Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shopping in SoHo

Do you have a special childhood friend who is always there for you? I was packing the car after a  weekend visiting my family in NYC, when Cathy emailed from Pennsylvania. She was coming to the city to find a dress for her son’s bar mitzvah: a fashion emergency! Cathy (right) and I (left) first met in a Central Park playground as toddlers and then went to The Dalton School together for fifteen years. My wonderful husband offered to drive the kids back to Maine on his own.

When we were growing up in Manhattan, SoHo (south of Houston St.) was the art center of the city. Since then, boutique shops have pushed art galleries uptown to lower rent Chelsea. Most downtown shops open at 11:00 AM; Manhattan is not a morning city. We lucked into a beautiful sunny day in the 60s.

Our first stop was Pylones (above) on 69 Spring St. for fun little gifts for my kids. I found bendable pencils in candy stripe colors that made even my teenaged son laugh. Since I was also doing research for my young adult novels, we stopped into Free People on 99 Spring St. Not for us.

When I was a teenager, I shopped at French Connection. I was pleased to see that the store (above) had grown up with me and was catering to adults with a funky style. I found a much needed winter/fall dress more than half off plus a wild turquoise and black spring/fall dress. Cathy needed something dressier.

I needed lunch. We shared an excellent Cobb salad with iced cappuccinos at Delicatessen at 54 Prince Street. The people watching was equally delicious. I love the conversational tidbits a writer can gather in the city. The hostess kindly took our photo (opening shot.)

Cathy found a dress that was almost right at Elie Tahari (to left) at 417 West Broadway. She had no luck in midtown department stores and in pricy Madison Avenue boutiques. On a boutique's racks uptown were only 0’s, 2’s, and 4’s. I said, “My daughter is a zero; she’s twelve years old!” The salesman laughed and found some real women’s sizes.

My friend Jennifer Scanlon, a scholar of fashion, has a theory: “Size zero: what does that say about women? That they want to disappear, not take up any space at all.” I ran into Jen on the plane back to Maine. Jen was born in the Bronx and grew up in around NYC. She now teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Bowdoin College. She also went shopping in SoHo. She recommended Uniqlo on 546 Broadway for fun tops and multi-colored tights. I’ll have to check it out next visit. I stay with my parents in Yorkville, uptown by the East River. Jen recommends Park79 hotel for its location, cleanliness and affordability.

Where’s your favorite place to shop?


Delwyn said...

Hi Sarah

I enjoyed our jaunt through SoHo...
and was interested to see the mention of Uniqlo the Japanese daughter loves to take me there in Japan...for affordable and fun clothing...

Happy days

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Enjoyed the post-
My favorite places to shop are: Belks, TJ Maxx, Bath and body, JC Pennys and All about Me(a cute store in Travlers Rest SC).

Nice pictures too!

Tracy :)

tina said...

I felt like I was a part of the city with your photos and words. That Pylene is an awesome spot. It sure looks sunny and warm.

A Cuban In London said...

I always marvel at the spellig of Soho: SoHo. It must be funny typing it and making sure that you get the capital 'H' right. :-)

Wow, Cathy and you go back years! That's what I call a real childhood friend. And the photos. My, oh my, you should know by now that I am a New Yorkphile (if such term exists) without having ever visited the city. I just know that I will have to go there one day. Many thanks for that brief tour. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Greetings from London.

Hana Njau-Okolo said...


That waitress can take a mean photograph wow!!!! All the photographs are mesmerizing. What a fabulous trip. I used to shop at French Connection as well for my daughter; who attended The Brearley School (a rival of Dalton?) when we lived in NYC over ten years ago. I miss New York for its pedestrians and those tidbits.

Sarah Laurence said...

Delwyn, I guessed the shop was Japanese. I wish they carried the clothes too since Japanese clothes fit my petite proportions. This was just knickknacks.

Tracy, I’ve found great bargains for my daughter at our local TJ Maxx in Maine.

Tina, Pylenes was an eye opener. It felt more like a children’s museum.

ACIL, yes, I thought of the English Soho too. You must come visit NYC someday. It’s as fun as it looks.

