Though they're usually the last thing you put on, shoes make or break your outfit—and Alan Bilzerian does his best to make sure that you come out on the right side of that equation. He's got a healthy lineup of casual, never-juvenile footwear by Marséll and Corvari, but it's his world-class dress shoes that really take things up a notch: crocodile Alberto Fasciani laceups, Carpe Diem bucks with handcut laces, and Paul Hardin handpainted shoes with stitched toecaps. 1217 Centre St., Newton Centre, MA 2459, alanbilzerian.com.
Once a land overrun with whale belts, Hingham is casting off its preppy past. Leading the charge is Crossing Main, a fashion-forward boutique that sells sophisticated clothes, shoes, jewelry, and handbags. On hand are frilly Tracy Reese dresses, bright hibiscus-print shifts by Milly, Tibi tunics, and quasi-bohemian dresses from Nanette Lepore. So if you're still putting off that wardrobe overhaul: Give your surplus Lilly Pulitzer to Goodwill and embrace the new soccer mom chic. 5 Main St., Hingham, MA 2043, .
The biggest names in the perfume biz (Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel) are fully represented on these gleaming counters, as are scores of cult lines (Creed, Jo Malone). But the fun of buying here is chatting with the helpful salespeople, who will happily point you toward the first lady's favorite bottle or come up with a scent even your perfume-averse S.O. will find irresistible. Copley Place, Natick Collection, Boston, Natick, MA 02116, 01760, neimanmarcus.com.
What kind of broadloom carpeting does Jerry Arcari carry? "I know what everyone else has," he says, "and that's what I ;don't have." Indeed, his showroom is piled high with selections like jute-backed wool, flat-weave alpaca, even a carpet made of wood pulp. Some of it's from Germany, some comes from as close as Fall River. And all of it's worlds apart from your typical wall-to-wall. 333 Stuart St., Boston, MA 2116, landryandarcari.com.
When it comes to guiding you through the bewildering array of diaper bags, baby carriers, and car seats out there, none of the other tot emporiums in town compares to Magic Beans. Exhibit A: the store's carriage questionnaire, which gets reviewed by one of Magic Beans' "stroller experts." From there, they can help you match the correct model to your needs—and for anxious new parents, that kind of coddling is always welcome. 312 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 2446, mbeans.com.
Now with four locations in Greater Boston—Natick, Burlington, Peabody, and a new outpost in Braintree—Nordstrom has the area's most exhaustive supply of dress shoes, boots, sneakers, and sandals. If this sounds overwhelming, know that staffers here are adept at recognizing the clueless shopper. These special agents can solve nearly any footwear dilemma and help you navigate brand names like Converse, John Varvatos, Ferragamo, and Santoni. 290 Speen St., Natick, MA 1760, nordstrom.com.
IBC mechanics are so thorough in teaching you to fix your bike, you may never need to go back to their Boston or Newton shops. But go back you will, if not for a new ride, then for parts, accessories, and clothing by brands such as Trek, Giordana, Nike, and Pearl Izumi. The store also organizes group rides along scenic city routes, plugging new pedalers into Boston's bike-loving community. 88 Brighton Ave., Allston, MA 2134, internationalbike.com.
If children are the future, surely their rooms shouldn't be stuck in the past. Shop Bambini for color-saturated contemporary furnishings and gadgets such as Kaloo stuffed animals and floor mats, Vibel modular play sets, must-have Bugaboo strollers, and Sozu lighting to illuminate your bright young things. Because it's never too early to learn to appreciate good taste. 82 Boylston St. (Rte. 9), Brookline, MA 2445, bellabambinidesign.com.
When it comes to looking good, creativity is key. Learn to express yourself, piece together original outfits, and steer away from mass-marketed merchandise by heading to Café Society. The store's well-priced mix of vintage shoes, bags, hats, and jewelry—all in good condition—calls to mind your mother's closet, circa 1960. Embracing the old never felt so cool. 131 Cypress St., Brookline, MA .
Louis's unparalleled offering of women's designs by fashion darlings including Marni, Tuleh, and Zac Posen—not to mention a formidable men's collection with everything from Brioni to Trovata—makes it a legendary local house of style. The revitalized first floor now includes more bath products, linens, and vintage home goods than ever, and the salespeople remain polite, not pushy. 234 Berkeley St., Boston, MA louisboston.com/.
The most popular institutions in Harvard Square have a way of disappearing (can you say Tasty Diner?) but Dickson Brothers is still hawking hardware after more than 75 years. The three-story warren is full of products ranging from pretty housewares to power tools. But the little touches are what make going to Dickson Brothers a treat—like the Good Humor fridge where you can scarf down a Klondike bar in the time it takes employees to cut your keys. 26 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA dicksonbros.com/.
Given fashion's current obsession with the past, the vintage store is at the forefront of style. Oona's, just outside Harvard Square, has us swooning over vintage leather jackets, dresses from the 1960s, and unique jewelry and bags. With reasonable prices, a large men's selection, and an ample inventory, Oona's has the vintage pieces you need to create a timeless style all your own. 1210 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA oonasboston.com/.
You'll need to work to unearth the gems at this tightly packed consignment store. But it's worth the effort. The Closet has racks of cashmere sweaters, leather jackets, Lilly Pulitzer pants, and Gucci blousons, along with an excellent selection of designer shoes from Chanel, Prada, and Stuart Weitzman. That, plus the substantial men's section and well-organized collection of quality handbags and belts, make the Closet an effective nexus between the previous owners' closet and your own. 175 Newbury St., Boston, MA blog.closetboston.com/.
Yes, we know the cultlike following can be a turnoff. But no other store has a more-comprehensive selection of products or better-educated employees, eager to help locate the ideal solution for your particular nursing/sleeping/strolling/fill-in-the-blank dilemma. Even if you don't enroll in one of the informative prenatal classes or organized playgroups, you'll still walk out feeling like an empowered mom or dad. Prudential Center, Boston, MA isisparenting.com.
A small but well-thought-out selection of hats, bags, bathing suits, shirts, and pants from brands both familiar (Levi's) and niche (the U.K.-bred collection Brixton) means that even if you don't know your way around a dressing room, you'll walk out of here looking like you do. 511 Tremont St., Boston, MA uniformboston.com.