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New Kids On The Block - Neighborhood Retail Report

Everyday Society


by Pamela Troy

Fashion, especially for women, is a balancing act between conformity and asserting one’s individuality. Where can a shopper go in San Francisco to find something tasteful but still colorful and original?

White Rose Boutique in West Portal is unassuming on the outside; deep, narrow and filled with interesting items on the inside. Its owner, the elegant Ursula Marsten, has been running the shop for more than 20 years, offering her customers something beyond the conservative formality of modest knits. “St. John knits are fabulous, of course,” she observes. “People feel very comfortable in them, but it’s nice to have a change once in a while.” Here shoppers can pick up a jacket from Turkey, a sweater from Denmark, a jade, silk-ribbon pendant from Paris, a satiny, purplish-pink toque from Texas. Hats, in particular, are making a comeback, due in large part, Ursula believes, to the coverage of the royal wedding in London. She nods at a basket of feathery and exquisite ornaments, a cross between hair decorations and hats. “These have become very popular,” she says. “I can’t quite remember what they’re called, though.”

“Fascinators,” says DeAnna Gibbons, of DeAnna Gibbons Millinery in the Mission District, when she’s asked. “Right now people like dressy little fascinators and evening accessories. They’re light and airy and have movement, and you aren’t wearing something that’s getting in the way. People are really into decorative miniatures.” In the bright sunshine, of course, there are times when the last thing you want is a small, brimless almost-hat. “People going on vacation want something for sun protection,” says DeAnna, who does custom orders. “I post walk-in hours, and customers come in and say ‘I’m going to Hawaii for a week, and I really need a huge brim.’ I have ready-made, but when people find out that you customize, they usually want it in another color.”

DeAnna Gibbons Millinery offers hats that are right on trend

What options are there for women with a few extra curves? Carolyn Honig runs Go Figure from her home on Fulton near Masonic―her concession to an economy that forced her to close her Clement Street boutique. “This is the way people used to shop.  You can come in and shop, and go through all the clothing yourself, and I can advise.  If you already know what your style is, fine, and if you don’t, I am happy to offer suggestions based on my experience.” She shrugs off the common wisdom that stylish plus-sizes are hard to find. “The designers’ various lines of clothing definitely dictate the boundaries, but within those, people have choices, and I carry a lot of different lines. My bestselling line is called Comfy. It’s modern, it’s dreamy.” She also carries Tianello, URU, and Citron, lines that emphasize light textures and bright colors.

Born in New Orleans, Pamela Troy graduated from the University of North Carolina, with an MFA in writing. For the past 25 years, she has lived in San Francisco, where she works as the Events Assistant and CinemaLit Coordinator at the Mechanics’ Institute Library.






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