MS, I was so pleased that the hostess got a nice photo of Cathy and me together. We don’t have any other up to date ones. Your daughter must be very smart (and well dressed!) Brearley is all girls and Dalton is coed so they aren’t really rivals. I miss NYC too and it will always be home, but I like raising my family and living a more peaceful life in Maine, closer to nature.

Bee said...

Your mention of the size 0 reminded me of this January, when my 12 year old daughter fitted into a pair of size 0 Banana Republic jeans. She is a scrawny, coltish thing; no way should an adult woman, even if petite, wear that size.

I don't really have a favorite shop, but I'm happy to come to NYC and see if I can FIND one!

Sarah Laurence said...

Bee, I probably over-stated my shock over size zero. My sister-in-law is a healthy size 0. Like many Japanese women, she is petite. Still, there are many women and girls who literally kill themselves to be that small. Anorexia and bulimia are on the rise with teens these days. I really like Jigsaw in England, but in the past few years they haven’t carried as nice styles and colors.

☆sapphire said...

Hello Sarah

I totally enjoyed walking with you around SoHo. You and your friend look so happy in the first photo! The shops are really beautiful, the one(second photo)colorful, the other stylish and elegant! I'm now wearing a Uniglo's purple sweater! It was about 7 dollars!

Sarah Laurence said...

Delwyn, I realized while reading Sapphire’s comment that I got Uniqlo mixed up with Pylones, which looked Japanese but was actually French. So that’s 3 recommendations for Uniqlo – I’m there!

Sapphire, yes, the best part of shopping was having time with my friend. I am definitely going back to shop at Uniqlo next time I have the time.

Rosaria Williams said...

oH HOW DELICIOUS! You know that when you're down to writing your memoir, you have these memories to refer to. Blogging helps the rest of the world know our neighborhoods. Fun. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Laurence said...

Lakeviewer, I’m actually using my blog now for writing fiction because I like to set my novels in real settings. It’s especially helpful when trying to remember details from my sabbatical in England 2 years ago, which was the reason I initially started blogging.

Angie Muresan said...

I am more about the clothing than the line or the shop that carries it, and am really lucky that I have an aunt who can make me anything I want at a moment's notice. Her craftmanship is excellent.

Rose said...

Thanks for this fun shopping trip with you, Sarah; I always enjoy your tours of interesting spots in NYC that I'll probably never get to see.

As for shopping, I hate it! I used to love shopping with my best friend--we've been best friends for 50 years, by the way--but now nothing fits or seems appropriate for a woman of my age. I don't want to look like a teenage-wannabe, but I don't want to look like a frumpy matron either:)

Just back from AZ where I went wedding dress shopping with my daughter. This is my first time as a MOB, and I didn't realize that all the samples in wedding shops are in sizes 4 or 6. Now, my daughter is tall and muscular, certainly not a size 6. Wouldn't you think they would stock dresses in larger sizes for "real" brides? No wonder every bride decides she has to go on a diet:)

TBM said...

What a fun day! I think Roxi and I would have a lovely time at Pylones :-) Glad you enjoyed a lovely outing with your friend.

walk2write said...

You're a lucky woman to have kept in touch with a childhood friend and to have family in New York City. It is tough these days to find something suitable for a woman with a woman's figure to wear. I don't think I ever wore a size zero, and even a 10 is way off in the distant past. One of my favorite places to shop when the budget allows is a local boutique called Middleton Clothiers. The owner and other salesladies really make it a special place, with the beautiful clothes as the icing on the cake.

Gigi Thibodeau said...

What a great vicarious shopping trip! Thanks, Sarah. And I completely agree with your friend's idea about size zero. What a scary fact that it's a size to which many women (who are not naturally that petite) aspire. Like you, I do know a few women who are naturally very small.

These days I shop on the cheap as much as possible, but I buy fun accessories, shoes, etc. in Boston's Back Bay or in Cambridge--always on the sale rack!! One of my favorite spots in Boston is Rick Walker's on Newbury St. for vintage cowboy boots. They have great deals for men and for women. Can you tell I'm cheap? Must be my Maine-girl Yankee thrift. ;)

Barrie said...

