Though truth be told we are a lot happier in a tweed overcoat and a pair of riding boots, the first scorching day of the season finds us reluctantly schlepping slack-jawed through Soho, trying to find cheerful hot-weather items that don’t cost a fortune to tide us over until it’s sweater time again.
As luck would have it, the very first shop we stumble upon, SOL (6 Prince Street), opened just two weeks ago with a slew of abbreviated imports from Brazil. (OK, confession: We wear a dress on the beach. When we found out what a Brazilian wax was, we fainted in horror.) Sol hopes to do a swift trade in bikinis—”all our suits have what are called Brazilian bottoms,” the pert owner tells us, brandishing a minuscule tush cover—ranging from $79 for a bandanna-print number to $299 for a souped-up Rosa Cha. Constitutionally averse to tiny garments, we settle on a pair of Havaianas, the cult flip-flop that is unaccountably popular with supermodels, and not just Brazilian ones. The Havaianas here are decorated with butterflies and sport that little flag trim that apparently sets them off from more plebeian flip-flops. Still, despite their impressive provenance, they’re an appealing $13, which means you’ll have money left over for one of the shop’s other temptations: a sleeveless shirt with a high round neck (are these things still called muscle tees?) that says peace on the front—in English, not Portuguese—and has a peace symbol on its back, for $45.
Our next stop is the almost hysterically bustling STEVE MADDEN at 540 Broadway (Madden’s notorious run-in with the law apparently hasn’t made the merest dent in his popularity.) Here the flip-flops rest on platforms of what appears to be hand-painted wood and could certainly be worn to the office (though lots of people these days seem to think rubbery flippers are just fine for the office as well). Though Madden is mostly known as a shoe guy, the purses in stock include a tiny wristlet-bag of polka-dotted fabric permanently ensconced in scalloped clear plastic ($14.95), rendering it impervious to pool splashes or sloshing margaritas.
At our next stop, the irresistible SO GOOD (496 Broadway), two strange columns at the entrance that we suspect are security devices have been disguised with feathers so they look like a pair of headless pink Big Birds. Inside, the shop has embraced with great enthusiasm those fabric flowers people are pinning on everything from camisoles to cargo pants these days. This is a charming if transient fad, but while it’s humming there is a vast array of choices, including a black-rimmed pink rose (very fake Chanel) for $9.99 and a sequined orchid for $19.99. Not one to miss sandal season, even if it is a jewelry store, So Good also offers an ankle bracelet dangling miniature charms that turn out to be tiny bejeweled flip-flops ($9.99).
Years ago, the window of the charmingly named YELLOW RAT BASTARD (478 Broadway) featured actual live rats, the result of which was that we didn’t venture inside the store for years. But now we cross the threshold and discover a $15 visor that, at least according to the March Vogue, is the veritable height of fashion, since its small dots are actually little skulls. (Cranium prints are this summer’s answer to Lilly Pulitzers.)
Relatively content contemplating Havaianas and skull visors, we nevertheless consider visiting Pearl River, but the truth is, we just don’t feel the same way about this store since it moved from its rickety old home on Canal to its new super-slick digs. The merch may be similar, but the spirit is squelched. So we are thrilled to discover, a little further south on Broadway, a place called TOP DESIGN FASHION INC. (440 Broadway) that has plenty of Pearl River-ish items in a far funkier setting. Classic Chinese headgear in wicker that comes to a sharp point and in less politically conscious times was known as a coolie hat is $5 (that’ll turn heads at Jones Beach); rice-paper fans and parasols are $1.99. Best of all is the towering pile of $12 Hello Kitty flip-flops: Who needs Brazilian sandals, even if they’ll make your tootsies look like Gisele’s, when you can have Kitty’s funny face underfoot?