Guess what? There is a J.Crew in Soho, and we can start shopping in earnest after Getting There. You do not want to drive. Repeat, you do not want to drive. If your car is already in the city, leave it midtown or uptown. Take the subway, either the 4 or the 6 to Spring Street or the N, R, or W to Prince Street. This is the exercise part: climbing the stairs down and up from and to the street. The city has kindly provided little street maps in the subway stations to help you get oriented, along with some directional signs. So at Prince Street, head for the northwest corner, and walk west on Prince Street a block or two. If you've come via the Spring Street station, walk west a block or two to Broadway, turn right on Crosby Street, go north one block to Prince Street, and head west. Please bear in mind that although many people view their shopping expeditions as spiritual pilgrimages, this store is clean but unimpressive from outside. Inside: nice shoe/accessory area, usual JC merch on the ground floor, and the sale section and Crewcuts and its sale section are downstairs. See? more stairs, you lucky girl! The salespeople are just delightful here, including the ones in the Crewcuts area, which I'm told is unusual.
There's also an Anthropologie store on West Broadway, which is west of Broadway. Exit J.Crew, pass the Apple store, cross Greene Street, cross Wooster Street, and you'll come to West Broadway, where you turn left. You're heading downtown, and Anthro is towards the end of the block. In the other direction, Madewell is at 486 Broadway, at Broome Street. This is where I should mention the aerobic part of the exercise program, where you gallop briskly between destinations and fling your arms in the air as you try on and remove outfits.
If you were to draw kind of an irregular pentagon, with the Spring Street subway stop at one point and the Anthro store at another, you would realize that you are in a very enjoyable playground for shoppers. Stay around here long enough and your shopping bags will serve as free weights. Behind just about every doorway is a store worth checking out. There's a jeweler called Reinstein/Ross on Prince Street which will make you rethink your standards for ornamentation (no mystery metal here!), there are shoe stores of every variety (have a look at Robert Clergerie), and there are places to have lunch. C.Wonder, the emporium of Tory Burch's husband Chris, is at 72 Spring Street, close to the subway, probably worth a look. Also fun: Zadig & Voltaire, at 143 Mercer Street. So stroll around, feast your eyes on original creations, and as long as you remember where the subway stations are, you can't get lost. I haven't been more specific about shops because (see above), but you'll find plenty. Use your map-reading skills to stroll to the J.Crew Men's locations, because the men's hats and some of the scarves should be tried on.
Assuming you're not up for a fancy lunch with waiters dressed like a stage crew, here are some suggestions for nearby quick bites where you won't waste precious shopping time.
Hampton Chutney, at 68 Prince Street, just east of Broadway, has dosas. A dosa is an Indian crepe, they have 9 or 10 different fillings, some vegan, some not. You eat standing up or perched, the food is well seasoned but not hotly or oddly spiced. Inexpensive (because the money is for the shopping, right?)
You could go to Balthazar, on Spring Street, between the subway exit and Broadway. It's crowded at mealtimes, fine at other hours, like if you want to sit down for a glass of wine and a plate or two around 5:30. Or for an earlier break, try for lunch on the early side. I've never been seated at the time of my reservation, so I just walk in and take my chances. Me, I avoid the bar, each time I've agreed to wait there someone has spilled wine on me. Food's nice, I would not call this inexpensive.
Dean & DeLuca is a fancy food store on the southeast corner of Broadway and Prince. They also sell sandwiches and beverages right where you walk in, to be eaten at a small counter. But take a minute or two first to admire the beautiful veggies and flowers, the fancy cakes and breads, the fine meat counter.
There's a good burger at the Broome Street Bar, and good beers, if you're shopping with a guy. Also perfectly fine for a couple of women to go in, sit down, have lunch, rest feet. Child-friendly.
And this is Soho, even though of recent years it's more a shopping precinct than an arts district, don't forget the people-watching!
Hint: if shopping with child, have child hold a compass and tell you whether you're going south (downtown), north (uptown), east, west... Not advised if child has wicked sense of humor... Alternatively, deposit husband and child in Apple store, note where it is or take a picture, and pick them up later.