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Boston's 38 Essential Shopping Experiences, Winter 2014 Update

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All photos by Flagship Photo unless noted otherwise

It's that time again—the seasonal update to our guide on Boston's essential shopping, the Racked 38. The last few months have delivered standout additions to the retail scene, but to make room for the newbies, we had to replace a couple of our favorite bookstores, Harvard Bookstore and Brookline Booksmith, and secondhand shops Oona's Experienced Clothing, Second Time Around, and Artifaktori (fear not, we'll be rounding up Boston's consignment stores soon enough!). In their places you'll find: Follain, a buzzed-about natural beauty boutique; Officina 189, a super niche Italian goods shop in (where else) the North End; Viola Lovely, a luxury suburban store making its Boston debut; Caramelo Clothing Co., a menswear haven in Jamaica Plain; and finally, Steven Alan, the beloved indie New York retailer leaving a mark on Newbury Street.

Per usual, we tried to strike a balance between major neighborhoods, price points, and aesthetics. The list below is in no particular ranked order; rather, we're taking a look from North to South.

Do you have any other suggestions? We update the list quarterly and are always looking for reader input. State your case for (or against) stores in the comments or email the tipline.


04/02/13: Added: Shake the Tree, North River Outfitter, Bobby From Boston, Mohr & McPherson
07/09/13: Added: Artifaktori, Salmagundi, Sault
10/03/13: Added: Olives & Grace, Orchard Skateshop, Twelve Chairs
01/23/14: Added: Caramelo Clothing Co., Follain, Officina 189, Steven Alan, Viola Lovely

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1. Mint Julep

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6 Church Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 576-6468
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Mint Julep has built a reputation for the perfect casual-meets-party assortment of premium denim, Tracy Reese and Tibi dresses, Ella Moss separates, and Adia Kibur baubles. The Brookline storefront came first, but the Harvard Square setup speaks to students and twenty-somethings alike, bringing plenty of feminine flair to the Cambridge side of the Charles.

2. Concepts

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37 Brattle Street, The Atrium Shopping Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 868-2001
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Opened in 1996 as part of the Harvard Square Tannery, Concepts is a Cambridge institution specializing in high-demand collabs and all the hype that surrounds a major release from Clarks, Nike, Stussy, and other iconic brands in skate and street culture. It also offers pieces from fashion legends like Margiela and Comme Des Garcons. A sleek design characterizes Concepts as a curated lifestyle brand synonymous with quality and a point of view.

3. Forty Winks

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56 JF Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 492-9100
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On the outer edge of Harvard Square sits the loveliest little intimates boutique, run by lingerie aficionados Rachel Wentworth and Meredith Donaldson. The duo manages to find an outstanding range of undies, convincing ladies on both sides of the Charles to start caring about what to wear under the rest of their wardrobe. They also stock extras from The Laundress, Spanx, legwear, and garter accessories.

4. OFFICINA 189

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189 North Street
Boston, MA 02113
(857) 233-4300
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A lot of things in the North End come from Italy—pasta, espresso, gelato—but new boutique Officina 189 can guarantee that no one else is stocking its Italian imports. Owner Fabrizio Di Rienzo came from Milan to introduce niche products including custom bikes, silver jewelry, and obscure fragrances.

5. Shake the Tree

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67 Salem Street
Boston, MA 02113
(617) 742-0484
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One-stop shopping is the most satisfying for an on-the-go gal, and the North End boutique Shake the Tree keeps us on our toes with home trinkets, scents, books, accessories, and clothes galore. Designers' trunk shows are often held here, so watch the calendar for dates. [Photo]

6. Good

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133 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 722-9200
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Good has been a haven for unique buys for over a decade, upgrading to this space (four times bigger than its original Charles Street location) last year. Come here to seek out collected items ranging from regional home goods designers to transcontinental inspired jewelry and leather bags.

7. Crush Boutique

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131 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 720-0010
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Shoppers step in to Crush—Beacon Hill is the original location, with a secondary Newbury Street outpost—for a blend of contemporary favorites including Alice + Olivia, Shoshanna, and Parker alongside accessible jewelry, scarves, and bags. What keeps 'em coming back is the styling-centric service (they even host private parties) and freshly updated goods.

8. North River Outfitter

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126 Charles Street
Boston, MA
(617) 742-0089
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NRO serves New England's preppy community dutifully, stocking the latest wide variety of goods from Boston-loved lines like Milly, Alden, Barbour, Vineyard Vines, and dozens more. Last year, it expanded to a kids store directly next door and a sport store across Charles Street.

