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Sophisticated Clothes, Art at Affordable Prices

<i> Merin is a New York City free-lance writer</i> .

Aspen, Colo., has preserved its small-town quality, despite the fact that its hotels, bistros and shops cater to jet setters and the glitzy.

Aspen’s shops, however, are not exclusively for the super-rich. They are filled with sophisticated and affordable clothes designed for the ski slopes and the cities, plus accessories, antiques, home furnishings, toys, ski and outdoor equipment, handcrafts and objets d’art.

Shops are easy to find. Aspen’s city plan follows a grid pattern. Some of the streets are for pedestrians only, so it’s easier to walk than drive from shop to shop.

L’Equipe (427 E. Hyman Ave.) is a source of fun and comfortable things to wear. Best are the shop’s own T-shirts ($20). Painted in black on white, or white on black, are amusing caricatures of a rich man, a nerd, someone who’s madder than heck and cute boys and girls. Certainly not new ideas, but the execution is charming. L’Equipe also sells Bern Conrad washable silk separates (about $60 to $80 per item), Andy John’s rugged-looking denim jackets ($98) and ever-popular aspen-leaf earrings (leaves are dipped in gold, $22).

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Some Fixer-Uppers

Cheap Shots (630 E. Hyman Ave.) sells some charming and collectible antiques that are reasonably priced but may need fixing up. A drop-leaf round table is big enough for the whole family ($300). Lots of furniture fits into odd corners (larger pieces are about $1,000). Also there are colorful hammocks ($44) and a rack of vintage clothing from Victorian lace to hot pants.

Les Chefs D’Aspen (405 S. Hunter St.) offers kitchenware for most cooks, plus a selection of dinnerware and gadgetry. Colorful Lindt-Stymeist ceramic tableware includes dinner plates ($20), salad plates ($16), soup bowls ($14) and coffee cups.

Hand-painted plates by Wendy, a local artist, depict desert scenes on a white background. Doorknobs in the shape of pigs, ducks and cats cost $6. Also serving pots shaped like cactus ($35), decorative wooden tulips ($4.50 each), hand-painted fish and horse magnets ($6.50 each) and silk vegetables ($9 and up).

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Mill Street Kids (205 S. Mill St.) offers the best children’s clothes in town. Dresses and playsuits for toddlers are priced from $45. An adorable itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie bikini is $29, angel shirts with wings ($16), Aspen beanies with (yes!) pinwheels ($16) and Enrico Coveri sneakers ($45). Toys include duck rattles made of cloth ($10) and hand-painted small picture puzzles ($8).

Ute Mountaineer (308 S. Mill St.) has outdoor gear, including tents, hiking boots and Sterno stoves. Even city slickers can appreciate the leather back packs ($175), Sinchilla (realistic fake fur) jackets ($98) and beautiful and brightly colored climbing ropes (10 to 35 cents per foot).

Animal Creations

Menagerie (521 E. Cooper St.) specializes in animal objets d’art in materials from ceramic to precious metals. The shop, which represents about 40 artists, is a zoo of fanciful and fabulous creatures. Anne Lynch’s decorative and expressive cat rocks ($80 to $250) are stones and small boulders painted to look like sleeping, stretching or scampering felines.

Kate Redding, a Denver artist, makes mirrors ($235 to $450) in ceramic frames that she decorates with lizards and other desert creatures in sunny scenes. Best is a mirror surrounded by a three-dimensional runway that leads the viewer to his or her own image.

Intricately detailed wooden animal sculptures ($350 to $1,800) by Mexican artist Manuel Jiminez include funny rabbits. Mexican surrealist sculptor Sergio Bustamente is represented by gigantic frogs and alligators emerging from oversize chicken eggs.

The Pitkin County Dry Goods Co. (401 E. Cooper Ave. and 533 E. Cooper Ave.) features a collection of casual clothes in natural fabrics. Different articles in each shop. At No. 401 are comfortable and chic cotton sweaters in a rainbow of colors ($39 to $60), plus cotton heavyweight pullovers with a sculptural knit ($150) of floral or geometric patterns.

Canada Imports

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Imported from Canada are silky, cream-colored shirts ($50) with intricate stitched patterns. Also featured are the latest models from the Girbaud collection. The shop’s pleasant, preppy atmosphere is enhanced by polite salespeople who look as if they’ve just stepped out of GQ or Mademoiselle.

No. 533 has superb leather clothing at reasonable prices, including water-resistant car coats of waxed leather ($600), Vakko’s red suede dresses ($600) and miniskirts ($88) and Osuna of Santa Fe’s loose-fitting, suede shirts ($400) fastened with leather strips at the neck and wrists.

All ages shop at Boogie’s Diner (534 E. Cooper Ave.). The store is decorated like a modern and trendy version of an old-time diner, and has a second-floor hamburger and omelet joint. But the first floor, with its high ceilings and bright neon lights, sells terrific haute casual clothes.

For example, stone-washed denim jackets with back panels covered entirely with sequins ($450 and up) show sparkling desert or mountain scenes. There’s even a picture of Boogie’s Diner, to be worn, perhaps, with distressed denim boots ($80) and white or pink leather toe tips.

Boogie’s signature tank-top shirts are $18, and an appealing selection of “Hysteric et vous” sweaters and jackets cost $40 and up. In the center is Elvis Presley’s 1955 red Corvette convertible, with the sales certificate displayed on a nearby wall. The car (don’t touch!) is not for sale.

Uriah Heep’s (303 E. Hopkins Ave.) is out of the central shopping area, but this one-of-a-kind emporium is well worth the trek into Aspen’s residential district. The shop offers a rich selection of folk art and costumes, textiles and locally designed wearable art, jewelry and ceramics. An exciting explosion of color and texture is displayed throughout the store.

Items include model airplane earrings ($65), an American Indian vest beaded with a regal eagle and matching arm and leg bands and kilt, all with eagle heads (five pieces cost $3,200), Mexican masks covered with vibrantly colored beading ($200) and sequined and beaded pillow covers made from Haitian voodoo flags ($600).

There’s also a large shawl made of feathers ($700), wooden crosses covered with silver milagros ($150 to $200), embroidered velvet afghan jackets ($70), briefcases made from oil cans that have been hammered into shape ($60). And small amulet bottles ($8) containing assortments of seeds and minerals, bits of condor plume, herbs and carved alabaster figurines of various saints handmade in Ayacucho, Peru.

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Aspen shops offer superb off-season sales, with reductions of up to 50%, a big incentive to visit from May through August.


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