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When we're looking for a knockout dress--and who isn't before holiday events season?--it's not price that holds us back but perfection. If only a sleeve were a bit longer, we think, or the neckline deeper--and on the frustrating litany goes.

But in the fall collection of designer Pamela Barish, we've found a jewel box of dresses in ruby, amethyst and jade that can be bought off-the-rack or cut to order, with modifications talked through with the designer. Her Abbot Kinney atelier is where publicists outfit clients for a book or movie tour and where celebs such as Rosanna Arquette and Sharon Stone get unique, glamorous looks.

Standout dresses ($1,800) include the mesh-insert J.D. Salinger dress, inspired by the writer's quirky, sophisticated characters, as well as flattering sheaths. Then there's the Belle du Jour, a black formfitted frock with prim white collar and cuffs channeling 1960s-era Catherine Deneuve.

The expert construction recalls the work of Rouland Mouret but with a local edge: All dresses are made within 100 miles of Barish's shop, in order to oversee quality, lower the carbon footprint and ensure fair-trade working conditions. Quality and sophisticated sexiness are rarely so easy and guilt-free.

Pamela Barish, 1327 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; 310-314-4490 or

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