News flash: The Upper East Side is all about glamour. Yet despite being known for jaw-dropping expensive boutiques, there are some cool spots in NYC’s high-class neighborhood. We smoked them out and discovered affordable boutiques with the best sale racks, a shop with fast-fashion chain store prices and a couple of slightly overpriced shops that we just can’t resist. You have to step inside and do the research in order to determine what will be up for grabs at Fivestory’s next sample sale, right?
RECOMMENDED: Upper East Side neighborhood guide
The best shops on the Upper East Side
New Yorkers are a tough crowd to impress. Perhaps with this in mind, the design-centric Italian company known for its iconic teakettles and anthropomorphic corkscrews tapped architect Hani Rashid to conceive its two NYC emporiums. Rashid rose to the challenge with a futuristic space bedecked with metallic wallpaper and custom-designed modular shelving. On those shelves, you’ll find fancy copper pots and bright, porcupine-shaped paper-clip holders from the budget-friendly A di Alessi collection, among other housewares.
A life-size zebra welcomes shoppers at Alexis Bittar’s boutique, a veritable safari of the designer’s most colorful accessories. Best known for his Lucite jewelry (small square bangles, drop pendants, block rings), Bittar has also expanded his collection to include precious metals. Choose from silver, gold or rose-gold pieces, adorned with semiprecious stones and Swarovski crystals.
We’re suckers for going through designer Stacey Bendet’s fun and feminine garb at this inviting, colorful boutique. Bonus: The UES store has a stellar sale rack. We recently spotted a beautiful black Brandy halter dress for $198 (down from $495).
Eveningwear aficionados Mark Badgley and James Mischka open their first NYC store in the space previously occupied by Emilio Pucci. Built in 1910, the tri-level boutique features 18th-century antique columns, Parisian mirrors, raw-brass fixtures and a bohemian crystal chandelier. Ladies will find glitzy gowns, accessories and outerwear, as well as the midpriced Mark & James collection of dresses and separates.
So you have money to blow and time to kill? Then get your paws on Fashion triple-pearl ear jackets ($190) and TSE cashmere hats ($195) at Claire Distenfeld’s luxury shop.
This casual-cool Southern California–inspired women’s clothing boutique has migrated to the East Coast, opening its first NYC stand-alone store on the Upper East Side. The shop’s polished interior is reminiscent of a classic Parisian pied-à-terre and bathed in artificial lighting meant to mirror the Cali sunshine. Stock up on sophisticated weekend wears, including cotton tie-dyed tank dresses ($228), embroidered tops ($348) and bold-pattern elastic-waist shorts ($168).
After a decade of outfitting hip, sophisticated ladies in her playfully patterned designs, Milly creator Michelle Smith opened her first U.S. flagship in NYC. From dresses and jackets to jewelry and handbags, there isn’t a single style here that’s not on our wish list.
If you struggle with the art of mixing trendy duds with basics, consider the contemporary styles found at this Upper East Side boutique, the key to unleashing your inner mixologist. This is the first Manhattan outpost for the Long Island retailer, and while the brand is considered a fast-fashion chain due to its affordable pricing, the shop carries bohemian designer labels, including BB Dakota, UNIF and For Love & Lemons, giving the store a leg up on its competitors H&M and Forever 21.
The arrival of a wedding invitation needn't signal a wardrobe crisis. Always be prepared with an '80s-style plum-metallic taffeta halter dress ($450) or an exotic olive silk gown with beading and embroidered mirrors ($2,235), and stock up on pair of bronze leather T-straps ($180) and some Paco Rabanne–ish metal belts ($320–$340).
New York designer Yumi Kim, a leader in creating colorful, flirty threads, brings another one her eponymous women’s clothing boutiques on the Upper East Side (the original is on the Lower East Side). The breezy, girly style of her clothes is reflected in the space, which is decorated with hanging birdcages, peacock-print wallpaper and a lounge featuring a shag rug, a cozy couch and two vintage chairs. But you won’t want to sit when you can get busy trying on floral strapless maxi dresses and textured-silk frocks with bat-wing sleeves.