Denim Bars

A new wave of jeans counters is offering a huge selection of up-and-coming lines - in addition to our favorite, we'll-never-take-these-off standbys.

Red Dress Boutique

This loftlike spot brims with feminine labels like Nanette Lepore, Voom, and Beau Bois.

Hush

This store introduces suburban shoppers to labels usually found in big-city boutiques. Look for Buddhist Punk, Mint, and Tomorrow's Chase—we love its tee featuring a scribbled likeness of a sand castle ($62). 1354 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, 925-944-4874

Jeremys

The thrill of shopping this designer clearance shop, which has brand-new castoffs from other stores, is never knowing what you'll unearth. Our most recent find: a pair of Prada boots ($47). We prefer this spot to the San Francisco Jeremys, as the merchandise is more affordable.

Samantha Lee Boutique

Color and prints collide on the racks of this boutique, and the resulting chromatic saturation provides an instant mood boost. Expect lots of cute, summery separates by Shoshanna, Nanette Lepore, Milly, and other lines known for their feminine silhouettes.

Roulette

As with Time After Time, we were pleasantly surprised by this second-floor vintage spot. It's less picked-over, and especially good for tastefully glam '50s and '60s pieces.

Scout — Molly's

The ability to constantly surprise is what makes this colorful, antique-decorated boutique so great: Half the stock is feminine and pretty, while the other 50 percent has a citified edge.

Time After Time

Good vintage stores are an anomaly in the area, so when we came across this one on Chapel Hill's main drag, we figured its prime location equaled a lame selection. And yet: The first-rate medley of denim vests and plaid skirts quickly proved us absolutely wrong.

Capitol

Come here to splurge on a designer bag: Capitol has local exclusives on big names like Chloé and Balenciaga and has a knack for stocking the best from each brand.

Air Studios

Always carefully edited, this spot has long set the standard in the neighborhood for more fashion-forward lines: Go here for Cacharel, Sass & Bide, and A.P.C.

Century 21

The newest branch of this bargain hunter's paradise is so much better than its Manhattan flagship: It's less claustrophobic and crowded, the excellent merchandise isn't picked over, and, thankfully, the dressing rooms are private (the NYC location has communal changing areas).

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