After encouraging us to get to the heart of Washington by looking beyond the Mall and the White House, writer and DC expert Beth Kanter now turns her eye to fashion, with an insider's guide to the city's best boutiques.
"Once a navy blue pinstriped wasteland, Washington, DC now not only registers on the national fashion yardstick but ranks as a true (but not navy blue) style player. Today the men and women who live and work in the US capital have access to an unprecedented number of independent fashion shops, as well as a modern style icon living in the White House. Here is our top ten list of fun, quirky and decidedly Washington boutiques to help you look as good as a bright new bill on Capitol Hill."
Rue 14 – 1803 14th Street, NW
The shiny wood floors, bright lights and clean lines at Rue 14 are the ideal backdrop for its collection of contemporary clothing for men and women. Owners Jiwon Paik-Nguyen and Andrew Nguyen favour emerging designers and are known for giving solid and friendly advice.
Rue 14 is a great choice for clothes that make you look good in an everyday way but don’t make you look like everyone else you see that day. As a bonus, it doesn’t have to break the bank; you can walk away with a fantastic pair of jeans for less than $100.
Annie Creamcheese – 3279 M Street NW
Stepping into this sparkly hot pink boutique is like walking into your fabulous aunt’s boudoir. Original one-of-a-kind pieces from the houses of Gucci, Valentino, Dior, Pucci and the like fill one side of the Georgetown shop, while more affordable but still original clothing, purses, shoes and jewellery fill the other.
Some of the gowns in Annie Creamcheese will make you feel like a little kid watching your mum and dad dress up for a night on the town. Only now you’re the one who gets to do the dressing up.
Muleh – 1831 14th Street, NW
Muleh is one part clothing boutique, two parts furniture gallery and all parts art. From the stainless steel and bamboo sofa to the expertly tailored jackets, just about everything here is an exercise in fashionably marrying form and function. The warehouse-style store seamlessly blends über-modern furnishings with clothing from designers like Vivienne Westwood (with her Anglomania diffusion line) and Rozae Nichols.
Tabandeh – 5300 Wisconsin Avenue
Finding this phenomenal jewellery store on the bottom level of a shopping mall is the equivalent of finding a diamond ring in the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. Although the location is tragically unhip, the bling in Tabandeh is nothing short of spectacular. It’s the place to find a “where did you get that?” piece you will wear over and over again.
Proper Topper – 1350 Connecticut Avenue, NW and 3213 P Street, NW
This fun little hat-centered shop first opened its doors in 1990, making it one of the early players on the DC boutique scene. But the selection at Proper Topper is not limited to newsboys, bowlers and berets. It also stocks women’s clothing featuring the likes of Jenny Han and Plenty, as well jewellery, gifts, children’s clothing and quirky men’s accessories.
Urban Chic – 1626 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
A must for any Washington fashionista looking for that perfect dress for work, party or play. The inventory at Urban Chic is a nice mix of up-and-coming designers and established favorites, including a selection of accessories.
Hu’s Shoes – 3005 M Street, NW
Owner Marlene Hu Aldaba likes to say she ‘curates’ the store’s shoe selection and when you eyeball some of the phenomenal footwear you’ll understand why. Hu’s Shoes might not be cheap but friends and strangers alike will be unable to stop staring at your feet. Aldaba has also opened a clothing store called Hu’s Wear nearby at 2906 M Street, NW.
Relish – 3312 Cadys Aly, NW
Relish is a must for the sophisticated Washington man or woman. Nestled in the heart of Cadys Aly, a design district in Georgetown, the beautifully understated store features two floors of refined yet stylish pieces. Henry Beguelin handbags and Marni dresses are among the types of wardrobe treasures that make up the inventory.
Caramel – 1603 U St NW # B1
You can feel as good on the inside as you look on the outside when you shop at Caramel. The store, which carries fashion items for him and her, runs on wind power and carries several eco-friendly clothing lines. As if that wasn’t enough, every second Saturday the store showcases a non-profit agency which gets a portion of that day’s proceeds.
Nana – 1528 U St, Washington
Nana is one of those adorable little shops that you text your best friend about as you head to the dressing room. Housed on the second floor of a townhouse, Nana sells simple clothing and handbags from indie designers as well as a selection of vintage pieces. The sales staff have a reputation for being super-friendly and helpful. And, really, who doesn’t like that?
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.