What happens when you get a group of ten women together for lunch and shopping? High energy, lots of laughs, great food, hugs, a few fabulous purchases to boost that whimpering economy, and more ooh-ing and ahhh-ing while shopping than you can imagine! We’re high energy, we’re boisterous and we’re not afraid to plunk down serious cash for seriously awesome shoes, bags, scarves, you name it. Shameless enablers in this group!

And our shining jewel Seattle suburb – Bellevue, WA – has grown up. We now have a Neiman Marcus! I can close my eyes and picture the tired, worn-down shops and the Dairy Queen on this prime chunk of real estate in downtown Bellevue that had stood there a good 40 years or so. I used to take ballet lessons at the dance studio as a kid. Now…well, take a look at the picture!

It’s like shopping Disneyland came to the suburbs. Not only do we have Neiman Marcus, but we now have Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Hermes, and a whole slew of restaurants and other boutiques I have yet to discover. Until next time!

When you step inside Neiman Marcus it’s hard to remember we’re still in a Recession. The plans for this store came to life around 2006 or so, when the economy was healthy and thriving. The launch here in September 2009 was in a completely different economic climate. Meanwhile, inside it’s almost like an other-worldly bubble. $3000 purses sit proud and glamorous on the shelves. Want a gorgeous $800 cashmere sweater, $700 Christian Louboutin pumps or $1200 boots? Have you booked your trip to St. Barts? Don’t forget the Dior sandals from the resort collections. Yep, they’re there. With enthusiastic, impeccably dressed sales associates who are more than happy to help you. I tend to calculate high-end purchases like this as how they compare to my monthly mortgage! Hmmm…I could buy that bag or be homeless for two months, ha ha ha.

I’m a huge fan of Neiman Marcus (and a store card holder too) and have been for over 15 years, but I never actually stepped inside an actual store until 2006. It was in Boca Raton, Florida, on a free day during a 10-day business trip to Ft. Lauderdale. I love their catalogue and online sales. I’ve repeatedly stocked up on basic cashmere when it goes on sale off season, or wonderful towels, sheets, stationery and shoes. And with no sales tax (at the time since we didn’t have a store here) and free shipping promotions you could really get good deals.

But the clothes in the store are far more edgy and trendy than what is generally in the catalogues. And this is where I wonder just how well it will blend in with our Pacific Northwest style over time. I stumbled upon a post in Darrah’s Dresser (a blog I’m now following) who described it as all very fabulous but somewhat out of place for this part of the country. I liked her write up, as it was very genuine and honest, from a person with enormous passion for fashion. I looked at amazing clothing and shoes today, but I’ve never seen anyone wearing the trendier stuff around here in real life running errands, out casually walking their dogs or just standing in line at the post office. Or, perhaps it’s because I don’t run in certain circles, hee hee. And I even had an invitation to the black tie gala (yes BLACK TIE, so rare around here) the night before the grand opening in September. I felt so giddy, but then reality clobbered me on the head hard. Is a $250 ticket a smart thing to buy when unemployed, for a few hours out on the town? It was a charity benefit so I could have written off part on my taxes, but I decided to pass.

I’ve probably written about this before, but it’s hard to describe Pacific Northwest style without keeping “practical” and “natural” in the list of qualities. Meaning, we’re stylish here, but understated. [The shoes our group purchased today, for example, were black patent, mid-heeled Louboutin pumps and burgundy leather Prada driving flats, not stilettos with 6″ heels.]
In general, we don’t worry too much about rain getting our hair a little wet as it’s just a reality it’s going to happen. And unless it’s an absolute downpour, many of us just don’t bother with umbrellas. No one’s going to get drenched in a little drizzle. We’re not overly blinged-out or silicone’d either and don’t dress in revealing ways. The Cartier watch might be peeking out from a polar fleece half-zip top from Old Navy, after all, and a Pacific Northwest billionaire is more likely to drive a Prius than a Bentley. If we get Botox, our faces still move. No, we’re not all grungy in flannel shirts and Doc Marten boots either, but there is a casual vibe for sure. When talking fashion, we discuss what works in the rain and what doesn’t. If we’re spending tons on nice clothes and shoes, they certainly can’t wilt or spot.

The group today was a blast. Many I knew from previous meetups and we had a couple new faces join too which is always wonderful. After lunch we shopped! One of the NM sales associates was a dead ringer for Kathy Griffin with personality to match and kind of turned into a funny stalker/groupie, striking up conversations and asking us questions. 10 of us in killer handbags shopping and laughing together attracts attention for sure! And we love it! At the jewelry counter a couple of the girls found necklaces that matched the bracelet I was wearing and took a few pictures of me modeling. Hilarious! While this was going on, the sales associate reappeared again and noticed a few of us carrying Hermes Kelly bags and immediately got all giddy and started joking about how if she ever had a Kelly she’d have a neon arrow flashing and pointing, announcing that HEY, I HAVE A KELLY, LOOK AT ME! We cracked up. And we decided we could get a “Kelly Cam,” and have online streaming video of the view of the world from a Kelly’s perspective. I guess you probably had to be there, but it really was funny how we all just egged eachother on. Afterwards, my friend T told me she wanted to ask her, “How many of us are carrying Hermes bags here?” Meaning, several in the group were carrying lesser-known styles of Hermes. Those who know…know. The Kelly is just one of many.
After Neiman Marcus we ventured out to Hermes, Jimmy Choo and Ferragamo. I smiled as the sales associates greeted many of my friends by name and with a handshake or hug…wow, a few of us are already making strides! I’m still in my Money Diet mode, but I sure enjoyed browsing.
We lucked out with a dry day today – especially in mid November. I saw umbrella stands everywhere, as this is an outdoor shopping complex, not an indoor mall. I wonder how well business will be when the weather is cold and rainy?
As we said our goodbyes, T and I finished up the day at Artisanal Bistro for a martini and incredible fondue. We admired her new Hermes cashmere shawl, which looks like it was just made for her.

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