Mention Park Avenue, and one image comes to mind: armies of doormen guarding towers of Classic Eights, as Chanel-clad ladies scurry by with diminutive dogs in tow. But that picture is getting a touch-up. While the stodgy co-ops remain stodgy, and the ladies still lunch, New York's Upper East Side now plays host to a new kind of resident: the Park Avenue Princess. Whether she's a working mother of two, an heiress, or a single career girl with more flair than funds, this newly minted fashion muse (who, despite her title, may not actually live on Park, but rather in the vicinity) is young, educated, stylish, and possessed of a keen appreciation for the finer things in life–as well as a rare talent for bargain hunting. To her, Park Avenue isn't an address, it's a lifestyle.
From haute couture to imported food to discount accessories and cosmetics, she can fulfill all her needs and desires right in her own concrete backyard–the area bounded by 62nd Street to the south and 96th Street, the upper border of Carnegie Hill, to the north. With a chic pair of walking shoes and a bit of mad money, anyone can enjoy the elegant pleasures of her New York neighborhood–a neighborhood that has inspired a thousand entries on the New York Post's Page Six, and one that embodies the word privileged.
IT'S IN THE BAG
Follow your breakfast baguette from Le Pain Quotidien (1131 Madison Ave.; 212/327-4900) with a hunt for the perfect faux-Fendi baguette (those flashy handbags with short straps that nestle so perfectly under the arm). René (1007 Madison Ave.; 212/327-3912) is the binge-shopper's secret source of designer handbag look-alikes; its fake-crocodile purses look so real they might even inspire animal-activist pickets. When you need a purse repaired, take it to Artbag (735 Madison Ave.; 212/744-2720). While there, you might also be seduced by a killer reptilian or ostrich creation in a variety of colors.
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
Secondhand rose gains a new meaning in these parts. Local fashionistas with overstuffed closets keep the neighborhood's resale boutiques stocked with up-to-the-minute designer fashions you'd never find at Grandma's rummage sale. The buyer at Michael's (1041 Madison Ave.; 212/737-7273) looks for top labels in mint condition. Tatiana Enterprises (860 Lexington Ave.; 212/717-7684) carries previously owned crocodile handbags, and Prada and Chanel designs. For lovers of vintage handbags and jewelry, it's Lorraine Wohl (860 Lexington Ave.; 212/472-0191) and Sylvia Pines–Uniquities (1102 Lexington Ave.; 212/744-5141). J. Mavec (946 Madison Ave.; 212/517-7665) and Linda Morgan Antiques (1034 Lexington Ave.; 212/628-4330) offer antique jewelry aficionados the full range of baubles from Victorian to magnificent Art Deco. Fine antique and designer watches keep on ticking at Time Will Tell (962 Madison Ave.; 212/861-2663), which sells and repairs.
The perfect evening begins with the perfect invitation. Though her personal stationery may bear the stamp of Tiffany or Cartier, for her cocktail parties, dinners, or baby showers, the young Upper East Side hostess turns to Johnson's Frame Center (1054 Lexington Ave.; 212/628-2182). Its selection ranges from the classic, Martha Stewart– approved "Golden Pineapple of Hospitality" to the creative designs of William Arthur (available thermographed in less than a week). Whether this budding Martha is serving caviar or corn on the cob, William Wayne (850 Lexington Ave.; 212/288-9243) has the ideal, and ideally priced, serving pieces, as well as paper napkins so beautiful they deserve frames. This home-accents emporium is also a trove of hostess gifts for that impossible-to-please mother-in-law, or the woman who has everything. (Could she possibly have monkey candlesticks?)
William Poll (1051 Lexington Ave.; 212/288-0501) provides the perfect bite-sized canapés, from watercress sandwiches to "pedigreed" pigs in blankets. For that special dinner party, stock up on chanterelles and oyster mushrooms, Eli's legendary bread, and the freshest haricots verts at Gourmet Garage (301 E. 64th St.; 212/535-5880). Local hostesses often turn to Plaza Florist (1110 Park Ave.; 212/734-2166) for special floral arrangements, or Lenox Hill Florist (958 Lexington Ave.; 212/744-4440) for exquisite potted orchids instead of paying for a costly designer florist (the better to save for that indulgent designer gown).
