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Twilight stocks casual dresses along with formal attire. (Wiqan Ang/Boston Globe)

Magnetic north

New boutiques help make the North End a fashion hub

Call it the long-awaited marriage of style and sustenance. The North End, long known as the place for al dente pasta and aromatic barolos, has suddenly become the city's newest fashion hub. In just the past few months, three new boutiques -- Twilight, Casa di Stile, and A Matter of Face -- have opened their doors. A fourth, Velvet Fly, opens tomorrow . They join several other hip shops that have popped up in the past couple of years.

Why the boom? A couple of reasons. The long-awaited removal of the Central Artery is, as hoped, spurring more foot traffic in the area. And the surge of new condos means more well-heeled shoppers strolling the streets, looking to spend. So move over, Charles Street. Make room, South End. When it comes to style, there's a new player in town.

Shake the Tree, 95 Salem St.

This longtime Brookline Village staple shifted gears in 2005, when owner Marian Klausner relocated her 10-year-old shop to the North End and dropped the word "gallery" from its name. With the focus now on housewares and accessories, Klausner has also expanded her fashion offerings, with clothing from Ella Moss, Splendid, and Tracy Reese, bags from Orla Keily, and jewelry from New York designer Alexis Bittar. "I really wanted to be in an up-and-coming busy area," said Klausner. "I just felt like it was the most welcoming and warm community." To wit: Klausner is regularly plied with cookies and pizza by some of her older female neighbors. 617-742-0484 ,

Prima Donna, 30 Prince St.

Its name notwithstanding, Prima Donna embraces inclusiveness. A gift store for children, pets, women, and men alike, owner Debra Mattaliano's whimsical shop, open since last year, overflows with everything from puzzles to bath products, leashes to baseball hats, candy to evening clutches. And lest Sir Barksalot become jealous of your latest Mike's Pastry purchase, Prima Donna also stocks cannoli for dogs, who are welcome on the premises. 617-723-1267,

Karma Boutique, 26 Prince St.

If a window display provides the truest view into a boutique's soul, then Karma's current exhibit featuring fishnets, vintage Fendi, leopard prints, and feathers definitely conveys the store's "eclectic consignment" concept. Vintage designers represented include Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, and St. John's; prices range from $10 to $4 , 000 . "It's an exciting vibe here, a little bit like Soho," said co-owner Joy Catuogno , who along with twin sister Judy opened Karma in 2005. Last October, the sisters launched Karma Sutra, a line of "Hollywood glamorous" lingerie offerings from the West Coast. And as for their hours? "Noon on," said Catuogno mischievously. "It's however we feel." 617-723-8338 ,

Twilight, 12 Fleet St.

Alison Barnard's newest store, which opened in March, celebrates the magic hour between day and night. Twilight stocks casual dresses and more formal cocktail and evening attire. Frocks from Betsey Johnson, Nicole Miller, and Beth Bowley share rack space with more work-appropriate offerings from Parameter and Adam + Eve. To celebrate the North End's rising style quotient, Barnard is co-hosting a fashion show at Nebo Pizzeria with restaurant co-owner Carla Pallotta on July 10. 617-523-8008

Casa di Stile, 371 Hanover St.

With a white-on-white aesthetic and wall-mounted flat screens airing fashion-show videos, three-month-old Casa di Stile feels more SoCal than, uh, NorEn. "Ninety percent of our inventory is tops," said co-owner Leslie Carvahlo, who with business partner Allison Levangie, stocks brands Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent, Madison Marcus, and LeRok. Carvahlo, a North End resident, sees a "friendly competition" between herself and the other retail purveyors. "I'll refer women to the other stores in the area," she said, "and I would hope they'd do the same." 857-233-4885 ,

Christina DeFalco, 383 Hanover St.

The grand dame of the North End's stylish retail scene, DeFalco opened her eponymous shop in 2003 to sell her own line of dresses, tops, and crystal-studded T-shirts. Her current spring/summer collection includes peacock-printed halter dresses, white capri pants, and rose-patterned wrap tops. The spacious spot also sells shoes, flip - flops, chunky necklaces, and bracelets from other designers. (Interesting if slightly macabre fact: the storefront was once home to the Langone Funeral Home, which held the Sacco and Vanzetti funerals in 1927 .) 617-523-8870 ,

Cadia Vintage, 148 Salem St.

When a store's website asks, "Looking for something Retro Kitsch -- Shabby Chic Cool --Vintage Swank -- Mid-Century Rockabilly -- Pin Up Cheesecake?" you know you're in for an eclectic shopping experience. A panorama of ephemera, five-year-old Cadia Vintage is only open on weekends, but even a peek into the jammed, 200-square-foot space will whet appetites craving gaud: 1960s Playboys, vintage typewriters, ceramic bric-a-brac, and costume jewelry all compete for attention. 617-742-1203 ,

A Matter of Face, 425 Hanover St.

One of the newest kids on the block, this petite beauty store opened in May and stocks high-end beauty and makeup products from Bliss, Peter Thomas Roth, Paula Dorf, and Susan Posnik. And you won't find boyfriends brooding in a corner at this shop: products for guys from The Art of Shaving have been a huge hit among local businessmen, said owner Paula Tierney. Tierney, together with coworkers Maria Ammon and Marlo Freedman, moved her retail operations from the North Shore to the North End after five years in Newburyport. The transition has been seamless. "Everybody has been amazing," said Tierney, "from my landlord to my neighbors." 617-742-5874,

in*jean*ius, 441 Hanover St.

When owner Alison Barnard began sussing out possible locations for her inaugural retail venture, the North End wasn't even on her radar. But a chance drive through the neighborhood changed her tune. "The whole feel of it seemed to work for me," said Barnard, who'd been thinking about the South End. Barnard's high-end denim outlet has been clothing locals in jeans by Seven, Kasil, and Chip & Pepper, as well as T-shirts and casual accessories, since 2005. In-jean-ius, 617-523-5326 ,

The Velvet Fly, 424 Hanover St.

Opening tomorrow , the Velvet Fly is a high-end "modern vintage" boutique offering both new and well-sourced vintage clothing. Original Diane von Furstenberg and 1950s cocktail dresses hang alongside vintage-inspired new lines from Hazel and Voom. Co-owners Lorrinda Cerrutti and BethAnn Hoyos met while working at Temple Bar in Cambridge (Hoyos is still a bartender there); both see the North End as the perfect spot for their new venture. "It's a very old neighborhood with very new and modern people coming into it," said Cerrutti. "It's a pretty good representation of our concept." 617-557-4359 ,