Find Your Style

March 2024 View more

Shop wardrobe staples and colorful accessories at Boutique Poppy

Inside Boutique Poppy

Growing up in Aurora in a family with five daughters, Rachel May became somewhat notorious for pilfering closets. “I was always the biggest culprit of stealing my siblings’ clothes because I didn’t want to repeat outfits,” May says. “I always looked to clothing to express myself.” These days, you’ll find her helping her customers refine their own personal style at Boutique Poppy (231 S. Washington St.), the women’s clothing and accessory shop that she opened last spring in downtown Naperville.

May attended Columbia College Chicago and majored in fashion photography. Working a side gig in retail while in school inspired her to also minor in fashion business. “I liked the community aspect of it,” she says. “Even working at a big box, you get repeat customers; you get to know the people locally. I really enjoyed that aspect.” After graduation, she felt driven to open her own shop—and coming from a line of small business owners, she had all the encouragement of her family behind her.

While searching for the perfect storefront, May launched Poppy as an online boutique in December 2022. Soon after, a space became available on South Washington Street. It happened to be right across from where her grandfather had owned a retail shop, Heirloom Dolls & Treasures, for years. “Poppy is what I called my grandfather, and I knew that’s what I wanted to name the store even before I had the location picked out,” May says. “It kind of all felt like it was meant to be.”

At Boutique Poppy, May’s philosophy is in part inspired by slow fashion, a counterpoint to disposable, sweatshop-produced fast fashion. “The meaning of slow fashion is you create a wardrobe that is essentially stuff that will last you a long time—it’s classic, it’s timeless,” she says. “There are things that will come on trend, and you might say, ‘I want that little piece,’ here and there, but you can mix that with things that you will have forever.”

Purses on display at Boutique Poppy

Sustainability and ethical manufacturing practices are tenets of slow fashion—and though clothing made in this way has a higher price point at the register, the cost per wear is spread across a longer lifetime in your closet. May calls these kind of items wardrobe staples, and their ability to work in your closet year-round is key. “We have some spaghetti-strap dresses that you can wear in the spring and summer, and in the winter, you put on your tights and throw a sweater on over it, and it’s the perfect outfit,” May says. “We also have 100 percent crinkled cotton pieces in neutral tones that are great in the summer to wear by themselves, and you can layer them up in the fall and winter.” She also carries denim from a sustainable brand, Etika. “To create one pair of jeans, it typically takes over 1,000 gallons of water,” May says. “[Etika] uses 60 percent less water, nontoxic dyes, and recycled materials. You don’t get that crunchy denim feel; they’re all super soft.”

As for accessories, May stocks a colorful lineup of handbags and jewelry. “One local artist that we carry, she does vintage glass earrings and she puts them on brand-new posts, and they are really vibrant,” May says. Leather purses by Beck are also a customer favorite. “They have so many colors and a velvet interior on the bags, which makes them super-unique and luxurious,” she says. “Reaching into your bag and feeling the velvet interior is amazing.”

And because it was initially what drew her to the business of fashion to begin with, building community remains a priority for May. “Myself and the stylists that I have here are always here to help and style you for any occasion,” she says. “I wanted to offer a really fun, welcoming environment—somewhere women can feel comfortable trying on clothes. We’re here to lend an ear if you’re having a bad day, or to just make you smile.”


Photos: Boutique Poppy