Now get down to your skivvies, listen to the waves and seagulls and relaaaaax. Novak practices a massage technique that uses slow, sweeping motions. You're remembering that trip to Maui and drifting, drifting.Before you know it, the hour is gone and you're rejuvenated and ready to head back to work. On second thought, schedule your one-hour massage ($65) at the end of the day. Go back to the office smelling like Banana Boat and your boss may ask if the surf's up.
There is a time to stand on principle, and that time ends when your feet begin to hurt. We don't like recommending chain stores or malls in this compendium of consumerism, but the shoes at Nordstrom are worthy of making an exception. The sheer variety would be mind-boggling if the friendly sales staff weren't so good at honing in on exactly what you're looking for. Nordstrom doesn't blow the roof off customer-service ratings every year for nothing. As far as price, nowhere is the old adage "you get what you pay for" more appropriate than in shoes, but Nordstrom softens the blow with a "we'll match any price" policy (the November 11 opening of their outlet, Nordstrom Rack, in NorthPark Center will also help). Besides, a phat pair of buttery Ecco oxfords will last for years, and it'll go a long way toward counteracting the message sent by that mustard stain on your tie.

Readers' Pick
Larry's Shoes Multiple locations

Best Excuse for a Manly Man to Shop for Clothes

Threads

Threads has to be the only men's clothing store with a TV in the back hooked up to a PlayStation 2. You can play Madden all you want. Or drink beer. Threads has a bar. Or watch the game. Threads has a second TV forever tuned to ESPN. The owners of Threads, Michael Elliot and Charles Williams, are married to the women who own Flirt, the clothing store next door. They decided this summer to do something with the vacant storefront next to Flirt. Nothing schlocky, though. The guys at Threads have good taste--Penguin and Le Tigre are two lines they feature--so women across Dallas can rest easy. Your man won't come home with a tacky, baggy sports jersey from here. In fact, if you're not careful, he may never come home.

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