Park Me in Portsmouth

So many shops, so little time



At Pretty Little Things.

Photo by Susan Laughlin

My wallet called — “it” wanted to be “taken out” so I took it shopping in Portsmouth and now it’s complaining of motion sickness. Buckle your seatbelt; this month’s shopping trip is prone to sudden stops.

Abode Home Furnishings, 775 Lafayette Rd., is like a piñata full of sweetness spilling forth home décor, price-friendly home furnishings, sassy dining and kitchen ware (onion goggles, $22), essential oil aromatherapy candles (from Way Out Wax in Vermont), stationery, hard-to-find Nag Champa incense, ethnic gifts, EcoCrock compost pails and so much more. Kudos to one classy and enthusiastic staff.

Madeleine’s Event Central, 775 Lafayette Rd., is your ticket to a kiss from your teen. Named one of the top 10 prom stores in the country, this is where to "say yes to the dress.” One of the biggest draws is the Faviana collection, known for knocking off gowns in 24 hours after the Oscars. Every dress bought is registered by name and school, so that “no one else at the prom” will have the same dress. Couture and glittery (pageant) gowns rule this shop. Expect long lines and princess prices ($250–$600).

Bobbles and Lace, 15 Vaughan Mall, is the place for affordable accessories (chunky and “designer-like” jewelry), flirty skirts, dresses, jeans, tops, bikinis and sandals. Nothing in this store is over $100. Sizes are small, medium and large. The jean collection includes higher rises, wearable for all ages. The free gift wrap in adorable pink boxes with ribbon and attached tiny roses makes the perfect presentation.

Pretty Little Things, 21 Vaughn Mall, is where you’ll find the right dress for a summer wedding or a flirty night out with your new love. Owner Michelle Galvin (23 years old!) has a fashion sense that guarantees an inventory that’s hip. Look for high-low hems, cute cotton print skirts and plenty of bling. Watch your head, the Hermes Birkin-inspired bags (the ultimate elitist signature bag that A-listers pluck down $10,000 and up for) are flying off the shelf at $88.

When it comes to consignment stores on the Seacoast, Wear House, 74 Congress St., is the place to park. Shoppers (it can get crowded) delight in the store’s blend of designer labels and “arty-urban’ clothing. Look for good condition at rock-bottom prices (Luis Vuitton tote $998). Red slashes mean half price.

Le Club Boutique and City Shoes (two stores in one), 41 Vaughn Mall, is the go-to shop for mothers and daughters who need bonding time. You’ll find dresses for all occasions from work to play to dressy prom. The Tango Mango cha-cha dresses (some reversible!) are irresistible for cocktails on the beach. Look for edgy-yet-classy shoes for sophisticated feet from City Shoes. Complimentary wine, cheese and crackers on weekends make this a great date-night stop. (Think “Pretty Woman.”)

Are you an Audrey Hepburn fan? Stop in to Hélène m., 24 Congress St., where you’ll feel her vibe. This store offers a nice selection of classic ware from signature designers including Diane von Furstenberg, Trina Turk and Rebecca Taylor. Tees from Michael Stars are figure-flattering, soft and offer a permission slip to go bra-less.

Somnia, 107 Congress St., is like waking up in a Buckingham Palace bedchamber.  This bedding, bath and home décor boutique is dreamy, elegant and luxurious.  You’ll find down comforters, feather beds, pillows, cashmere blankets and perhaps a new intrigue for romance. Owner Brian Gahan (known by regulars for his personal service) has impeccable taste, which is reflected in every item (including select furniture pieces) in this magical boutique.

If you dress to be noticed and seek a certain je ne sais quoi, Hazel, 7 Commercial Alley, is totally for you. Here is where you’ll find smart, feminine and European-influenced clothing for self-confident and fashion-forward women. The Porto (Italian) collection is ridiculously fabulous, featuring unique fabric, cuts and off-the-radar design. The vegan leather bags (in a variety of deep, rich colors) by Shiraleah are outstandingly chic and affordable at $90.

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