No one Outside is ever going to rank any of Alaska's cities as a fashion hub or shopping hot spot. In fact, some of your next-door neighbors still probably laugh and roll eyes at the idea that there's any style in this state. (The Travel and Leisure poll last summer ranking Anchorage as the worst dressed city says so.)
But for anyone who doesn't abide by the "polar fleece and flannel" stigma, welcome to the new home of AK Shopgirl at Alaska Dispatch.
I started writing about local shopping, primarily focused on Anchorage, almost eight years ago and during that time I've developed a devotion to our style, however eclectic and crazy it can be. I've also come to appreciate the people who work hard behind the counters to enhance and elevate our options, as well as everyone who makes bold choices in their daily lives to dress beyond our boundaries, whether imposed by climate, distance or accepted wisdom.
At Alaska Dispatch, I'll still be writing about local shopping and style as I always have, but one key difference is that the coverage will expand statewide.
I'll do the research, find great products, seek out ways to make shopping easier and share it here. Expect updates on shopping and style events, information on store openings, profiles of local boutiques and tastemakers across the state and insight into what makes shopping and style in the Last Frontier unique.
To start us off, here's information on a few stores that are new or maybe just new-to-you. And since it's the holidays, I've included each store's shopping specials to help ease the seasonal stress.
bodyphlo (1002 W. Northern Lights Blvd., Anchorage; 276-1464)
This Midtown Anchorage women's active wear boutique is the result of pure innovation. Formerly Action Apparel, a staple store for dance apparel for 26 years, bodyphlo was born in 2011 when the original concept was kicked up a notch and combined with higher-end women's active wear. The sum is a boutique that supports a niche market with hip, modern dance wear and offers sophisticated technical options for other activities.
"We definitely want to cater to the woman who likes to work out, going to yoga class or Pilates or the gym," said Store Manager Charity Blanchett. "Then, this being our second winter, we're also starting to bring in lines that are warm, but chic and fashionable."
To help with the holiday shopping, bodyphlo has launched a holiday wish list contest. Customers can visit the store, make a list and share it via bodyphlo's Facebook page, telling everyone why they should win $250 toward their list. Getting the most likes will help determine the winner on Dec. 24. Also this month, $50 and $100 gift certificates are 10 percent off.
Lulu E. Bebe Wasilla (645 Jessica Brooke Circle, Wasilla; 315-5635)
As of November, a popular Anchorage women's boutique has a sister store in Wasilla. For a decade, Lulu E. Bebe has been an Eastside fixture, providing on-trend clothing options for day's work to a night out. The new shop's offerings are a bit more vintage-inspired than what we're used to at the original location. Think Anthropologie aspirations with ModCloth prices, with a mix of clothing, accessories and even home décor.
For Lorena Roberts, this is an idea she's wanted to see through for years. Her annual spot at the Alaska State Fair gives her access to customers who motivated her expansion.
"People in Wasilla are awesome," she said. "People in Wasilla are very loyal and want their local businesses to succeed. They are very excited and vocal about what they want and need."
To help with the holiday shopping, Lulu E. Bebe Wasilla will be hosting spontaneous sales throughout the month. To find out and keep up, visit the store's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/luluebebewasillaak.
Mabel McKinley (920 W. Sixth Ave., Anchorage; 350-2762)
In a cozy loft in a quaint house on Sixth Avenue in Anchorage, sisters Sarah Dahlstrom and Deela Roe opened Mabel McKinley barely a year ago. The shop is chock full of a little bit of everything: handmade, vintage, repurposed and new, including jewelry, dresses and accessories for you and your home.
"This is a creative outlet," Dahlstrom said. "I wouldn't call myself an artist. I'm crafty. We can make weird stuff and people say, 'Oh that's neat!'"
Practicality has a place too: One of the most popular items so far might just be the fleece-lined tights that come in a rainbow of colors. The sisters have also found a niche in catering to women size 10 and higher, so you'll see selection, particularly of dresses, up to size 24.
To help with the holiday shopping, Mabel McKinley will host Ladies' Night for the next two Thursdays (Dec. 13 and 20). The store will stay open until 8 p.m., lure you in with treats and help you check off the ladies on your shopping list.
Anchorage freelance writer Leslie Boyd writes a regular column on local shopping and style. Ideas, information or tips? Contact her at akshopgirl(at)gmail.com