I don't have a favorite place to shop. But shopping with a friend, or with my 9 year old daughter!, is definitely more fun than shopping alone. :)

Sarah Laurence said...

Angie, she sounds like the best aunt!

Rose, I have a hard time finding clothes that fit my proportions too. Sometimes I have better luck in stores that cater to teens because I’m petite. That’s so exciting about your daughter! How silly about the sizes.

JAPRA, I’d love to bring my daughter back to Pylones too. She was very jealous about my going shopping in NYC with a friend while she was in school.

W2W, yes I am lucky. How good to find a store that really works for you.

Gigi, I’m cheap too – I love to shop at Renny’s in Bath! Back in Cambridge, 12 years ago, I used to shop at Jasmine when it was mod, but now it’s disappointingly gone the trendy way of Juicy Couture etc. I’ll have to check out your recommendations next time I’m in Boston. Thanks!

Barrie, I have to admit to being a reluctant shopper. It’s all about the company; I agree.

Gigi Thibodeau said...

I was just at Renny's last week, Sarah! Whenever I visit my mother in Bath I make a stop at Renny's. It's where we shopped when I was growing up, and it's still a great place for so many things, including all my husband's socks and T-shirts! If you like antiques, you may want to stop in at my mum's shop on Front Street: Brick Store Antiques. She owns it with her sister and a friend, and it's a neat shop.

xo Gigi

Sarah Laurence said...

Gigi, I’ll have to stop into your mother’s store next time in Bath. It is a small world.

Keri Mikulski said...

Thanks for the trip to SoHo!! Looks like fun. :)

Hmm.. Not a big shopper.. But, I guess since I'm a Jersey Girl, I'm going to have to go with the mall. :) And the Coach Factory Store. :)

Happy Saturday!

Sarah Laurence said...

Keri, when she hits her tweens, your daughter will love shopping with you at the mall. We have a Coach Factory Store in Freeport, which is sort of like an outdoor mall. I found a great summer bag there years ago. There is only one real mall in Maine called, of course, The Maine Mall in South Portland. Luckily, I’m not much of shopper either.

rpkelly said...

Ben Sherman around the corner, and
Top Shop a little further south on B'way for much-needed British couture.
Romantic Gift shop over on Mott for all things Hello Kitty.
And Le Petite Abeille (up on 14th?) for Belgian waffles. Mmmmmm.

Dawn Maria said...

My BFF is flying into town in May for a rare solo visit with me. We are giddy with excitement and plan to go to High Tea. Old friends are the dearest, there's something about a shared history that binds you.

As for shopping, I love J. Crew for their clean lines that always feel modern. I like Anthropologie for funky things and Banana republic for more tailored items. But I still frequent Goodwill and consignment shops for treasure seeking.

Sarah Laurence said...

Rpk, that’s 3 votes for Uniqlo. I’ll go. Thanks for the other recommendations too. I didn’t know that Top Shop was in the USA now too. That along with today’s rian brings me back to our Oxford days. I’m feeling nostalgic.

DM, how nice to have your BFF visit and for High Tea. I like J Crew and Banana Republic too. I believe Cathy’s blouse in the photo was from Anthropologie. My daughter raids my closet and calls it vintage.

Booksnyc said...

Looks like you had a great day downtown! I love the spontaneity of your outing - its great that you decided on the spot to stay and spend the day with your friend while your husband drove home.

I'll have to go to Delicatessen - I haven't been there but the photos look great!

Sarah Laurence said...

Booksnyc, I’d recommend the salads over the sandwiches at Delicatessen. The club sandwich wasn’t that special and the salads were plenty large enough to be a meal on their own.

cynthia newberry martin said...

Sarah, I'm so happy to finally have the time to catch up with what you've been doing. This shopping excursion in SoHo sounds like fun even though I hate shopping! I try never to do it. The clothes I've been wearing for the last year, I bought when I was in Sausalito and had to take cover from a rain storm!

Sarah Laurence said...

Cynthia, the best finds come when you aren’t looking.