A major distinguishing point between mass retail and small boutiques is the presence of a strong point of view. My favorite boutiques function as thoughtfully curated apparel collections as well as self-portraits of their owners. Case in point: Bella & Harlow. The shop's signature dresses feature timeless elements (sheath silhouettes, full skirts, Peter Pan collars) updated with distinctly modern touches (contrasting piping, swallow tattoo-inspired prints). It's easy to imagine owner Sarah Celino, who describes her style as "flirty and feminine, but a little hard around the edges," wearing one — and many days, you can find her in her shop doing just that.
How does Bella & Harlow reflect your style?
It's important for me to love every piece that goes into this shop. Customers can tell when you're passionate about what you sell. I love all of these brands and wear them myself. The store has also surprised me. I ordered a jumpsuit by Miss Patina, never once thinking someone with my proportions could wear it. I tried it on and instantly fell in love. That's a shopping miracle right there: being able to finally wear a style you thought you'd never look good in.
How would you describe your style?
I live for dresses and skirts, but I'll happily pair the sweetest outfit with bullet shell earrings or a bag with handcuffs for straps. I even like mixing spikes and grommets with lace or silk pieces (be careful when doing this with fishnets).
Who or what are your style icons?
I'm currently obsessed with London style. Kate Middleton and Florence Welch each have amazing style, even on opposite ends of the spectrum. Zooey Deschanel has the "classic inspired" look down to a tee. She can incorporate classic or vintage pieces into everyday wear effortlessly. She's the perfect style icon for anyone who loves vintage, but who doesn't want to look like Jessica Rabbit.
Where do you like to shop?
I love Feet First, Violet's, Sabai, and Trashy Diva. Fifi Mahony's has to be my favorite shop in the city. I take costuming very seriously.
What are some of your fashion tips?
Don't be afraid to try on a couple of different sizes. No brand cuts or runs the same, so the fit is what's important, not what's on the label. This should be the number one rule in fashion: Buy what fits. Also, make serious investments in properly sized bras, undergarments and shapewear. Most times, it's what women have on underneath that kills the look they're trying to achieve on top.
What inspired you to create your store, and when did it open?
I started working retail part-time in college, never expecting to love small business so much. The dream of having my own shop was entirely by accident, but the journey to the reality has been very rewarding. I love putting my blood, sweat and tears into something that is for myself at the end of the day.