Fred Segal

Fred Segal stores in L.A. and Santa Monica sell designer clothing, shoes, accessories, beauty products and more. (Los Angeles Times / March 9, 2012)

Seeking a quintessential Los Angeles fashion experience? Here are our picks of the top boutiques where you can have one.

Elyse Walker

The vibe: Beachy casual with a metropolitan edge, a shop that includes Alexander McQueen evening gowns and Prada flip-flops.

The goods: The 6,500-square-foot store has everything a woman needs to take her from carpooling (Isabel Marant jackets, Inhabit sweaters and Mother jeans) to a business meeting (Stella McCartney suits, Chloe separates) to a museum gala (Valentino and J. Mendel gowns). Owner Elyse Walker, whose family was in the shoe business, puts a huge focus on accessories, including bags by Nancy Gonzalez, Proenza Schouler and Balenciaga, shoes by Christian Louboutin and Pierre Hardy, and jewelry by Husam el Odeh and Lanvin.

The back story: Walker opened her store in 1999 with 800 square feet of selling space, gambling that women in Malibu and the Palisades would rather shop with her than trek to Beverly Hills. Personal shopping services are a specialty, and sales associates can text or email clients photos of styles they might like or deliver rolling racks of clothes to their homes.

Where to find it: Just off Sunset Boulevard at 15306 Antioch St., Pacific Palisades, (310) 230-8882, http://www.forwardbyelysewalker.com.

American Rag Cie

The vibe: Southern California high-low style and culture in all its glory — vintage mixed with denim and workwear, contemporary clothing and streetwear, plus books, DVDs and housewares, and a see-and-be-seen sidewalk cafe.

The goods: American Rag is really three stores in one. The main shop features designer clothing (Cynthia Vincent, Funktional, Free People, Comme des Garçons Play) and shoes (Dr. Martens, Toms, Creative Recreation) alongside a superbly edited selection of vintage clothing and accessories. The World Denim Bar has work wear and denim (Denham, PRPS, Levi's Made & Crafted, Ksubi), and the housewares store features outdoor furniture, glassware and accessories with a French Mediterranean twist to match the restaurant's menu.

The back story: Since opening on La Brea in 1985, founder Mark Werts has grown American Rag Cie from a modest vintage business into a mega boutique with locations in Los Angeles and Newport Beach.

Where to find it: 150 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 935-3154, http://www.amrag.com.

Freecity Supershop

The vibe: The antidote to cookie-cutter fashion. Hippie chic-meets-Pop Art-meets commune.

The goods: Unisex T-shirts, sweat shirts, sweat pants, cargo pants and knit caps, as well as iPhone cases and Quoddy moccasins hand-printed with doves, rainbows, bicycles and other feel-good graphics, and slogans such as "Share Food," "Basic Goodness" and "Life Nature Love." The shop-cum-art gallery, which has a different theme each year (now it's bikes), also sells patchouli perfume, brown bread, ceramic pots and books on subjects like Oscar Niemeyer, Corita Kent and Yoko Ono.

The back story: Nina Garduno, the former menswear buyer for Ron Herman at Fred Segal, opened the Freecity Supershop in 2005. Her goal? Put the focus back on the art and craft of fashion.

Where to find it: 1139 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 461-2226, http://www.freecitysupershop.com.

Fred Segal

The vibe: The godfather of the L.A. fashion scene, nearly every designer and stylist in town has worked here at one time or another.

The goods: High-end designer clothing by Junya Watanabe, Proenza Schouler, Dries Van Noten, Carven, Gant by Michael Bastian, Raquel Allegra and A.L.C., mixed with more affordable stuff by L'Agence, Current/Elliott, Alexander Wang and Elizabeth & James, shoes, accessories, beauty products and housewares at the Melrose location. Mauro Cafe, also at the Melrose location and open since 1994, is still one of the most fashionable lunch spots in town.

The back story: What started as L.A.'s first high-end jeans bar in 1960 has grown into a community of boutiques including Ron Herman, Ron Robinson, Conveyer, Madison and Zero Minus Plus, under the Fred Segal umbrella in two locations.