date published: April 6, 2009

Ways to feed your shopping fix, whatever your finances
by Josh B. Wardrop

To shop, or not to shop: that is the question. The politicians are telling us to spend to help get the economy going, but the truth is, plenty are passing up those perfect suede pumps in order to pump more money into their 401(k)s. Here at Panorama, though, we believe that there are enough local retail options to allow anyone to come up with a steal of a deal. So whether you’ve got the urge to splurge or you’re all about value, Boston has plenty of places where you can shop ’til you drop.

On A Spree >> Spring is a popular time to hit Boston’s main retail routes and let the fresh air fuel your shopping excursions, but those great American meccas for merchandise—shopping malls—remain popular as ever. In the Back Bay, the malls are as glam as you’d expect: Copley Place is sleek and sophisticated, boasting top shops like Nieman Marcus, Barney’s New York, Tiffany, Burberry and Emporio Armani; while the gorgeous, sun-drenched and classy Shops at Prudential Center (pictured above) has something to satisfy any shopper, including high-end specialty retailers like Frette, L’Occitane and Gucci and department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor. Refer to mall listings.

On A Budget >> Located smack in the middle of the Downtown Crossing shopping district, the Corner Mall (refer to shopping listing) offers shopping options like Wet Seal, Champs and Lids, but is best known for the diverse and affordable cuisine in its food court. And across the river in Cambridge, shoppers who value funky and offbeat over high-end can enjoy the Garage Mall in Harvard Square (36 JFK St., Cambridge), home to trendy young apparel shop Hootenanny and Harvard Square’s own Newbury Comics location, providing probably the region’s best prices for music and videos (refer to shopping listing).

Home Decor
On A Spree >>
If you’re dying to update the look of your home, nothing catches eyes quite like fine art. Those looking to enhance their abodes would be advised to hit some of Newbury Street’s lovely galleries, such as The Society of Arts & Crafts, which specializes in contemporary American craftwork in media ranging from glassware to ceramic sculpture to furniture; Galleria Florentia, which boasts breathtaking bronze and stone sculpture, museum-quality paintings and other works created by some of Europe’s top artisans; and the International Poster Gallery, home to authentic vintage art posters and prints from virtually every style and period over the last 120 years. Or, for top-drawer objects d’art ranging from the classically beautiful to the whimsical (such as a perfect-for-Easter porcelain Herend bunny, pictured right) there’s no better place than venerable Boston landmark Shreve, Crump & Low. Refer to shopping listings.

On A Budget >> If you prefer to spend your resources on home goods that emphasize function over fashion, there’s plenty of spots in Boston to get bargains and still make your domicile look daring. Urban Outfitters (refer to shopping listing) is packed with fresh and funky bed linens, curtains, casual furniture and bric-a-brac to give your place its own distinct feel, while China Fair (2100 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-3050) equips aspiring Gordon Ramseys with all the cookware and domestic tools they could ever possibly need at prices well below retail. Michelle Willey in the South End (8 Union Park St., 617-424-6700) is packed with stylish and classy items for the home at some of the neighborhood’s best prices. And sports fans looking to outfit their domiciles with Red Sox and Patriots paraphernalia will feel they’ve hit a grand slam at Fenway SportsZone (refer to shopping listing).

On A Spree >> When Boston fashionistas want to outfit themselves in clothes by the world’s top designers, a trip to Newbury Street is usually in order. Dedicated followers of fashion can find themselves in couture heaven as they peruse Armani, Chanel, Betsy Johnson, Burberry, Marc Jacobs and many more world-renowned names. But Boston’s about more than just the mega-names—local boutiques, like the uniquely modern and trendy Soodee (pictured right, refer to shopping listing) and environmentally friendly clothiers Envi Boutique (164 Newbury St., 617-267-3684) exist side-by-side on Newbury with established chains like Barbour (refer to shopping listing), home to sturdy, comfortable and stylish outdoorwear.

Elsewhere in Boston, the North End has become an up-and-coming retail district, packed with hot fashion boutiques like Twilight (12 Fleet St., 617-523-8008), the retro-fabulous vintage shop The Velvet Fly (424 Hanover St., 617-557-4359) and Casa di Stile (371 Hanover St., 857-233-4885). And the South End remains a hotspot for funky menswear at shops like Motley (623 Tremont St., 617-247-6969), high-end consignment boutique Bobby from Boston (19 Thayer St., 617-423-9299) and Uniform (511 Tremont St., 617-247-2360).

