When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in New York, take a red sequinned halterneck dress, a disco-ball, chain-mail two-piece and sparkle and shimmer as you shop. Tamsin Blanchard runs through some insider tips for shopaholics. Styling by Charlie Harrington. Photographs by Andrew Williams

ew York, New York, it's a wonderful town... especially if you want non-stop shopping. New York has it all: from the latest must-stop shop - a cavernous Helmut Lang emporium in downtown SoHo, to the best flea markets in the world, where you can pick up a vintage lace underslip, a ball of sequins, or a diamond ring.

If you want the ultimate in uptown shopping, make a beeline for Barney's, the ailing but fabulous Madison Avenue department store. All the big American names are here, including Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, as well as the best of British and other international designers. For the ladies-who- lunch experience, Mad 66, the store's oh-so-chic basement bar and cafe is the place to try to beat your jet lag. While you're in the area, brave the doorman at Calvin Klein's John Pawson bunker and admire minimal chrome candlesticks and perfect dresses. Next stop is Ralph Lauren's English stately home of a store. Even if you don't buy anything, it gives an insight into how Upper East Side ladies decorate their grand apartments.

If that all leaves you feeling a little queasy, speed downtown to the urban decay of the East Village. This enclave of alternative shopping keeps the strangest opening hours. Few of the shops from Third Avenue east open before dark and, even then, hours are unpredictable. Part of the pleasure of East Village shopping is discovering shops by accident. Up and down the criss-cross of streets, there are little curiosity shops selling junk and second-hand clothing, some flea-ridden and smelly, others real gems of vintage dress. The best is Resurrection, 7th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, where you can pick up pieces by the stars of the New York fashion scene of the Eighties, Stephen Sprouse and Betsey Johnson, as well as rails of Pucci and other couture collectibles from the Sixties and Seventies. For anyone with a feel for the macabre or an empathy with Alexander McQueen, the Wandering Dragon Trading Co, 10th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, has the weirdest collection of all things Gothic and funereal, including stuffed birds and jewellery made of human hair. On a lighter note, White Trash, 5th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, is the place to go for Fifties and Sixties housewares, cocktail shakers and other bits of kitsch Americana.

The slickest area to shop is in SoHo's cobbled streets - lined with stark designer flagship shops, each peddling their most uncompromising vision. Brave the humiliation of daring to smudge your greasy fingerprints on the plate-glass doors and enter the world of Miu Miu, 100 Prince Street, Helmut Lang, 80 Greene Street or, scarier still, Comme des Garcons, 116 Wooster Street. American designers Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs, Daryl K and Vivienne Tam are all here. For a more comfortable place to part with your money, go to one of the branches of Urban Outfitters, the chain of shops that specialises in "alternative" street style, mixing up new designer rip- offs with second-hand thrift clothes for men and women. The chain is rumoured to be opening up in the UK.

Once you've shopped, you'll want to dress up and party. Dare to compete with the fashion pack? Make for the new Moroccan hotspot and Calvin Klein favourite, Chez Es Saada, 42 East 1st Street, a dark, cavernous, exotic den of a place where the fashionable people are more important than the food. Spy is the long-established Tardis of a bar where you can rub shoulders with Donovan Leitch and model wife Kirsty Hume, Sofia Coppola and their members of the New York brat pack. For a martini that will keep you buzzing all night, make for happy hour at Global 33, a Fifties futuristic vision of an airport lounge on 2nd Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets. If you have a headache at the mere thought of all that, there is always Barmacy, 14th Street between Avenues A and B, someone's wacky idea for a theme-bar in a converted chemist

Left Gold beaded body, and navy wide-leg trousers, both from Ralph Lauren, 143 New Bond Street, London W1, (enquiries, 0171-491 4967); gold sequin ankle boots, pounds 395, by Gina at 189 Sloane Street, London SW3 (enquiries, 0171-499 9204)

Right Purple dress with black beading, pounds 1,060, by Hussein Chalayan, available from Liberty, Regent Street, London, W1 (enquiries, 0171-734 1234); Browns, 23-27 South Molton Street, London W1 (enquiries, 0171-491 7833)