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Confessions of a shopaholic A guided tour around Buffalo Niagara's shopping revolution

It's long been cliche to consider "shopping in Buffalo" a contradiction in terms. But cliches are so boring ... and this one's so out of style. That's because we've had nothing short of a shopping revolutions lately, with hot new shops for all ages and styles popping up on every corner.

I give you: Sephora, the most fabulous cosmetics retailer in the world, now at the Walden Galleria. White House Black Market, the trendy boutique chain, now in Orchard Park. And the addition of go-to national retailers like Kohl's Ann Taylor Loft and Coldwater Creek - now in neighborhoods near you.

Then there are the area's tried-and-true fashionista dream stores, like Tony Walker & Co. in Williamsville and Off 5th Saks Fifth Avenue, Calvin Klein, Burberry and Coach at the Fashion Outlets in Niagara Falls ... plus just about any of the boutiques lining Elmwood Avenue in the city.

No wonder people from Toronto are coming here to shop.

So where are the best places to go for your shopping needs?

Whether you're a suit-wearing lawyer, a creative hipster or a trendy mom (or grandma), Buffalo's got more than enough options to help you make your own statement. Here are some of FIRST SUNDAY's top picks:

Store you wish your 16-year-old never heard of:

The Juicy Couture. The $150 designer jeans, The Lacoste shirts, Ugg boots, and Marc Jacobs bags. They're all at Tony Walker and Co. - arguably the hippest and trendiest shopping destination in WNY. If you've got the bucks and want to look like it, there's no better place to be.

With a hot selection for girls and guys alike Tony Walker (located on Main Street in Williamsville) will help your adolescent dress like his or her "Laguna Beach" and "TRL" icons. Just don't be surprised if you get drawn in yourself - Tony Walker's not just for the 25-and-under crowd anymore. They've recently added designers including Diane von Furstenberg, Emilio Pucci and Michael Kors to the mix; check out the boutique-like areas in the rear of the store for some truly fabulous finds. Tony indeed.

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Most likely to be seen Friday night on Chippewa:

Bored by the Gap? Sick of Banana? Then be sure to check out these three Elmwood Village-area boutiques: Urban Clothing Company, Stache, and Sweet & Dirty. Urban at 736 Elmwood Ave. is the veteran Buffalo style-maker, with edgy rock 'n' roll looks for guys and girls alike you won't find anywhere else. Sweet & Dirty at 585 Potomac Ave. (for gals) and Stache at 611 Elmwood (for guys) are the newest additions to the scene, also with cool, urban clothing like Gwen Stefani's "Harajuku Lovers" label. Definitely for the young and young at heart.

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Best one-stop shopping:

You got an hour for lunch and an outfit to find. Plus you need shoes, a purse and a new lipstick to go with it. There's just one place to go: Macy's at the Walden Galleria. Simply call their personal shopper - it's the only service of its kind in this area - make and appointment, and explain what you're looking for. You'll find a rack full of clothes ready and waiting for you to try on when you get there - in your size and your style.

Best of all? The service is free, and the personal shopper doesn't work on commission, which means she can afford to be sincere about her recommendations. Plus new lines like Inc. and old favorites like Liz Claiborne, Nine West and Ralph Lauren will ensure you leave with something you love.

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Don't-think-of-missing-the-sale destination:

Lord & Taylor at the Walden Galleria has stepped up its women's collection in recent months, with new and expanded offerings of fashion-forward clothing lines including BCBG, Free People, French Connection, Lucky and more. With an airy store layout and the delicious new choices, it finally feels like a different experience going from Macy's and The BonTon into Lord & Taylor; and the stores' selections used to feel almost interchangeable.

Also great are the bargains you can find; shop at just the right time of the season, and you'll find racks of good stuff marked down 20, 30, 50, sometimes even 70 percent. Add on a 15 percent coupon and you're golden. Don't miss the selection and sales in the men's and children's departments, too.

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Coolest finds you won't have to re-mortgage the house for:

Next time you hit Target for your diapers, CD's and laundry detergent, make a beeline for the women's clothing and handbags departments. And don't even think of confusing them with the choices at other discount stores like Wal-Mart or Kmart. At Target there are truly cool, trendy finds. With rotating lines of hot new designers with limited clothing runs - like Patrick Robinson, Proenza Schouler and Rafe - Target's "design for all" philosophy means you'll get lots of style at affordable prices.

Target also just launched a lone of wedding dresses(!) by Isaac Mizrahi (available online, most under $200 - you will be shocked by their cuteness) and while the clothing may not be high quality or rigorously constructed as these designers' higher-end lines, who needs trendy or one-wear pieces to last that long, anyway?

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Newcomer that's most likely to succeed:

Lu Modern Classics at 504 Elmwood boasts "a modern approach to classic dressing" - and that's really an apt description. This locally owned and operated store has it all - an upscale yet warm atmosphere; men's and women's clothing, accessories and shoes you won't find at the mall; and a surprisingly large selection for an independent boutique. It's preppy with an ever-so-subtle edge - kind of like a cross between Ralph Lauren and Banana Republic. Cute recent offerings include stretchy polos with pearl buttons; retro preppy beach bags and headbands; and a Cuban inspired selection - cool linen and silk shirts, pants and more for men and women. No Target-like bargains here, but after seeing the quality and selection, you'll hardly care.

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Best new suburban shopping destination:

For those must-find shopping outings, sometimes the mall feels like the only guarantee. But there's a new destination for Southtowners that offers one-stop convenience, too. The Orchard shopping plaza on North Buffalo Road in Orchard Park holds Ann Taylor Loft, Coldwater Creek, White House Black Market, Talbot's and Chico's - each with its own fashion flair, so there's something for ladies of all styles and ages.

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Consignment make totally cool:

If your tweens or teens simply must wear the latest look from Abercrombie, American Eagle, Express and the Gap, there's just one way to help them stretch that baby-sitting money: Plato's Closet. This consignment store has a huge collection of all the hottest brands for the under-20 set - and the older crowd who wants to dress like them.

The store offers gently used clothing in the latest styles for guys and girls, all of which is screened to be adolescent-approved ... at prices that are a fraction of the original retail price. Want to sell clothes you've bought in the last year or two? If they fit the store's criteria (almost-new condition and still in style) you'll get cash on the spot, which means you don't have to wait until they sell. You can also work out a trade for clothes, instead.

Check Plato's out for yourself at the Northtown Plaza on Sheridan Drive in Amherst and at Southgate Plaza in West Seneca.

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Best place to find figure-flattering bras, swimsuits and underwear:

You saw Oprah's infamous bra intervention ... and you learned that your 34B is more like a 36D. But how to know for sure? There's one underwear retailer in town where you'll feel comfortable whether you're age 20 or 60 - Blum's. Located in the Walker Center Plaza in Williamsville, Blum's has a full range of bras and underwear in sizes up to 50J. They also promise an "old-fashioned fitting" that makes even the ultra-modest feel comfortable.

The store carries Spandx and other figure-flattering undergarments, too, plus a huge selection of swimsuits. And as we learned on Oprah, the right foundation can make all the difference - and possibly even make you look 10 pounds lighter. Much easier than hitting the gym ...

Jennifer Rung writes First Sunday's Style Points column.

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