9. Vira Boutique

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107 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 367-0305
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If VIRA feels like it has NYC cool factor, that's because it does—founders Vivek and Radhika brought their FIT backgrounds home to Boston. The lofty space boasts emerging international designers and sought after contemporary labels to excite the cosmopolitan woman.

10. Holiday Boutique

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53 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 973-9730
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Holiday is the epitome of girly with its "Pretty Little Sister" private line, feminine frocks made in Massachusetts, a signature cashmere collection, and designers like SF-based Kirribilla, Bell by Alicia Bell and Erin Fetherston. Also find knick knacks for your abode and jewelry box throughout the vintage-inspired store.

11. Moxie

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51 Charles Street
Boston, MA
(617) 557-9991
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Moxie focuses on adornments for your extremities: shoes in every silhouette and plenty of arm candy (in bling and bag form). Shoppers here swoon over a curated mix between classic and trendy footwear and accessories from Rebecca Minkoff, Foley + Corinna, Loeffler Randall, and Brian Atwood, while its Wellesley location stocks apparel.

12. Louis

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60 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA 02110
(617) 262-6100
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Nearly a century old and having inhabited a historic Back Bay building for the latter part of the twentieth century, this fine retailer moved itself to the waterfront several seasons ago. Since then, fashion lovers have adored this department store for high end threads from the likes of Proenza Schouler, Balenciaga, and Jason Wu alongside emerging international talent, intoxicating Diptyque candles, snacks at Sam's, and new hairdos at Salon Mario Russo.

13. Orchard Skateshop

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156 Harvard Avenue
Boston, MA 02134
(617) 782-7777
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This Allston hub for all things skateboarding boasts a mini-ramp (open to the public) and a dedicated art gallery space on site. For an experience as fresh as an orchard apple, visit the new space at 297 Newbury with custom outdoorsy market-inspired decor elements. Shop Orchard's own apparel and accessories line, goods from Huf, adidas footwear, and Zero Skateboards at both locations. [Photo]

14. Alan Bilzerian

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34 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-1001
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This family-owned shop is a bazaar of maverick luxury designers including Isabel Marant, Yohji Yamamoto, and Ann Demeulemeester as well as renowned fashion houses like Lanvin. Celebrities often frequent the establishment, and many ultra fashion fans contend this is excellence in service and selection.

15. Riccardi

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116 Newbury St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 266-3158
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With a legacy spanning several decades, Riccardi is the brainchild of Riccardo Dallai, an Italian transplant in Boston who wanted to make waves in a conservative town. Since then, his ability to turn this city on to cutting edge international fashion from Balmain, Givenchy, Nicholas Kirkwood, Dsquared2, and more, truly catapulted us into the world class shopping hub we have become.

16. Serenella Boston

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134 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 262-5568
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Making a dramatic entrance is simple when you build a wardrobe with Serenella pieces. The Boston and Nantucket venues corner a niche for off-the-runway and hard to find European designers in a boutique setting, including apparel from Altuzarra and Rochas, fantastical jewelry from Delfina Delettrez, shoes from Aquazzura and K. Jacques, and gowns from Prabal Gurung. Just remember to pick up your jaw when you step inside.

17. Ball And Buck

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144 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 262-1776
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Guys love this camo-clad habitat for Americana-inspired threads, kicks, and accessories, usually part of limited edition collabs and all of which are made in the USA. It has increasingly built up its own private line, complementing goods from Wolverine, Dickies, and New Balance seamlessly. With a commitment to domestic jobs, the team also keeps customers looking fresh at the in-store barbershop.

18. Steven Alan

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172 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02216
(617) 398-2640
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Emerging designers with an all-American spin are the bread and butter of New York retailer Steven Alan. The boutique is ideal for a co-ed shopping date, where curated merchandise from hard-to-find indie lines—think Acne and Rachel Comey—sit alongside the retailer's private label (optical included) and local brands including Lotuff Leather and Artemis Design Co.

19. The Closet

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175 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-1919
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Painfully chic vintage enthusiasts flock to this garden-level Newbury Street consignment shop for designer booty, often priced at a third of original retail. Superfans keep a pulse on the store's blog, where daily updates prove both the caliber and swift turnover of hot items.

20. INTERMIX

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186 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116-2811
(617) 236-5172
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This revamped outpost of the national chain remains a veritable who's who of the fashion heavyweights. While there is plenty of brand overlap with other Boston shops, ladies keep coming to Intermix for a sophisticated set of merchandise, including a consistent flow of exclusives, and solid customer service.

