The Mask Gallery
Trying to find a carnival mask that doesn’t come from China is harder to find than you’d think, but discerning tourists like Beyoncé and Mardi Gras queens in-the-know head to Massoud Dalili’s studio and gallery in the French Quarter for stylish handmade one-offs. There are animal-themed masks, masks with feathers and jewels, all-brass masks in the shape of butterflies, masks from Venice and masks crafted right there by Dalili himself, on a large table littered with bits of leather, wooden brushes, paint splatter and ribbons. They cost more than those at the tourist shops, but not that much more.
• 636 Royal Street, neworleansmask.com
Part of the reason New Orleans is so bewitching has much to do with the music that’s been wafting indiscriminately out of half-open windows in just about every neighbourhood for the past hundred years: primordial drum beats, trumpets hitting euphoric high notes, mournful saxophone solos, all blending together into a harmonious hum that seems cliched but is the soul of the city. Nostalgic for the turntable era, Euclid Records, in the Bywater neighbourhood, is prime hunting ground for musicians and DJs looking for vinyl treasures from indigenous celebrities such as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Hurray for the Riff Raff. There is almost nothing Euclid doesn’t carry or play, and you’ll probably walk out with something you didn’t know you wanted: like a disco reggae album from the 1970s or, if you are lacking in the record player department, a cool concert poster.
• 3401 Chartres Street, euclidnola.com. Open Mon-Thurs 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-5pm
A sweet hand-painted sign outside this tiny gift store telegraphs that it’s all about craft shopping. Amy Knoll, Bon Castor’s infectiously enthusiastic proprietress, has lined her cheery yellow shop with singular items such as children’s apron tops, tin bird mobiles and graphic novels, all from New Orleans-based artists. “I couldn’t find anywhere to buy a birthday present, and I wanted to support the community,” says Knoll, who is one of the early pioneers of a retail experience burgeoning over the past two years in the Bywater district. Everything for sale is unique or vintage and under $100, including rock’n’roll hairdos, cut and styled in the back by coiffeur Joe Starnes.
• 3207 Burgundy Street, boncastor.com. Open Tues-Fri 11am-7pm, Sat midday-8pm, Sun midday-6pm
A bike ride downtown through the French Quarter and across historic Esplanade Avenue will take you to the Marigny neighbourhood, where emerald-, coral-, mustard- and teal-painted Creole cottages peek out from behind royal palm trees. On a quiet corner sits newcomer Sterling Provisions, a home goods shop curated by New York City transplant Dennis Weddle, who describes his aesthetic as, “mid-century meets Chinese vernacular with a spot of the really decent stuff from the 1980s”. The common thread is natural elements: wood, ceramic and plaster. Brass serving sets and Danish crystal ashtrays, as well as bigger pieces like industrial desks and glass chandeliers have lately been luring decorators, who are bound to be sorry this shop is no longer a well-kept secret.
• 2402 Royal Street, sterlingprov.com. Open Tues-Sat midday-6pm, Sun midday-5pm
The Revival Outpost
The explosion of filmmaking over the past 12 years in New Orleans – nicknamed the Hollywood of the South – has resulted in a growing number of vintage shops to help service the industry. The Revival Outpost, (recently Instagrammed by Emma Roberts while she was in town shooting American Horror Story) has become a destination for costume designers since it opened two years ago. The inventory includes copious amounts of crocheted garments, Stevie Nicks-esque lace Gunne Sax prairie dresses and amazing Dynasty-era sequined gowns, plus accessories, shoes and a smattering of homewares (think framed cross stitch steamboat pictures). A portion of the store’s square footage is dedicated to new clothing by indie designers.
• 234 Chartres Street, therevivaloutpost.com. Open Mon-Sun 11am-7pm, Fri-Sat 11am-8pm
James H Cohen Sons Inc
When you think of the south, you think of time slowing down, front porches, gin fizzes, and … the civil war. At James H Cohen Sons on Royal Street, the main shopping drag in the French Quarter (not to be confused with Bourbon Street, which would be the main drinking drag), an entire afternoon can be spent perusing rare swords, guns and gorgeous gold coins, Confederate currencies and antique jewellery. The chatty staff are keen to elucidate on everything from the civil war to how much nickel there is actually in a buffalo nickel.
• 437 Royal Street, shop.cohenantiques.com. Open Mon-Sat 9.30am-5pm
The Kitchen Witch
Despite the depressing trend of bookstores going out of business, The Kitchen Witch – committed to food-related books – stays resolutely open. Dedicated shopkeepers Debbie and Philip thrill to steer interested customers toward hidden gems: first editions of iconic tomes such as The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher, stunning photography books including one about dinner parties by Salvador Dali, and a generous supply of regional cookbooks from creole, cajun and Louisiana kitchens, many out of print and written by slaves, others brand new from New Orleans chefs such as Donald Link and John Besh. Browsing through the food titles, under strings of fairy lights, is a nice respite from actually eating and drinking.
• 631 Toulouse Street, kwcookbooks.com. Open 10am-5.30pm, closed Tues
Native Texan Caroline Robert’s jolly home design shop, in an eclectically decorated doublewide shotgun house on Magazine Street, is a mix of fresh and antique finds. Fans flock to Perch, where the gossip is sometimes as good as the merchandise: visitors are likely to find themselves having a cup of tea with Robert’s design sidekick, Jack Mayberry, at the work table in the back, surrounded by Christian Lacroix’s Butterfly Parade wallpaper. Open for over seven years, Perch rotates its inventory every few weeks. Current bestsellers include wall-mounted papier maché animal heads, brightly coloured scatter cushions, powder room hand towels and cheeky cookie jars.
• 2844 Magazine Street, perch-home.com. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
Lili New Orleans
Pretty and petite, Laura Hourguettes has an unfailing eye for Downton Abbey-esque cocktail dresses, while chic daywear makes her vintage clothing business a deal closer. Hourguettes is drawn toward feminine, southern silhouettes, which means a lot of lace, silk and ruffles, but not excluding glam jumpsuits or the occasional Chanel frock. Flawless accessories – jewellery, bags and hats – round out the collection. This small uptown boutique exudes a sort of Parisian shopping tranquillity, with subtly perfumed air and breezy space between the hangers – everything about Lili’s is desirable, including the price tags.
• 3329 Magazine Street, lilivintage.com. Open Mon-Sat midday-5.30pm
This is one of the few spots on the planet where a civilised man can get a proper hot towel shave, while listening to groovy tunes and enjoying a tumbler of scotch. Aidan Gill’s barber shop is hipster-friendly, which means if you have a beard, it can be expertly looked after or cleared right off – and sells anything to do with a dandy man’s toilette: fancy colognes, aftershave, gentleman’s soap, badger shaving brushes. Gill, who originally hails from Dublin, personifies style, but also substance – which you’ll quickly glean if you get him going (on any subject). Ladies can shop for manly fragrances that smell good on a woman or simply ogle the old-school patina of this classic interior.
• 2026 Magazine Street, aidangillformen.com. Open Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-6pm, haircuts from $40, shaves $40
New Orleans-based designer Sara Ruffin Costello is a contributor to the New York Times T Magazine
• For more information on holidays in the USA, visit DiscoverAmerica.com