"I fully acknowledge that summer brings with it countless reasons to put on a new dress. As this handy Summer Fun Guide attests, there are at least a zillion reasons to throw off your dowdy at-home togs and don something fun and festive for the summer events you’d rather wear burlap than miss.

With so much to do, I’m sure your head is whirling, trying to figure out what to wear and when to wear it, not to mention trying to figure out how in the world you are going to find the time to go shopping for all the things you need to wear in the first place. Luckily for you, I spent one entire Friday afternoon NOT getting a pedicure, shopping online or combing the sale racks at Macy’s. For you and you alone, I sacrificed the entire day, phoning my best girl- and boyfriends, quizzing them on their favorite Indy area shopping destinations, so you don’t have to scratch your pretty head, wondering where on Earth to go. Put that burlap thing away and get ready to shop.

If you plan to spend a balmy evening enjoying music or movies al fresco at weekly occurrences like Symphony on the Prairie, Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Summer Nights, Animals and All That Jazz at the Indianapolis Zoo or any number of other great outdoor occurrences, heaven knows you need to address several factors.

First and foremost, you need to seem elegant and effortless perched astride a tree stump, grooving to the blues as you might, draped across an antique quilt, soaking in a bit of Tchaikovsky under the stars. Picnics, garden parties, croquet rivalries and Fourth of July parades all fall into this adorable, outdoorsy category, too. You want to look for something made of soft, cool fabrics, a little bit vintage, with elements of a handmade quality.

My answer to this fashion quandary can be found easily in three different, but oh so sweet, Indianapolis venues: Girly Chic Boutique (317-217-1525, 841 E. Westfield Blvd.), Haus (317-257-0659, 5912 N. College Ave.) (both in Indy’s Broad Ripple area) and Tree Haus (317-218-8328, 15 E. Main St.) in Carmel (yes, this is the sister store of Indy’s Haus). At any of these venues, you will find floaty, dreamy frocks made of light, breathable cotton, pretty tops, stylish skirts with a bit of retro embroidery ... just the sort of things that Daisy Buchanan might wear if she was living in the 2000s.

We know all about the 500 Ball during Race Weekend, and every one of us is invited to at least one other gala, wedding or some kind of BIG event. You know what I mean — something that requires you to put on some strappy shoes and a show-stopping dress that you never want to take off, even long after the champagne and lipstick have faded. Did I almost forget to mention Historic Landmarks’ grand opening gala at the West Baden Springs Hotel? If you are planning to rub shoulders with millionaires like Bill and Gayle Cook, you’d better try to look like a million bucks yourself. It’s time to pack it up and scoot your sweet self over to Frankey’s (317-580-1111, 1300 E. 86th St.), located in Nora Plaza, where you can find some of the most well-crafted, breath-takingly beautiful frocks ever seen outside of the Big Apple. I am talking about smoky taffeta and layers of tulle and garments cut just so. Things so sumptuous to the touch, you find yourself dreaming fashion after shopping here. To sweeten the trough, this beyond fashionable boutique also offers casual wear, footwear and fantastic menswear, too. And did I mention the benevolent side of this oh-so-cool fashion mecca? On May 31, Frankey’s will play host to an exhibit of artwork by students from The Children’s House, a local Montessori school. I am told that a percentage of the sales from the evening will benefit the school’s scholarship fund, and shoppers will have the chance to bid on students’ one-of-a-kind artwork, too.

Along these fashionable lines, I hear that there is another As Seen Only In New York shop that’s cropped up in Fishers, called Catwalk (317-578-9640, 12676 E. 116th St.). The prettier-than-thou assortment of fine couture includes a cakewalk of hard-to-find designers like Betsy Johnson in an inspiring atmosphere. It’s worth going just so you can tell all of your friends that you were there first. “Oh, you mean that cute green handbag? Yeah, I saw that at Catwalk.”

Then there’s JoAnne’s Unique Boutique (317-638-7738, 21 N. Pennsylvania St.) located downtown. I’m told this unique shop is divided into different rooms, to suit your shopping needs. The atmosphere is cozy, providing you with a one-on-one, personal shopping experience — a far cry from a trip to the discount store.

For the younger set, there’s Broad Ripple’s Slinky (317-396-2809, 801 Broad Ripple Ave.; also at 317-843-9003, 8701 Keystone Crossing) and Wicked Monkey (317-587-1087, 8701 Keystone Crossing) for any day, any time of the week. And Massachusetts Avenue’s Silver in the City (317-955-9925, 434 Massachusetts Ave.) can set you up with accessories, hostess gifts and a few impulse buys along the way.

Even the most mundane work day can be made interesting when you decide to toss aside the tried and true in exchange for something new. A great neighborhood shop like The Secret Ingredient (317-253-6632, 5631 N. Illinois St.) can do more than outfit you for another perfect day. You can find daywear, resort wear, playwear and more — and all of it anything but run of the mill. A casual window-shopping excursion is sure to result in at least one shopping bag brimming with colorful, textural options.

If you want to look fabulous without dropping the cash, a simple trip to Goodwill (www.goodwill.org) may be all it takes. I know some of you may feel beaten over the head by the Eat Breathe Shop mantra, but this is the truth: A recent trek to the Glendale Goodwill yielded a bevy of exciting discoveries for yours truly. Among the four fabulous finds I scored that day were a bejeweled black cardigan from J. Jill and a luscious celadon-colored shantung silk blouse — all ringing in for just $20! Another favorite among savvy thrifters is the Julian Center’s Thrifty Threads (317-802-9612, 1501 W. 86th St.), created to help women and children who have had to leave abusive relationships. Shelter residents can shop here for free, but the store is open to the public as well. You never know what you might find waiting in the racks when you decide to shop second-hand.

Last but not least, here’s one for the boys: There’s a new store opening up at the Fashion Mall, and I’ve just had a taste of the inside scoop. Opening this May, Road is a launch store, bringing some refreshing West Coast sensibilities to the Hoosier state. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this new venue: I can hardly wait to check it out.

Now, armed with this useful shopping guide, I know that when I see any of you out and about this summer, you will doubtless be dressed to the nines. Happy shopping! """


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