The scene in downtown St. Paul could only have been one of two things: a stripper convention or a Lady Gaga concert. I was prepared for costumes (heck, I was there to report on it), but shocked by the number of girls not wearing pants. I felt so overdressed! And old, because as I asked 22-year-olds about their fashion choice of corsets, fishnets and combat boots, I found myself wondering what their mothers would think. And it wasn’t just the ladies – my favorite interview of the night was Jesse Wetzel (pictured) in vinyl hot pants, a cropped vest and a whole lot of mesh. His most surprising accessory: a wife! Read all about it in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. More impressive than the Diet Coke can hairdos and “caution” tape tube tops was the devotion of Gaga’s “little monsters.” They love her for being “different” and “not caring what people think.” Of course, they express that by copying her – an irony that is not lost on Lady Gaga. “Don’t leave here loving me more – I’m not going anywhere,” the pop star told the sold out crowd at Xcel Energy Center. “Love yourself more.” And while you’re at it, put on some pants.

You’ve got to respect a local optical shop that can out-bargain Costco and Wal-Mart. Graf Optical in Roseville is currently selling a selection of brand-name single lens spectacles, 2 for $20 – total – with an eye exam (which is around $100) or $67.92 for two complete pair with an outside prescription, which is still a serious deal. I had to see it for myself to believe it. Graf obtained the deeply discounted glasses from a former competitor, Juetner Optical, which recently went out of business. To honor Juetner and its longstanding record of service, Graf decided to pay it forward by offering customers this unprecedented deal. About 100 pair remain from brands like Guess, Polo and DKNY. Some Kate Spade, Fendi and Gucci, too. They aren’t necessarily the most fashion forward frames, but there are some gems and just about any of these would be perfect for an extra pair. The offer is valid through September.

For those of us whose level of style doesn’t always (ever?) match our level of income, good news from celebrity-favorite designer Monique Lhuillier: she inked a deal to design a bridge collection of separates starting at $295, cocktail dresses starting at $395 and evening gowns starting at $595. There are plans for two bridesmaid collections too, starting at $200. The first bridesmaid line, ML Monique Lhuillier Bridesmaids will be available next month at Nordstrom; the second collection, Monique Lhuillier Bridesmaids will debut at bridal salons worldwide in January and watch for the bridge collection in stores for Spring 2011. You won’t see all of the affordable pieces at the Monique Lhuillier salon in Edina, which will remain primarily a collection store, but some of the favorite pieces will likely make their way into the mix.

Print knit sheath, $38 at bby Style

BBY boutique will pop up for the first time at Southdale Center in Edina from Sept. 15-19 offering what owner Barb Dovolis describes as trend-right women’s fashions that won’t break the bank. Think Forever 21 for moms. Theses days, the youth market has ample access to the latest trends at reasonable prices, but Dovolis – a former senior buyer for Target and Marshall Field’s – believes there’s a void in the market for adult women. So expect clothes to skew more mature, but with an average price of $28. If it works, expect BBY to pop up in other locations around town. See what’s in store.

Eco-tique on Grand Avenue in St. Paul has morphed into Nature of Beauty, as the online retailer has gradually taken over the entire space with its eco-friendly skincare and cosmetics. But not one to remain idle for long, owner Terry Bly is planning a big move to The Village at Mendota Heights, where she will open a Nature of Beauty store and spa, offering a full menu of massage facials and body treatments using organic products. She’ll be bringing on spa-grade brands, so you can be green and get a glycolic peel. The store will open Oct. 1 followed by the spa on Nov. 1.

Photo by Marion Curtis

Call me traditional: I just don’t want to see a man’s ankles on the red carpet – unless he’s in a kilt. Penn Badgley sported the oh-so-current look at the Target Kaleidoscopic Fashion Spectacular in New York this week. Love the bod, dig the pout, but I think he’s going to look back on those pants and the dress shoes without socks and shudder. 

You don’t have to travel to New York to celebrate Fashion’s Night Out this September 10. Following the smashing success of last year’s effort to get shoppers shopping, the movement is spreading around the globe. Find out what’s happening in your neck of the woods here. In mine, the Galleria in Edina has announced plans to stay open an hour late and treat shoppers to trunk shows and specials throughout the evening. Expect others to follow suit.

Fashion obsessed and broke, the local designers behind Rapport bags and accessories are opening a cheap chic boutique  called Primp at Selby and Dale in St. Paul. They’re promising fashion forward women’s apparel under $100 – most dresses under $50. I’m there! No, doubt they’ve got their work cut out for them, competing in the fast fashion category against the likes of H&M and Forever 21 where volume keeps prices down. But I think a lot of women crave a boutique experience that doesn’t break the bank. Extra incentive for students: get 10 percent off every purchase with a student ID. Primp at 618 Selby, is scheduled to open Sept. 16.

It’s not enough to dominate the toy store with Buzz, Woody, Ariel and Hannah games, clothes and lunch boxes – Disney wants parents too. Its latest collaborations include designer handbags and maternity apparel. This week, Dooney & Bourke debuted a collection of bags decorated with Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle and their respective crowns and castles. Prices range from $70 to $220. (find them here.) Motherhood maternity recently introduced maternity shirts, sleepwear and accessories featuring Mickey, Minnie and Winnie the Pooh. Indeed, the Disney marketing even covers the womb.

America’s Next Top Model runner up Raina Hein created quite a stir at Macy’s Glamorama Friday in a Joynoelle original made of dutchess satin, held together with paper clips, green rubber bands and gold fasteners. Designer Joy Teiken (right) has never been interested in Project Runway, but she took the Office Max challenge to create the one-of-a-kind dress, which, amazingly, looks like it could fit in to her fall 2010 collection. Leave it to Teiken to work in pockets!  Hein, who moves to Los Angeles next week to pursue modeling and perhaps acting, said she was honored to wear the Office Max dress – even though Teiken wouldn’t let her go to the bathroom in it.