First, let me confess that I hate to go shopping and clothes shopping is a drag for me. Malls make me maudlin. Boutiques bore me. Nordstrom and Broadway don't turn me on any more. What shopping has become for me is drowning in a sea of blouses, all the same color and style but in 97 sizes, clerks that tail you around as if they think you are going to stuff something in your already overstuffed purse, and skirts that are either sweeping the floor or up near your waistband. I yearn for the good old days when there were knee-length compromises.
But, in North County, there are some shops, away from the malls, where clothes come in one-of-a-kind and clerks go back to their magazines after nodding hello, and where, if you are lucky, there are still a few of the out-of-style styles that flatter someone who is not a perfect Size 6 Petite.
The Casual Shop in Carlsbad is one of the latter. It's a hole-in-the-wall place next to MacDonald Pharmacy on Grand Avenue that caters to residents who want some semblance of the California look but aren't into Day-Glo or Spandex. If they don't have it in your size, they will order it for you. And, right across the street next to The Beauty Cottage is the brash new Carlynn's, which features stylish cottons. Unfortunately, I hate to iron.
Little shops are about all I can handle. Strawberry Fields on Via de la Valle east of I-5 in the Flower Hill Mall is my favorite. Don't let the window displays fool you. They even carry tailored suits and dresses versatile enough to wear to weddings or wakes or a St. Paddy's Day beer bust (with a Kelly green scarf added). The clerks are great; they tell you when you don't look good in something.
If you are looking for a little place with big sizes, try Grandia in Solana Beach. It's tucked back of Hang-Up Square on Old Highway 101. And if your credit card still has a healthy balance left, try The Two Goats in Rancho Santa Fe.
None of these places sells cheap or has a wide variety, but, when you find one with a buyer that has the same tastes you have, look no further.
I still pine for Margot's. You could go in and browse around Margot's or you could cut to the chase and just tell Margot what you had in mind and about how much you wanted to spend. She would look you up and down, nod a couple of times, and head for the back room, where she kept a seemingly endless store of apparel including just the right thing.
But Margot is no more. She closed her shops in Carlsbad and Escondido and moved away. It left a lot of us feeling like we'd lost a best buddy and, even worse, that we'd have to start shopping, which we hate, on our own again.