Best Place to Pretend Denver's Still a Cowtown 2005 | Lonesome Ace Boot Company | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Clay Hathaway is a one-man show. As the owner and sole employee of Lonesome Ace Boot Company, he sizes, cuts, stitches, inlays, embroiders and shapes every one of the custom cowboy boots he crafts. And he's got more than a few masterpieces. Hathaway's created a pair of orange boots for a bartender at the Skylark Lounge, a tiki-themed set for a hotrod builder and a teal-and-calfskin duo for a Clear Channel executive. At an average of $1,000 a pair (more for exotic leathers), Hathaway's handiwork doesn't come cheap, but personality and quality rarely does. Boots off to the Lonesome Ace.
Rockmount Ranchwear puts the snap into Western wear. Company founder and patriarch Jack A. Weil was the first haberdasher to put snaps on Western shirts, and the company's designs from the '40s and '50s are very snappy. Under the direction of the 104-year-old's grandson, Steve Weil, the Denver institution has been reissuing those beauties for years, and they account for about 25 percent of Rockmount's stock. In 2004, one very special shirt was released to accompany the publication of Weil the Younger's new book, Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion. The timeless, art-deco-embroidered snap-down from 1954 was featured on the cover, and Rockmount is selling it in a limited-edition numbered run. The first batch sold out before Western Shirts even hit booksellers, so round one up before they're gone.
Finding a perfect piece of vintage clothing is one of life's true pleasures. But searching can be exhausting, time-consuming and sometimes best left to experts. The proprietors of Rare Bird Vintage Clothing, a happening new boutique on a famously crusty stretch of 13th Avenue, scour thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets for prize finds. The store specializes in women's clothing, from '50s dresses to Western shirts to '60s hats and purses, with selections rotated seasonally. The collection suggests what the coolest closet in Capitol Hill might look like -- without the work.

Best Place to Find Vintage Furs and Suitcases

Graham Crackers

Debra Franklin travels across Colorado and Kansas, hitting every estate sale she can find, always searching for anything vintage. The fruits of her labor stuff her store, Graham Crackers, and spill over into her next-door neighbor's shop, Antiques Etc. A mink wrap from the '30s will come in somewhere between $65 and $90, while a three-piece luggage set from the '40s will set you back about $85 -- if you haggle right.
According to the designers at vintageskivvies. com, the full, elastic waistband is the worst thing that's ever happened to men's underwear. The company specialty is tie-style boxer shorts with button flies that are modeled after the standard-issue underwear worn by soldiers during World War II -- an homage to a kinder, gentler, less restrictive era of underclothes. And although, technically, the Web-based retailer traffics in panties, don't expect any frou-frou fabrics or floral print: These shorts are 100 percent cotton, and the color scheme ranges from plaid to, well, plaid. celebrates the classic boxer -- and a brief-free world.
Walk into Bridget Dornbirer's spic-and-span warehouse this spring, and you'll feel like you've discovered the Garden of Eden. Children's clothing swings from the racks like a zillion lollipops on hangers, all raging with color, blooming with itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny details of lace and ribbons, and cute beyond belief. Some mothers become blubbering fools at the very sight of it. But the best part of Petite Patoot Warehouse is that the jewels are all heavily discounted new and gently used items from upscale boutiques. Be sure to shop early, though: The warehouse is only open on Fridays and Saturdays while the inventory lasts, so dry your tears and park your patoot.

Deb Henriksen's motto is "For the Core, From the Core," and few designers keep it as real as she does. The former environmental scientist gave up her good day job to pursue her fashion dreams full time -- and we're lucky she did. Her first designs were clever, well-made screen-printed T-shirts that featured, most memorably, a cat skull and crossbones. But in the last year, she's branched out into a full line of made-to-measure treasures, offered at her Equillibrium showroom/boutique. Henriksen admires Betsey Johnson, and her new dresses and skirts reflect that sensibility: Simple, clean lines meet punk-rock ruffles. That's hard core.
When Lynne Bruning walks into a room, you can't miss the former-architect-turned-fashion-designer. Her outrageous, over-the-top fashions just scream out for people to come and investigate. Start with her key skirt: Unadorned, it would just be a simple, denim mini. But with more than 500 keys sewn onto it -- not all, she swears, are to the homes of ex-boyfriends -- the skirt becomes a walking piece of art and music. The duster takes on new meaning in her hands: She weaves them with surveyor's marking line -- yes, the green and pink string you buy at Home Depot -- and El wire. Talk about a neon extravaganza. But Bruning is at her best when she turns to her simple, elegant, bias-cut dresses. The flowing gowns won her top prizes during last year's Fashion Group International of Denver competition and resulted in an internship with New York designer David Rodriguez. Way to sew!
Fashion's obsession with all things rockabilly is long over, but Crown Mercantile still carries a wide selection of retro-inspired bowling shirts, from the understated to the full-on psycho-billy. Don't forget the witty T-shirts to go under them, or the excellent accessories to finish off the look. And for the ladies waiting for their stray (straight-gay) to stop preening, there's a host of smart skirts, blouses and housewares to peruse. Good style never goes out of fashion.
Minerva's Hat and Fashion Boutique is the ultimate window-shopping experience. You may not always go in, but it's always worth stopping and gawking at owner Minerva Smith's glorious selection of hats, including everything from show-stopping Sunday bests to African kufis. If you don't stop in and admire the exquisite handiwork, however, you're most certainly missing out. But be warned: Minerva's is known to induce fantasies of being as chic and turned-out as Greta Garbo or Dorothy Dandridge.

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