Best Stop Before Girls' -- or Ghouls' -- Night Out

Studio Lites

Drag performers and career monsters flock to Studio Lites, a teeny Broadway space crammed with lots of things to make her, him or it feel pretty. Zombie Webmaster Maris the Great comes to Lites for its green face paint and fake blood -- the kind of specialty cosmetics you're not likely to find at Walgreen's. And any self-respecting queen of show clubs like BJ's Carousel knows it is the place to stop before putting on her face. (You didn't think she was born with it, did you?) At home in the eclectic Baker neighborhood, the Studio traffics in wigs, makeup and other frou-frou stuff for fantasy or just for fun.
Shoppers normally too embarrassed to linger over lingerie are strongly encouraged to get over themselves when they step inside Pandora's Toy Box. Owner Kevin Larson emphasizes sensuality as well as customer care, with a hearty pro-pleasure vibe that's welcoming even to novices. Don't know what that large oblong contraption on the table is? Somebody will explain it to you, sweetie; all you have to do is ask. The boutique's merchandise moves from lacy to racy -- don't blush at the sight of crotchless skivvies or sex swings -- but it's all presented in a decidedly un-icky way. When shopping for gifts for a partner, or perhaps even seeking a battery-operated companion, think inside the Box.


Screw those whiny city anti-smoking ordinances. For some, nothing beats a fat stogie and a stiff drink after a tough week. Lucky for you, El Cid's tobacco shop in northwest Denver is moments away from anywhere, and it features more than a hundred varieties of fine cigars imported from various steamy Central American climes and lovingly housed in a terrifically aromatic walk-in humidor. Such special smokes are proffered by a thoroughly knowledgeable staff, hardcore leaf aficionados who can tell a Honduran from a Dominican in a single whiff. El Cid's sells hand-rolled Deseo and other Cubans (they're legal, because they're made with aged, pre-embargo Cuban tobacco from the 1950s) starting at around $6. High rollers must try the $46 Lars Teten: The tobacco leaves dry above a vat of steaming exotic oils, creating one sweet-smelling stinker.


If reat pleats, drapes, ankle-chokers, pachuco chains and chalk stripes are your style, then Craig Peña and Jay Salas are the vatos for you. During the past six years, they've sold more than a million dollars' worth of zoot suits and accessories, and outfitted everyone from Garth Brooks to Sugar Shane Mosley. With original designs, custom fittings and cutting-edge attitudes, they've managed to become the official clothiers of the Players Ball in Las Vegas. (Even Barry Fey has ordered one.) And they're just getting started in their zoot-suit pursuit. With a brand-new line of clothing, called Chingaso, geared toward the boxing community, they hope to dominate the Hispanic clothing market. "We do everything balls out," Peña says. "One day we will conquer the world."

Best Place to Get Big-City Threads

Hub

If you want to look cool, it's all about denim. And to get the trendy styles and labels worn by J. Lo and Tom (Cruise, that is), swing by Hub for a pair of G-Star, Diesel or Miss Sixty jeans -- you might choose to live in Aurora, but you don't have to dress like it. An airy Larimer boutique and fashion emporium, Hub also carries funky tops, hip purses and suave shoes by all the cool names -- from Michael Stars to Seven to Jay Lindburgh. Catering to both lads and lassies, the Hub may seem a tad pricey, but if you're looking to impress, walk this way.


A sad classified ad might start: Wedding dress for sale, never worn. But that's just what you'll happily find at Puttin' on the Ritz, a resale women's clothing shop where many of the gowns in the bridal room come from stores that just don't do sales: All are priced between $99 and $800. That leaves more dough for a rockin' wedding band.


Imagine not having to worry about coordinating the colors of your wedding party and the decor because as you exchange your vows, you're surrounded by lush tropical foliage and a shimmering cloud of delicate floating wings in ever-changing iridescent hues. Once the staff of the Butterfly Pavilion realized that couples were surreptitiously renting the conservatory for their nuptials, they knew they had a new marketing venture. Now you can actually book the Conservatory for an after-hours ceremony amid the flora and fauna. So far, fourteen couples have said "I do" in front of the dragonflies and swallowtails. No food is allowed, and only about forty of your nearest and dearest can be in attendance, but for a romantic setting, the gazebo of the Butterfly Pavilion can't be beat.


If you've got money to burn, the mall shuttle can drop you at your boutique of choice. But dedicated bargain shoppers make a beeline for T J Maxx, where the varied inventory is as much of a thrill as the gasp-inducing prices. Along with women's clothing, the astute buyer can find everything from designer cosmetics to chic, 100 percent cotton towels. Take it to the Maxx.
Carolyn Fineran's Cherry Creek North boutique Tapestry went by the wayside a few years ago, but the charmingly eclectic spirit of the place hasn't faded: It's simply been reincarnated and given new life as Gypsies Collection. And so, Fineran is back, passing on her love of handcrafted, ethnic-

inspired textiles and jewelry to grateful and adventurous customers left bereft by Tapestry's closing. This time, Fineran's doing it like a gypsy, throwing occasional trunk shows that feature the wares of fellow travelers she's connected with during her many years as a retailer. From silk jackets appliquéd with vintage Chinese embroidery to stylish amulet-studded jewelry drenched in symbols as old as the world, the contents of her trunks run deep -- and definitely gorgeous. And you never know where Fineran will pop up next: Check her Web site for future dates, then saddle up your camel and go.

Young? Restless? Seeking style that's cool for the moment, yet as timeless as your grandma's wedding ring? Clatter up the steps of this store in an old Highland Square house, and you're home. In fact, you just might be tempted to hang up your coat in the entryway and stay forever, playing dress-up like you did as a kid. And what will you dress up in? A retro-style cocktail dress with silky flounces over slinky Cosabella lingerie? Flower-printed cotton socks? A feminine white-cotton-eyelet cowgirl shirt with snazzy pearl buttons? A bell-sleeved folk blouse in rich silks and velvet? Accessorized with a tooled-leather belt or a one-of-a-kind fabric bag by Best of Denver-winning local designer B. Shigley, or a geisha-girl button bracelet, or a pair of faux-jewel-encrusted bun-stabbers to keep your locks in place? For such a small place, the possibilities at Frolik are endless.


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