DRESSED TO THE NINES
Madison Avenue and 65th Street was once the great designer-boutique divide, with couture to the south and off-the-rack bargains to the north. Now, however, designers look to elegant Upper East Siders for inspiration; the trendy boutiques, such as Prada (841 Madison Ave.; 212/327-4200) and Chloë (850 Madison Ave.; 212/ 717-8220), have opened shops uptown. These mules were made for walking from Christian Louboutin (941 Madison Ave.; 212/396-1884) right on down to the Ralph Lauren Polo Mansion (867 Madison Ave.; 212/606-2100). You can buy clothes for the entire family in Lauren's homey environment (homey to a Vanderbilt, that is) while enjoying the attention of a personal shopper. At the new Carolina Herrera Boutique (954 Madison Ave.; 212/249-6552), the parsimonious hostess can spend the small fortune she saved on invitations and flowers for that delicate beaded frock. Or she may prefer Vera Wang (991 Madison Ave.; 212/628-3400), which probably dressed her through all the rites of passage from debutante ball (extravagant, yes, but this is the Upper East Side) to wedding.
Any pregnant woman who doesn't want to spend nine months in oversize T-shirts emblazoned with a statement of the obvious (like "Bébé on Board") can turn to Liz Lange Maternity (958 Madison Ave.; 212/879-2191). The boutique's move from Lexington to chic Madison Avenue is a sure sign that pregnancy couture is no longer an oxymoron. (Lange kept model Elle Macpherson looking glamorous throughout her later months.) Expecting or not, what woman wouldn't want to swathe herself in the butter-soft twin sets (we know, like everything ladylike, they're back) of TSE Cashmere (827 Madison Ave.; 212/472-7790)?Peress (739 Madison Ave.; 212/861-6336) and Lingerie on Lex (831 Lexington Ave.; 212/755-3312) carry European undergarments suitable for wearing under body-conscious clothing, and even more suitable for an evening of undressing. Downtown comes uptown at Intermix (1003 Madison Ave.; 212/249-7858) and Scoop (1275 Third Ave.; 212/535-5577), where the young professional and post-college sets find up-to-the-second fashions at affordable prices.
T'S FOR TOTS AND MORE
By midafternoon, the streets of the Upper East Side are alive with the conversation and chaos of mothers walking their children home from the area's elite private schools. On the way, there's no shortage of places to outfit the little darlings. Au Chat Botté (1192 Madison Ave.; 212/722-6474) sells timeless French and Italian creations and beautiful silk party dresses. For girls who take playing dress-up to serious heights and wish to look like Mom in her capri pants and Jackie-O shifts, it's Bonpoint (811 Madison Ave.; 212/879-0900). In San Francisco Clothing (975 Lexington Ave.; 212/472-8740), you'll find a tiny pink-velvet marabou-trimmed robe for your baby diva-in-training and classic feminine styles for yourself. Seeking the pitter-patter of tiny footwear?Look no further than Little Eric (1118 Madison Ave.; 212/717-1513), which continues to make the timeless, preppy, white-soled sandal. Keep your tot's locks fashionably trimmed at Cozy's Cuts for Kids (1125 Madison Ave.; 212/744-1716), the children's barbershop/toy store. For the child in all of us, diminutive Victorian mansions and lilliputian Aubusson carpets await at Tiny Dollhouse (1179 Lexington Ave.; 212/744-3719).
Of course there's the big three–Porthault (18 E. 69th St.; 212/688-1660), Pratesi (829 Madison Ave.; 212/288-2315), and Frette (799 Madison Ave.; 212/988-5221)–but for a quintessential Park Avenue–lifestyle experience, go to Léron (750 Madison Ave.; 212/753-6700), purveyor of heirloom linens since 1922. The emphasis is on first-rate quality (such as hand-embroidered work by expert artisans) and old-fashioned service.