I decided to pack what I love. Those are the first words my dear friend spoke when she arrived back in Vermont after spending the winter months in the Sunshine State. She greeted me wearing white studded jeans, stylish wedge sandals, and an open cardigan that took the breeze with charm. I don’t care what Vermonters wear, she said, I’ve brought clothes that make me feel happy. Then she gave me the once over. You don’t look like Vermont! 100% true in the stereotypical sense. There’s not a Carhartt or LL Bean label in MY wardrobe. Welcome to the new Vermont, I said, where there doesn’t seem to be any fashion rules. I step to one side of ready wear but stay on the edge of costume, teetering on the fringe I feel exactly right, exactly me.
But my friend’s assumptions got me thinking. Where a person shops dictates how they look. If you shop in a box store, you tend to look like everyone else in that box, right? Luckily for me, Vermont is a place where local is plentiful, and this is as true in fashion as it is in our abundant farm to table market. Plenty of East Coast designers are showcased in our boutiques, but even if they aren’t local, they are small companies keeping their pulse on trends and using natural materials with consideration for the natural world. Shopping with this consciousness a woman can feel good creating the look she wants.
On this July day, I decided to visit three favorite, woman-owned boutiques, and see what’s on their shelves for summer.
I started in Stowe, at Green Envy, asking owner Mary Lou Baraw about her fashion philosophy: “The Art of Effortless Dressing” is how she sums up her clothing and accessory choices. Located in a quaint renovated building, you feel as if you are visiting a friend when you walk in the door. Wood floors and plenty of natural light flood the array of simple yet stylish clothing, all artfully displayed about the shop. On my first perusal I was drawn to a silk shift, tie-dyed to create a feel of fluid motion, by Gypsy05. I was pleased to learn that this company was environmentally friendly, “Incorporating organic fabrics, soy softeners, low impact dyes and seaweed extract printing into the collection, Gypsy05 holds environmental awareness as a core philosophy, beginning with its headquarters – the first completely solar-powered dyeing, printing and manufacturing facility in Los Angeles, California.” The professional sales team coupled the dress with a handcrafted smoky quartz necklace by IN2Design to complete my winning look within minutes. A benefit from shopping small is you can find what you are looking for without hiking through multiple departments. IN2 designs purports to have created “a line of jewelry that is at once modern and classic, unique and yet highly wearable.” Looking around Green Envy I would add that many of their handcrafted jewelry shares this philosophy.
Afterwards I made a drive to the ‘big city’ of Burlington to visit another shop that always has what I’m looking for, in terms of style and price: Sweet Lady Jane. This boutique, owned by Rachel Strules, is on Church Street, a bustling pedestrian delight! Burlington, known for its forward thinking, prohibits driving along these designated blocks, inviting you to shop, dine, and enjoy the eclectic crowd. People watching is at its best along Church Street. Walking into Sweet Lady Jane one can feel their style philosophy: unique, distinctive, engaging, and with brands like Clover Canyon and Free People, you can discover multiple ways into your own look.
I really love the feel of the ‘Black Marlow’ by Free People, especially paired with the Carolina ‘Amazonite’ necklace. In the ‘Draped Metal’ Clover Canyon dress I added a chunky amethyst ring by Roost, a red bangle by Giles and Brother and a wide gold one by Elizabeth Knight. Another benefit to shopping in owner-run-boutiques is the knowledge these women have, and the care they spend helping you complete the look you want. There is never a cookie-cutter approach.
My stroll down Church Street is never complete without making a stop at Llyndara Harbour‘s Stella Mae. This boutique earned its winning reputation over the last ten years, first with fabulous shoes and accessories, and now with equally fabulous clothing. “Through a thoughtfully curated collection of pieces from our favorite designers and brands, we help navigate current trends as well as classic looks that inspire our customers.” I was quite inspired by this cute straw fedora, the “Maddock” by Brixton. Again, I was met with a super helpful sales team who landed me in super comfy Naya wedges.
Whatever “Best Dressed” means to you, I’d suggest finding your unique look at your neighborhood boutique. Introduce yourself to the owner and begin a fabulous friendship along with your ever-changing fashion sense. Show your Independence this weekend. Keep It Local and Make It Yours.