Porteña Couture

Buenos Aires women are deservedly considered South America's most dedicated fashionistas. But for anyone accustomed to buying in the world's great fashion capitals, the city can be a challenge, as execution often falls short of design. A handful of local designers, however, offer exquisitely well-made clothes, often one-of-a-kind pieces made to measure.

For his label Tramando ($200–$500; 1973 Rodríguez Peña; 54-11/4811-0465; tramando.com), Martín Churba turns avant-garde prints and plasticized fabrics into sexy, playful clothes and chic home accessories.

Jessica Trosman, Churba's former partner ($300–$1,500; Patio Bullrich, 750 Avda. del Libertador; 54-11/ 4814-7411; trosman.com), has a sensibility that also runs to the experimental. Her pieces bring to mind the Japanese label Comme des Garçons, but with exotic touches like beads, feathers, and photographic images.

Pablo Ramírez ($30-$1,500; 587 Perú; 54-11/4342-7154; pabloramirez.com.ar) is B.A.'s purist. His last several collections have come in only two colors: black and white. Recently he expanded his palette to include indigo denim. Restraint suits Ramírez's gorgeously simple sheaths, bias-cut skirts, and provocatively prim tops.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Cat Ballou ($15–$500; 1702 Avda. Alvear; 54-11/4811-9792), the glamorously bohemian label from Alicia Goñi and Florencia Panelo de Pieres. Nearly everything here is handmade—they even dye the silk, satin, and velvet in big boiling cauldrons. The current season includes a stunning pale blue satin top with an antelope-leather front.

At Ashes of Roses ($50–$400; 2874 Andrés Arguibel; 54-11/4772-5144; ashesofroses.com), London-trained Carolina Tonelli uses velvet, silk brocade, and corduroy for dresses and flowing tops with floral patterns, raw-silk edgings, and lace trim.