Shopping and travel are a perfect partnership. For travelers, shopping is a way to connect to the local culture, meet “real” people, access hand crafted art and cultural tradition.
But shopping is more than just that.
For admitted fashionistas, shopping is retail therapy. It soothes jangled nerves, stimulates the senses and gives us a fresh take on how we look and feel in the moment.
Even still, shopping is more than that.
In New Orleans, a hotbed of self-expression since the U.S. shopped Louisiana out from under France for $15 million in 1803, shopping oils our city’s economy, creates jobs and deepens the visitor experience in a profound fashion. When we shop, we spark growth, of community, culture, and individuals. Whether it’s buying a one of a kind painting from a street artist or picking out a precious gem from an upmarket jewelry store, retail therapy keeps our economy vital.
The funny thing is, ask a visitor why they come to New Orleans, and food and music usually tops the list. History, architecture, culture, we have it all here. But shopping? The riches of these assets are less apparent at first blush. But for those of us in the know, our shopping opportunities are diverse and vast.
I can't imagine having a BF who wears stylish clothes effortlessly. My guys tend to be more jeans and t-shirts, but perusing the racks of Friend's classic resort meets surf/skate sensibility, I am tempted. The look is clean and aesthetic, but softly tailored and unfussy. Owner Parker Hutchinson, a musician- turned � lawyer � turned -shopkeeper, who attended both Tulane University and Columbia Law school, opened Friends to sell the kind of clothes he likes to wear, stylish and affordable brands like Saturdays, A.P.C., Our Legacy, 18 Waits, Vanishing Elephant, Shades of Grey and many more. You'll especially appreciate his collaboration with local artists and designers ranging from perfume oil by Kathleen Currie to backpacks by Patti Dunn and gator leather-friendly Tchoup Industries.
There isn't one way you're supposed to dress in New Orleans, at least if you're a free spirited fashionista. I forget that other cities don't follow this mode, and several times have wound up in places like Philadelphia with a suitcase full of tulle and sequins. But that's exactly what I love about Lili's, a vintage shop for all ages that makes its own fabulous rules. A repository of chic, Lili's has your back, whether you covet frothy skirts from the 30s or sheer bespoke slip dresses straight out of A Streetcar Named Desire. This is not just an average vintage store�it's a store for clothing collectors, eccentric and otherwise. Lili's understands that if you want to wear rhinestones with 1960s chiffon to make groceries, then you certainly should be able to.
There are plenty of crafty jewelry designers in New Orleans selling fleur-de-lis pendants - which I love, and I have several. But for the times you want to make a right-now statement, there's the groovily named Gogo Borgerding, a designer who creates eye popping jewelry with necklaces that say "POW" and bracelets that look like Wonder Woman might wear them. Her eponymous store sells not only her bold pieces, but also features other talented and sometimes unknown jewelers' designs. Some of the pieces are Louisiana-inspired, like the nubby crawfish claw pendants in silver or bronze or handcut sterling shawdowboxes replicating the gas lights that flicker outside many a French Quarter cottage.
Buffalo Exchange is not just your average consignment store. The New Orleans location also has a costume section, outrageous shoe options and consigned sparkly numbers that feel like playing dress up any day of the week. First opened in Tucson in 1974 BE set the bar as the very first store that bought, sold, traded and took clothing items and accessories on consignment. One of some 45 stores in 17 states, the New Orleans location has good stock and a friendly, helpful, easygoing staff, all of which makes for a relaxing shopping experience.
Some women can effortlessly throw on jeans along with a lacy chiffon blouse and certain je ne sais quoi accessories and look as put-together as a model on the cover of French Vogue. I am not one of those women. Thankfully, the stylish lassies at Angelique are ready to help with a selection of great clothing, from both top fashion houses and obscure indie designers. Much of the options are sophisticated in a Jackie O kind of way, but for us funkier types, there are peekaboo cut outs and sassy lace numbers that don't need to stay uptown. This isn't a place to spot trends, instead there's a timeless nature to the clothing here�your purchases will look as fresh in five years as they will this season.
Art should be for everyone. While there's no shortage of amazing art and artists in New Orleans, navigating the many neighborhood sub-cultures and connecting directly with artists can be a challenge. That's the idea behind Where Y'Art Gallery and online store in the Marigny, an inspired idea that makes art as approachable as the city that inspired it. The brainchild of co-founders Catherine Todd and Collin Ferguson, Where Y'Art is a fun and easy way to experience the best of New Orleans art online and in person. Where Y'Art curates an online gallery with more than 100 New Orleans artists – from painters to sculptors, craftsmen and jewelry designers – discover their passions and learn their stories. There is also a gallery in New Orleans' historic Faubourg Marigny neighborhood along with satellite galleries across the city. You can search local art by category, color, collection, price or neighborhood, connect with artists directly and discover their passions and learn their stories. You might even buy something.
You won't know just how fab you'll feel in a cobalt pageboy until you try one on at Fifi Mahoney's on Royal Street. Home to towering pepto-pink bouffant wigs, glittery false eyelashes that put Tammy Faye to shame and bright peacock feather headdresses, this place is a trip. Glamour pusses clamor for the outrageous theatrical makeup, spectacular wigs and accessories geared to showstopping performances, drag and otherwise. Pay $5 for a stretchy hair sock and try on wigs in every shade of the rainbow, an investment applied towards your purchase. Since you only live once, why not be fabulous everyday and wear Fifi's whenever the mood strikes? That's quite ok in New Orleans, where pink hair is as common as Mardi Gras beads on the live oaks along St. Charles Avenue.
A standout among New Orleans boutiques and clothing stores, Trashy Diva had its start selling vintage 1940s and '50s fashion, with owner Candice Gwinn adding her own line of reimagined retro classics, outfits you won't see at the local mall, that's for sure. Trashy Diva specializes in making and selling contemporary takes on vintage styles. Then there's the lingerie. If you think Bettie Page is hot, you need to run, not walk to Trashy Diva to get something sassy. This locally owned boutique, one of seven shops in New Orleans, carries the kind of bad girlie lingerie that will make anybody's pulse quicken. They also stock Mad Men style girdles and peignoirs. The shop also sells goodies like Victorian underbust corsets online, in case the irreverent beauty of your dreams is farther afield than Orleans Parish.
If you're searching for boutiques in New Orleans, Magazine Street should be your first destination, and of the many options you'll find there, Hemline should be at the top of your list. Lines like Trina Turk, Kensie and Nanette Lepore are all accounted for in this standout shop, and all garments are casual and accessible, yet classically beautiful. The proprietors are helpful, but not invasive; the atmosphere upscale, but without pretense. Have your heart set on a particular designer piece? Reserve items you can't live without in advance and the helpful staff will text or call you when that treasure hits the store, simple as that.
United Apparel Liquidators (U.A.L.) on Chartres is the local location of the original store founded in Hattiesburg, Mississippi back in 1980. Now in three states with multiple locations, including this one in the French Quarter U.A.L. is a great place to browse. The concept is simple: the store trades in overstock from designers, showrooms and retailers at deep discounts. Though some French Quarter shops cater to the tourist market almost exclusively, U.A.L. is a place for regulars and locals who stop by frequently to see new merchandise. There is haute couture as well as soft cotton separates in bold colors, dark denim skinny jeans and discounted Jimmy Choos.