21. The Tannery

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711 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 267-5500
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The Tannery has been a Greater Boston mainstay for decades, and the Boylston Street flagship is just the spot to ogle a variety of footwear from Frye, ritzy outdoor apparel from Canada Goose, and upscale fashion on each store level, our favorite of which is obviously Curated by The Tannery for designers like rag & bone, Kimberly Ovitz, and Helmut Lang.

22. Daniela Corte

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211 Newbury Street
Boston, MA
(617) 608-4778
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With a garden level storefront and her studio upstairs, designer Daniela Corte is taking over more than just a Newbury brownstone. Lovers of Corte's impeccable separates and signature legging bar are well known in the upper echelons of Boston fashion, but the crisp white and wood space also allows the general public intimate access to her beautiful clothing season after season.

23. Converse

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348 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 424-5400
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The first flagship of this internationally renowned footwear giant sits rather humbly at the base of our main shopping thoroughfare, but its two-level space is quite the ode to Converse's Massachusetts roots. The industrial design is a clean canvas for countless Chucks, apparel (with prominently displayed denim), and an in-store customization station. Die hard fans will be in sneaker heaven upon stepping in. [Photo]

24. Barneys New York

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100 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 385-3300
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It's hard to imagine that this temple to luxury was ever a crappy movie theater, but then, it's hard to imagine anything when you're being distracted by endless Rick Owens jackets and 3.1 Phillip Lim bags. Offering the New York shopping experience in our own backyard, Barneys remains arguably the creme de la creme of its department store category and the first place to go for off-the-runway fashion and prestige beauty.

25. Bodega

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6 Clearway Street
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 421-1550
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The secret Snapple entrance is a rite of passage to many streetwear enthusiasts far and wide—no surprise given its close proximity to the universities. Since the secret is already out, we won't keep mum on the killer selection of all the sneaker favorites, jackets from Schott and Dr. Romanelli, Super and even vintage Cazal eyewear. And if you want a snack, the literal bodega is open too.

26. Uniform

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511 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 247-2360
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Uniform is the spot for stylish casual gear with more character than the mall stores. No Gucci or GPPR here—this inventory is not street nor is it high fashion—just good ol' RVCA, Levi's, Spiewak, lots of denim, Will Leather Goods, and plaid buttondowns galore from Ben Sherman, GANT, and Penguin.

27. Follain

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53 Dartmouth Street
Boston, MA 02116
(857) 284-7078
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This newcomer has caught nationwide attention for its blend of American-made, all natural beauty inventory. Pick up some regionally sourced castile soap, Gwyneth Paltrow-approved skincare, beeswax lip balm, and chemical-free cosmetics—owner Tara Foley will happily walk you through each product.

28. Twelve Chairs

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581 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 982-6136
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Having formerly occupied a gigantic lofty Fort Point Channel space, the duo behind Twelve Chairs joins a vibrant creative community on Tremont Street with a newly opened second floor studio chock full of their same quirky home goods selection to warm up any abode.

29. Sault

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577 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02118
(857) 239-9434
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Owner Philip Saul knows how to speak to a Massachusetts man's sensibilities with items from New England Shirt Co., accessories from Ivy Prepster, toiletries from Mr. Natty, and even gently used goods. Everything here is a classic wardrobe addition.

30. Flock

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274 Shawmut Avenue
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 391-0222
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Dani McDonald nails the laid-back Cali vibe with this eclectic shop for indie brands and Boston-bred labels. The boutique is cozy and inviting, with whimsical decor setting the tone for offbeat designers like Lauren Moffat, Line & Dot, Alkemie jewelry, and Wildfox. Plus, last year the shop launched an adorable e-commerce site.

31. Bobby From Boston

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19 Thayer Place
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 423-9299
People claim this is the best men's vintage shopping around, and a small women's selection is available too. Amazing bags, preppy wears of yesteryear, and a totally cool ambiance are the attraction here.

32. SoWa Vintage and SoWa Open Markets

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460 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118
(800) 403-8305
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For the past decade, Bostonians have been strolling SoWa's markets on Sundays in search of clever trinkets, unusual decor, locally crafted items, and a cluster of vintage and antique vendors. Indoors you'll find the year-round Vintage Market, with May through October adding on an outdoor farmer's market, food and fashion truck gatherings, and tent upon tent of distinctive buys. Come fall, artisans prep for the notorious Holiday Market. [Photo]

33. Patch NYC

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46 Waltham Street
Boston, MA 02118
(917) 292-2640
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Given their worldwide fame as artists and collaborators with Target and Anthropologie, we dig that the creative pair behind this design dynasty still calls a little South End courtyard home. The headquarters and shop are a warm setting for striking jewelry and home goods, many of which are private label and all of which are keepers.

