Mexican candy wrapper purse from Arcobaleno Trade.

Au Courant:

Boutique Bailout: It’s back-to-basics this holiday, as the econo-enviro-political rollercoaster we’ve been riding has left us acutely aware of what this season is really all about-and, perhaps, a little nauseous. Giving feels good, but money is tighter than your skinny jeans after three cups of eggnog, 14 mini-quiches, and five pieces of fudge. (Not that I would know.) And, although I don’t have my head up my last-year’s-denim-clad ass, I’m going to encourage you to spend some. Retailers are hurting, and in S.B., where national chains have waged an all-out war on our mom-and-pop shops, those stylish mamas and papas need our support more than ever. So, this recessionista says, if we must shop, let’s keep it in the family. And if community support isn’t a good enough cause for you, I’ve chosen to highlight two shops where the inventory is unique, affordable, and perfect for giving, and an extra shot of do-goodery is automatic.

Strong Like : Lotus? If you haven’t made it by the Lotus Boutique (637 Chapala St.), now is the time. Since opening in 2005, owner, jewelry designer, and S.B. native Erica Forbes has searched out small, stylish, locally, organically, and sustainably made lines for everyone. Recently, Forbes and her family lost their home to the Tea Fire, which has done nothing to cramp their strength, attitude, or style. In addition to the usual (if fabulous) suspects-like Rene Geneva, Rhythm Apparel, and Of the Earth-check out the adorable green-spun yarn hoodies and vintage-inspired tees from Sustainable Kids-each comes with a recycled, postage-prepaid, pre-addressed box, encouraging children to donate a toy or other goody to children in Haiti. And don’t miss the remaining pieces of Forbes’s jewelry line, Erica Om.

Fair and Fabulous: Since we’ve established that we’re gonna have to suck it up and do at least a little shopping and we’d probably prefer that our dollars do double-duty, Arcobaleno Trade (7 W. Haley St.) is another must-stop. The shop, which opened in April ’07, sells only ethically produced, fair trade-certified products, and most everything is made from creatively recycled ex-junk. Sandie Doles Garcia, the shop’s original owner, passed away this year, but her daughter Amesia has taken the reins and is doing her mom proud, keeping the space true to Sandie’s vision: full of special gifts, like knitted Alpaca wool gloves, arm warmers, and beanies, recycled candy wrapper clutches, and adorable tree-topping angels, made of recycled Coke cans. Few things could be sweeter, except maybe a Mountain Dew.

The Frugal Fashionista

Spotlight On:

The Frugal Fashionista

In an era when living in the red is becoming the new black, the smartest fashionista is the frugal fashionista-which bodes well for Darla Bea Smith and her styling biz of the same name. Not merely a clever marketing ploy, this S.B. native practices what she preaches, which can be summed up with the mantra “revive, refresh, recycle.” Smith believes in making the most of what you already have and dressing for who you are now, not 10 years (or 10 pounds) ago. For a reasonable fee, she’ll descend upon your closet and rip through your duds like Carrie Bradshaw through a Manolo catalog, putting outfits together, yanking what needs to be yanked, and organizing what’s left. And then, she’ll take you shopping-at second-hand and vintage stores-with a very specific list of the items you need to complete your wardrobe. Raised by an interior designer and “Color Me Beautiful” devotee, and with her background in art history and clothing retail, Smith has an eye for design. Add the fact that Smith grew up playing with paper dolls, and it’s only natural that she’d feel so at home orchestrating these real-life marathons of dress-up. And, with 2009 just around the corner, a consult with the Frugal Fashionista might just be a perfect-and perfectly frugal-way to start off the new year. Who needs that gym membership, anyway? Reach her at 895-3400 or

Shop This:

Lucia Loves Luigi

If you’re convinced there can be no bright side to the train wreck that is the economy, perhaps a certain four-letter word might change your mind: SALE. Or, better yet, SALES. Feeling better yet? Well, you should, because right now, Santa Barbara is positively teeming with shop owners just itching to hook you up and make what remains of your holiday shopping a little less painful (doubters should note the number who are also providing alcohol). : For ladies either naughty or nice-or some combination of both-and those who love them, get thyself down to Purrmission‘s holiday party tonight, Thursday, December 18, from 5-7 p.m., for champagne, 15 percent off all merchandise, and free gift wrapping. : Underthings handled, take care of the finishing touch at Lucia Loves Luigi this evening, from 4-8 p.m., for a trunk show featuring Iris Di Santo Jewelry, discounts, wine, and snacks. So that’ll get ya underpants-ed, blinged, fed, and a little buzzed-and all in time for whatever holiday soiree is topping tonight’s dance card. Just remember to put on something between the undies and the jewels, okay? : Start off this Saturday, December 20, with a trip to Cominichi’s, where you’ll find all kinds of the S.B. consignment staple’s unique, giftable goodies for 50 percent off in the back parking lot. And get there early-the HoHoHonanza starts at 8 p.m. : Then hit up the SBMA Gift Shop from noon-5 p.m. for a trunk show featuring accessories by Caron Miller, silk kimonos by Sophie Golightly, and hand-embroidered handkerchief camis by Bella Notte. : Newcomer Lovebird Boutique and Jewelry Bar is having a trunk show and sample sale this Saturday, December 20, and Sunday, December 21. Stop by to score up to 50 percent off Zia Jewelry. : And k.frank is running an excellent storewide promotion: buy one item at full price, get a second for 50 percent off. Two gifts for the cost of one and a half? Awesome. A reason to get yourself something, too? Priceless.


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