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I Capped My Credit Card in San Francisco

Swallowtail 2217 Polk St.; 415/567-1555. In this delightful store, perpetually sunny thanks to a ceiling full of skylights, are vintage home furnishings such as a pair of etched Deco mirrors ($950) and a turn-of-the-century dress form ($425).

Green World Mercantile 2340 Polk St.; 415/771-5717. What dinner-party guest wouldn't be charmed by Liz Ross's wry plates depicting monkeys dining À table ($22)?The eco-friendly general store supports local artists who work largely with reclaimed materials. Blend your own skin-care products at the aromatherapy bar.

Brown Dirt Cowboy's 2406 Polk St.; 415/922-9065. Named for an Elton John song, Brown Dirt Cowboy's is housed in a jam-packed old Victorian apartment building with terra-cotta floors and overflowing flower boxes. Former accessories buyer Sylvia Ortiz and Robert Shipman (who used to restore Victorian houses) carry children's furniture hand-painted with cherubs and creatures of whimsy ($325­$800), pine sleigh beds ($925­$1,100), wrought-iron spice racks ($24­$52), and planters ($16­$64).

Upper Grant Avenue

Although Jack Kerouac and his fellow Beat writers made the neighborhood a happening scene in the 1950's and 60's, later years saw Upper Grant's decline. Lately this funky stretch between Green and Filbert Streets has stepped up as a strip of specialty shops selling everything from rusted junk to framed butterflies.

Fife 1415 Grant Ave.; 415/677-9744. Scot Andrew Linton's fashions take center stage at what he calls the House of Stretch. His straight slit skirt ($90) does well for trendy Wendies who know that long is back.

Insolent 1418 Grant Ave.; 415/788-3334. Shoe fetishists will think they've reached nirvana when they see Parisian Lyselène Frigara's plush circular purple velvet settee, perfect for trying on perishingly chic shoe styles from Nathalie R. and Sigerson Morrison ($150­$250).

Ristarose 1422 Grant Ave.; 415/781-8559. Ivana Ristic and Lynn Rosenzweig cater to brides looking for more (or less) than the traditional billowing gown. Push the goddess envelope with "Athena," body-hugging silk charmeuse and silk chiffon, cut on the bias ($1,800).

Grand 1435 Grant Ave.; 415/951-0131. Beware of this clubgoers' pit stop: most of the clothes qualify as waif wear. The brave should check out Penelope Starr's slim knit tube tops.

AB Fits 1519 Grant Ave.; 415/982-5726. Darling poem-engraved sterling bracelets mesh with groovy blue jeans in this outrageous space of fire-engine red pillars and bordello-like dressing rooms.

Aria 1522 Grant Ave.; 415/433-0219. Bill Haskell was such a Marin County flea market fixture that when it closed down, his fans followed him to dusty, musty Aria. Wander through a mad mix of George Nelson lamps ($150­$450) and ceramic letters once used for signage and film titles ($1­$10).

Lilith 1528 Grant Ave.; 415/781-6171. A line of clothes for the round, the thin, the tall, and the short hang happily within mustard walls and earth-red ceilings. Husbands and boyfriends lounge on blood-red leather couches sipping tea while their better halves shop with fury.

Slips 1534 Grant Ave.; 415/362-5652. Perched on a cranberry couch amid madras cushions, Susan Umhauer takes orders for custom-made bedding, curtains, table linens, and slipcovers sewn from English and French fabrics. Design gurus also trek here for 1940's leather Moroccan footstools ($125).

Columbine Design 1541 Grant Ave.; 415/434-3016. Kathleen Dooley does a big trade in mounted butterflies, stuffed alligator heads (a Pacific Heights matron bought eight to use as table settings), and Gothic crosses for clients such as Kirk Hammett, Metallica's lead guitarist, and Cher.

Mac 1543 Grant Ave.; 415/837-1604. Jeri, Ben, and Chris Ospital have filled their Paris-inspired salon with edgy women's clothes by Helmut Lang and Vivienne Westwood. The Ospitals won over one local. When they first opened, Allen Ginsberg walked in, surveyed the scene, and said, "Nice."

MANDY BEHBEHANI, former fashion editor of the San Francisco Examiner, writes for Town & Country and Health.

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