34. M. Flynn Accessories

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40 Waltham Street
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 292-0079
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The sparkle at M. Flynn lures you in with a shabby chic interior and displays of Alexis Bittar, Lulu Frost, Doloris Petunia, Erickson Beamon, and in-house collections including a fine jewelry branch of the business. Owners Megan and Moria Flynn can even rework your baubles for special occasions.

35. Olives & Grace

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81 Pembroke Street
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 236-4536
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The winner of our 2013 Racked Awards "So Hot Right Now" category is a champion of the local movement, supplying South Enders with regionally-sourced gifts, trinkets, and foodstuffs. This is the place to pick up holiday, birthday, and housewarming gift boxes. [Photo]

36. Viola Lovely

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1409 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02118
(857) 277-0746
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Viola Lovely has long been on the cutting edge of fashion, fostering relationships with now well-known brands like Veronica Beard and Leigh & Luca in their infancy and continuously pursing new designers for its collection of boutiques. Owner Lisa Cancelli's first Boston location brings her curated selection (including Golden Goose, Yigal Azrouël, and Giada Forte) from the suburbs to the South End.

37. Caramelo Clothing Company

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606 Centre Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
(617) 942-8127
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Caramelo has become a staple for gents in JP and beyond, boasting a brand mix including somewhat obscure labels like Osmium, Forage and Jeremy Argyle neckwear, Fall River-based New England Shirt Co., and Penguin. In additional to a polished selection of apparel, the store also stocks wallets, bags, belts, and shaving goods. Hey, there's no denying the proliferation of bearded guys in this neighborhood.

38. Salmagundi

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765 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02130
(617) 522-5047
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With roughly 9000 hats, we think this shop can consider itself Boston's millinery expert. The JP boutique is owned by a husband and wife team that works with independent milliners for a wide selection of headwear, fit for varied tastes and price points. [Photo]

1. Mint Julep

6 Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Mint Julep has built a reputation for the perfect casual-meets-party assortment of premium denim, Tracy Reese and Tibi dresses, Ella Moss separates, and Adia Kibur baubles. The Brookline storefront came first, but the Harvard Square setup speaks to students and twenty-somethings alike, bringing plenty of feminine flair to the Cambridge side of the Charles.
6 Church Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

2. Concepts

37 Brattle Street, The Atrium Shopping Center, Cambridge, MA 02138
Opened in 1996 as part of the Harvard Square Tannery, Concepts is a Cambridge institution specializing in high-demand collabs and all the hype that surrounds a major release from Clarks, Nike, Stussy, and other iconic brands in skate and street culture. It also offers pieces from fashion legends like Margiela and Comme Des Garcons. A sleek design characterizes Concepts as a curated lifestyle brand synonymous with quality and a point of view.
37 Brattle Street, The Atrium Shopping Center
Cambridge, MA 02138

3. Forty Winks

56 JF Kennedy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
On the outer edge of Harvard Square sits the loveliest little intimates boutique, run by lingerie aficionados Rachel Wentworth and Meredith Donaldson. The duo manages to find an outstanding range of undies, convincing ladies on both sides of the Charles to start caring about what to wear under the rest of their wardrobe. They also stock extras from The Laundress, Spanx, legwear, and garter accessories.
56 JF Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

4. OFFICINA 189

189 North Street, Boston, MA 02113
A lot of things in the North End come from Italy—pasta, espresso, gelato—but new boutique Officina 189 can guarantee that no one else is stocking its Italian imports. Owner Fabrizio Di Rienzo came from Milan to introduce niche products including custom bikes, silver jewelry, and obscure fragrances.
189 North Street
Boston, MA 02113

5. Shake the Tree

67 Salem Street, Boston, MA 02113
One-stop shopping is the most satisfying for an on-the-go gal, and the North End boutique Shake the Tree keeps us on our toes with home trinkets, scents, books, accessories, and clothes galore. Designers' trunk shows are often held here, so watch the calendar for dates. [Photo]
67 Salem Street
Boston, MA 02113

6. Good

133 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114
Good has been a haven for unique buys for over a decade, upgrading to this space (four times bigger than its original Charles Street location) last year. Come here to seek out collected items ranging from regional home goods designers to transcontinental inspired jewelry and leather bags.
133 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114

7. Crush Boutique

131 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114