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Café Society

This carefully considered vintage clothing store in Brookline focuses on evening-worthy cocktail dresses. Proprietress Betsey Brooks puts pieces from as early as the 1890s out on the floor—though most of the inventory can be traced to the '40s and '50s—and ensures that every one is impeccably preserved. You won't find a single missing button, stain, or ragged hem in the mix.
131 Cypress St., Brookline, 617-738-7186

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Dress

Martha Hilfinger and Jane Schlueter have reliably flawless taste: There are no risky style choices on their racks. Instead, their three-year-old spot, awash in blond wood, features only the most flattering picks from a smattering of brands like 3.1 Phillip Lim and Lyell. The duo's on-point judgment has established Dress as the best place in town for foolproof party dresses.
221 Newbury St., Back Bay, 617-424-7125, dressboston.com

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Gretta Luxe

The Gretta Luxe minichain is our favorite of local TV personality Gretchen Monahan's vast endeavors (she also owns spas and salons); Monahan unerringly presents an irresistible array of high-high-end picks from designers like Stella McCartney alongside more affordable names like Adam and Lauren Moffatt. The Copley Square branch wins points for convenience and a gallery-like presentation, but the Wellesley original is bigger and has better sales.
10 Huntington Ave., Back Bay, 617-536-1959; 94 Central St., Wellesley, 781-237-7010

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Hudson

Named after Hudson, New York (a former mill town famed both for its prison and its mass of vintage home goods stores), this two-year-old destination is equal parts modern industrial and old-world farmhouse. Owner and interior decorator Jill Goldberg pulls together a masterful mix of block-printed John Robshaw pillows, handcarved bird statues from Oly, and richly patterned Madeline Weinrib rugs.
312 Shawmut Ave., South End, 617-292-0900, hudsonboston.com

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Lab

Situated in the student-heavy, slightly gritty neighborhood of Allston, this streetwear shop stocks the requisite collectible vinyl toys (and has a set of turntables in the corner), but you'll also find streamlined tops and jackets that work just as well in a more mainstream wardrobe. Lab is a huge supporter of local artists, so all of the graphic, brightly hued paintings on the walls are for sale.
113 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-395-4330

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Looc

Channeling a French maritime-meets-East Coast prep sensibility (anchors and croquet sets both figure in the decor), this South End retailer manages to be supremely cute and completely elegant at the same time. The neutral-toned goods strike the same refined note: Lerario Beatriz thick cotton tunics and wispy Vanessa Bruno blouses line the racks.
12 Union Park St., South End, 617-357-5333

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Parlor

Though it has a long tradition of stocking indie greats like Nicholas K and Modern Amusement, this source also has fledgling labels, like an area-exclusive on Dustin Trust, a former designer at St. John, who recently moved to Boston to create his own collection of exquisitely constructed pieces.
1248 Washington St., South End, 617-521-9005

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Stel's

Tucked away down a flight of stairs in a reworked 1900s horse stable, this unfussy four-year-old shop looks more like a chill basement hangout than a store. Guided by three retail veterans—Tina Burgos and Dave Nauyokas are Louis Boston alums, while Jon Callahan worked for Ermenegildo Zegna—the selection focuses on one-of-a-kind-feeling pieces. Ribbon-festooned Lizzie Fortunato necklaces, woven L.D. Tuttle flats, and smock tops from A.P.C. are all winning options.
334 Newbury St., Back Bay, 617-262-3348, stelsinc.com

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Turtle

One of the first Boston-based stores to embrace nascent lines, Storey Hauck's below-ground haunt has the city's deepest array of newcomers. There are C. Lin's carefully tailored blouses along with silk dresses from Argentinean-born Daniela Corte, who is perhaps the city's most well-known fashion import.
619 Tremont St., South End, 617-266-2610

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Curated by the Tannery

Cambridge institution the Tannery has been quietly selling nothing but sensible walking shoes since the early '80s. Then, this past year, its owners decided to spin off two wildly different and fashion-forward ventures. One is Concepts, a rare sneaker emporium, and the other is Curated by the Tannery, which has flooded a cavernous 10,000-square-foot space with an insanely comprehensive selection of independent talent, from names like Pencey, Society for Rational Dress, and Sea. Beyond the impressive depth of cool clothes on offer, it also has one of the largest denim walls we've seen in a stand-alone boutique.
39 Brattle St., Harvard Square, 617-491-1811

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