Held a couple of times a year (most recently at the end of August), the Fashion Industry Gallery Finale sale gathers under one roof loads of designer markdowns from Dallas' highest-end retailers, including Tootsies, Forty Five Ten, Rich Hippie, Krimson & Klover, Turtletique, La Femme Couture, Elements, Octane, Friction, Crimson in the City and others. For a $10 entry fee, shoppers can comb two floors of clothes (men's and women's), shoes, bags, jewelry and other desirables, all marked down at least 75 percent off the original price. We've found Carrie Bradshaw-worthy heels for $19, three-figure handbags for $50 or less and frou-frou lingerie at Target prices. To sustain shoppers' energy, they sell freshly made cookies (though the size 0 Highland Park ladies ignore those as they paw through boxes of $15 boots). Go and make a day of it. Then go home and play dress-up with the bargains.
Here's the deal: At most mall retailers the salespeople treat the average shopper like an interruption and an annoyance. But at Nordstrom they not only try to find what you want and make sure that it fits (we dig their giant dressing rooms too), they'll go several extra miles to make you a loyal customer. We recently went on a shoe expedition. Dillard's and Foley's were hot as saunas. Neiman's never managed even a "May we help you?" so we trotted down to the competition. There, a sweet gal in the shoe department apologized for not carrying the brand and style we wanted, but she then made some calls and found us the store that did and made sure they had our size and would hold it for us. Whether you buy a lipstick or a chaise longue, you'll get a handwritten thank-you note from the Nordstrom employee who sold it to you. Amazing.
It's not easy to get into the prosaic strip mall across from Mockingbird Station. Traffic is heavy, the driveway narrow and the stoplight fleeting. Even once you're there, it would be easy to miss the narrow storefront tucked into the corner under the shadow of the stairs. If you persist, though, your wardrobe will thank you. The friendly Mr. Wong and his staff at Art Tailor are magicians with a needle, whether you need a same-day hem or a custom suit from scratch. They'll fix your buttons so you can keep that belly in or let out your waistband so your gut can roam free, all at rates so reasonable you'll almost go out of your way to buy the wrong size.
There can't be a much more ringing endorsement of a wig shop than seeing autographed photos of drag queens adorning the entryway. That is exactly what you find as you cross the portal of Lemmon Beauty Supply. Tucked away in a decidedly unglamorous strip center at Lemmon and Wycliff, this shop is nicknamed "Kentucky Fried Wigs" in a nod to the KFC that anchors the center. Packed inside the tiny emporium, stacked floor to ceiling along every wall, is a vast array of false fabulosity: Every conceivable style of wig, fall, switch, chignon, ponytail and braid. Craving a high Dolly Parton 'do? No prob. Britney Spears pigtails? Check. Can't live without a fuchsia page-boy? Gotcha covered. From synthetic designs to natural-looking human hair creations, no style is left out. Custom styling is available. And check out the 99-cent eyelashes and the array of crowns and tiaras. Love the beehives and the bling.
Are there times when you sit pondering what to do with this cow skull you found out in the field? Well, the answer is this little nook at the zoo. The Nature Exchange, located in the Lacerte Family Children's Zoo, is a trading post for items you find in nature. And that tire in the Trinity doesn't count. From interesting fossil finds to everyday pine cones, you take your items in, the experts educate you on your find and then you get points toward another item in the store. And get this, they are so committed to the educational value of their program, they won't even take money for their stuff. That's conviction. But before you grab that road kill to tote in, check out their trading guidelines first. Ya gotta draw the line somewhere.
What do babies, bikers and brides have in common? They all can get apparel personalized at Keep U-N Stitches in Casa Linda. Owner Gina Maria Volpe, in business since 1997, and her two assistants can stitch everything from ladybug designs on babies' bibs and diaper covers to bikers' and rock bands' "sometimes unmentionable" logos on their shirts and caps. They'll also add special motifs to bridal lingerie. Hey, they'll even add fancy stitchery to coffin linings. Now that's going underground for business.
After a two-year, $170 million expansion and renovation that was 10 years in the planning, NorthPark, that grand old lady at the northwest corner of Northwest Highway and Central Expressway, has survived her facelift. Overseen by Nancy Nasher and David Haemisegger, the daughter and son-in-law of NorthPark developer Raymond Nasher, the expansion of Dallas' first great large-scale mall now includes a pair of new parking garages, a 200,000-square-foot Nordstrom, a new AMC movie theater, 110 new stores in 260,000 square feet of new two-story space and a 1.3-acre garden called CentralPark. The renovation and additions maintain the sleek integrity of NorthPark's original design and don't deviate from the use of clean lines, modern architecture and signature cream-colored East Texas brick and polished concrete floors. Nasher's devotion to putting art in public spaces continues to provide NorthPark with eye-pleasing sculptures. Even with the noisy new food court (NorthPark's first), the 41-year-old mall is still airy and elegant. Hitting middle age, the lady's looking better than ever.
Our grannies may have knitted to save money, but these days a handmade sweater from a designer pattern with handspun yarn can run well into three figures. To make sure you're not dropping stitches after dropping all that dough, get to know the nice knitters working at PassionKnit in Snider Plaza. They'll start you out slowly then ease you into tougher patterns (though we'll never understand those Kaffe Fassett designs). Thursday nights you can join others for group knit-purl-gossip sessions. Besides picking up tips on the best needles (we prefer bamboo, which they sell here), you can often hear some of the best Highland Park hussy stories as you whip up that afghan. And stock up at the season-end sales, where the top-end yarns are marked down 30 to 40 percent.
One of the perks of working for the Dallas Observer is that right across the street from our soulless glass office is a rather unusual automotive service and repair shop. Advantage Tire Pros, which also specializes in brakes, shocks, alignment and minor repair jobs, has this quirky business philosophy by which they don't try to screw you once you turn over your car to them. They also stick to their quoted estimate, which is almost always better than anyone else we've tried. They do exactly what you want them to do and return your car on time. Then, in an act that should qualify them for sainthood, your car remains fixed long after you take it home. Their customer service is so friendly, you almost regret that their work is so good you won't be seeing them anytime soon.
Jerry Moreno and his son, Jordan, run this business and work together on everything from late-model roof replacements to antique restorations. Their prices tend toward the reasonable, and the work is solid. Body shops and car dealers know where to get rag-tops fixed, obviously, but it's harder for the average car owner. Repairing and replacing convertible tops is not a skill you find on every corner, especially not doing it the right way. These guys know their way around both the material and the complicated rigs that lift and lower tops these days.

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