On A Budget >> With all the college students in Boston and Cambridge trying to look hip and fashionable on limited funds, the Hub has become ground zero for a burgeoning thrift/consignment store community. There’s no better way to dress cool on the cheap than to go vintage at places like Urban Renewals (122 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-783-8387), Raspberry Beret (17904 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-3700), Dame Vintage Boutique (68 South St., Jamaica Plain, 617-935-6971) and that carnival of funky found fashions, The Garment District (200 Broadway, Cambridge, 617-876-5230). If you simply must buy new, fear not: international favorite H & M has two locations in town (refer to shopping listing) and there’s always deals to be found at that Boston-born institution, Filene’s Basement, still teeming with marked-down fashions for men and women (refer to shopping listing).

On A Spree >> The Hub offers plenty of places to find fine footwear of all kinds—from the gorgeous, hand-tooled and colorful cowboy boots at Helen’s Leather (pictured right) on Beacon Hill to the endless varieties of imaginative designs for men and women at John Fluevog on Newbury Street, to the top-of-the-line professional-grade running shoes that line the shelves of Bill Rodgers Running Center at Faneuil Hall Marketplace (refer to shopping listings). Other upscale shoe emporiums like Leokadia (667 Tremont St., 617-247-7463), Steve Madden (324A Newbury St., 617-262-4600) and the hidden “sneaker speakeasy” Bodega (6 Clearway St., 617-421-1550) all promise plenty of options to make your tootsies stand out in a crowd.

On A Budget >> Any true shoe fan knows that the only thing better than finding great shoes is finding them at remarkable markdowns. Berk’s (50 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-492-9511) in Harvard Square sells everything from sandals to sneakers to boots and boasts a constantly updated clearance rack loaded with name brands. Aldo Shoes (415 Washington St., 617-357-6891) in Downtown Crossing offers 50% off sale shoes every day, and a real hidden gem in the South End is Zapatos (90 Wareham St., 617-423-2842), a true hit-or-miss oddity that’s been known to offer up name brands like Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Anne Klein and more for extravagant bargains and where mixed bins of Italian designer shoes can be found for $10 a pair.

On A Spree >> If there’s anything you’re likely to splurge on, it’s jewelry. Fans of beauteous bling have plenty of options to choose from in Boston, including E.B. Horn Co. (429 Washington St., 617-542-3902); the stunning handmade pieces of legendary Boston designer John Lewis (pictured right, refer to shopping listing); DePrisco Diamond Jewelers (333 Washington St., 617-227-3339); Lux, Bond & Green (refer to shopping listing); and the first name in jewelry, Cartier (40 Newbury St., 617-262-3300).

On A Budget >> Precious gems never come cheap, but lovely jewelry comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. If you’re hoping to pick up just the right piece to wear for a special occasion or just in everyday life, check out Magpie (416 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-623-3330), which offers pieces by local artists ranging from $5–25; Zinnia (1300 Massachusetts Ave., 617-354-1800) in Harvard Square, which specializes in Bohemian-inspired pieces with bright colors and bold designs; and High Gear Jewelry (refer to shopping listing), a North End outpost that offers wallet-friendly sterling silver pieces, charm bracelets and other items that will delight any lover of beautiful jewelry.

Cosmetics & Accessories
On A Spree >> If you’re going to go all out searching for a new outfit, any diehard shopaholic will insist that you accent it with just the right accessories. Those looking for costume pieces, fine handbags, scarves and other finishing touches for their outfits can browse top shops like Kate Spade (117 Newbury St., 617-262-2632), Ku De Ta (663 East Broadway, South Boston, 617-269-0008) and Luna Boston (205 Newbury St., 866-910-3900), while those who want to accentuate themselves can find fine cosmetic products at A Matter of Face in the North End or The Beauty Mark (refer to shopping listing), nestled away in Beacon Hill.

On A Budget >> Bag snobs may disagree, but your clutch doesn’t have to be Fendi to be fabulous. TisTik in Harvard Square (pictured right, refer to shopping listing) abounds with creative hand-made bags and other accessories imported from South America; The Hempest (207 Newbury St., 617-421-9944; 36 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-868-HEMP) eschews haute couture in favor of down-to-earth functional pieces; and Gifted (53 Dartmouth St., 603-494-8391) in the South End boasts handmade products by artists, including jewelry, bags, wallets and even pet accessories with truly unique flair.

back to homepage