Best Expensive-Looking Cheap Clothes 2008 | Banana Republic Factory Store | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
In fashion as in life, you've got to look like money to make money. But how to address the catch-22 of clothing when you're too broke to browse at a halfway decent store? At the Banana Republic Factory Store, a wallet-friendly wardrobe awaits even the lowliest corporate climber. The racks are lined with seasonal staples that bear a reasonable resemblance to the clothes at the "real" Banana, for about a third of the price. The clearance rack is an absolute treasure trove of cheap duds that will pass muster at any board meeting or job interview. It's a quick fix for a closet crisis.
First dates can be tricky: Bars are loud, dinner leaves time for awkward silences, and movies aren't conducive to getting to know someone. But a cooking class is the perfect mix of talk and action. At Cook Street School of Fine Cooking, you can bond over the hands-on task of preparing food while mingling with the rest of the class. At the end, you enjoy the gourmet meal you created — classic French or Italian cuisine are among numerous choices — with a relaxing glass of wine. And with forty classes teaching technique as well as recipes, you can come back for a second, or even a third, date.
Shopping at Virgin Records for your music needs is, like, so mainstream. Take a hint from the folks at Suburban Home Records and the Vinyl Collective: Attend their Punk Rock Flea Market, which takes place on the second Saturday of each month from noon to 5 p.m. at the uber-hip 3 Kings Tavern, and browse the vinyl, used CDs and overstock T-shirts — not to mention the tables set up for bands, clothing shops, artists, fashion designers and more. While you shop, local musicians will add to the ambience with acoustic sets. And beer will be available, too. Oh, and there's no cover charge. How punk-rock is that?
"Free toys." There might not be a better combination of words in the English language (and that includes "open bar"). Just the thought of such an extravagance sends children — and their parents — into paroxysms of delight. Amazingly, such a thing actually exists, courtesy of the Denver Toy Library at the Denver Public Library's Smiley branch. Three times a week, the volunteer operation in the library's basement unlocks its stash of hundreds of toys, games and puzzles geared to ages zero to eight, as it's done for more than two decades, and the place turns into a romper room. Thankfully, you can check out three toys and take them home with you. Now, about that open bar...
Walking into DisRespectacles is a little like entering the Twilight Zone. Spooky glass eyeballs and vintage optometry equipment dot the room; you half-expect a depraved old doctor to appear holding a pair of bloody tongs. In reality, though, the staff is friendly and eager to help you navigate the wide selection, which includes everything from rhinestone-studded Elton John peepers to your ubiquitous black square specs. The store, which boasts two New York locations, has been featured in a number of national magazines, outfitting celebrities such as Lauren Bush and Chris Kattan. Best of all, DisRespectacles' retro appeal goes beyond the decor, with dozens of vintage glasses culled from collectors. It's a vision to behold.
Here's where you'll find sexy, swingy, swanky modern clothes for the skinny in you: slinky graphic tees, contemporary artisan looks, fabulous hippie bags, recycled masterpieces and even menswear and ultra-cute urban baby gear, all neatly hung around this little neighborhood shop in a house. But behind the pretty prêt-à-porter, there's another angle to the place, which is lit by energy-efficient bulbs and strives to carry lines that give back to the community by donating to charities or by using sustainable materials. Every purchase leaves the store in recycled wrappings, and that's an idea we can really dig: Unity is one clean, green machine.
Did you ever stop to ponder what causes that icky dry-cleaning smell? The main chemical culprit is perchloroethylene, a central-nervous-system depressant and carcinogen known to cause skin irritation, dizziness, headache, confusion, nausea, liver and kidney damage, unconsciousness and death. Now, that's something we all want next to our skin, right? Revolution Cleaners wants to change the way we dry-clean our clothes: In place of the perilous perc, Revolution uses reclaimed, toxin-free liquid CO2, a chemical that's easier on the environment, your body, your nose and even your clothes. The cleaner also uses hemp laundry bags and wind energy in its stores and fills up its delivery vans with biodiesel. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "Every generation needs a new revolution." The shoe fits, and so will your sweaters.
Everybody's got a gimmick, it seems, and you might just dismiss this as another one. But Clean Air Lawn Care really does seem to care, in all-electric spades: The Fort Collins-based company, which boasts franchises in Denver, Boulder and across the nation, sticks to the plan by using low-emission equipment, including electric mowers and gardening gadgets, as well as biodiesel trucks fitted with mobile solar panels for recharging equipment in the field. And to compensate for emissions it can't help, the service goes the extra mile by purchasing carbon offsets from partner company Juice Energy. What goes around comes around.
Let's be honest about the reason we hate grocery shopping: It's people. They're blocking the soup, cutting in line at the deli and shouting into cell phones while their kids come dangerously close to flipping carts over on themselves. Anyone who has ever shopped at the Glendale SuperTarget on a weekend knows this scenario well. But there's another, lesser-known SuperTarget that's a near-replica of its Glendale counterpart — except it's totally deserted. Once you get over that initial shock, you realize that in the SuperTarget at Northfield Stapleton, you've stumbled into your own personal grocery store. No one in line at the deli, almost no sound except for the buzzing of the freezer cases and a handful of other shoppers wearing wide smiles of amazement.
Not only can artsy types Tran and Josh Wills turn out a mighty fine screenprint, but they can sure run a business. The Fabric Lab, an eclectic shop featuring locally designed clothing, accessories and handbags, is going strong at 3105 East Colfax, has sparked a couture renaissance along this once-stagnant strip. There's the Big Hairy Monster hair salon; the Willses' new cupcake and design emporium, the Shoppe; Jen Garner's Neopolitan gallery; and the urban vinyl store Plastic Chapel. And just up the street, at 2907 East Colfax, is Newspeak, a tattoo, apparel and art-supply business dreamed up by the folks at Indy Ink clothing store and Brave New World tattoo parlor; next door, Bad Kitty Salon proffers killer hairstyles and local art. Recently, the proprietors of these like-minded businesses have started throwing art-based block parties on the second Saturday of each month. Here comes the neighborhood.

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