Mrs. Obama always proves a source of D.C. fashion inspiration in modern classics.
About five months ago, my husband was offered a once-in-a-life time job that required us to move from Boston to Washington D.C. My first thought when it became clear we were really, really moving was “Where the hell am I going to shop?” Sure, this was followed quickly by more appropriate thoughts about leaving my friends and family after 15-odd years in Boston and all the work that starting a new life in D.C. would require. But sometimes, your gut reactions just cut right to the heart of the matter.
I knew that we’d stay in touch with our loved ones and that we would, slowly but surely, turn D.C. in to our new home, with a comfy apartment to make our own, new favorite restaurants and new bars to sling back our Friday night cocktails. But I’d spent some time in D.C. And while I had always managed to eat well in the city, enjoyed its great historical and cultural resources and met an unbelievable number of fascinating people, I had never stumbled across that great little boutique. You know the one. You notice it out of the corner of your eye while walking down a charming street and it just draws you in (even though you’re really looking for some place to get a cup of coffee). And then you can’t get out again without buying some adorable dress or scarf that you don’t really need but can’t resist. Yeah, I never found that in D.C. And that made me worry that my husband and I, two admitted and unapologetic fashion addicts, were about to strand ourselves in a style desert.
I’ve only been in D.C. for a few months now, but so far this much is clear — the truth about the D.C. fashion scene is much more complicated (and interesting) than I first thought. Most of the time, if you ask someone about fashion in this town, they’ll roll they’re eyes and launch into a lament about the lack of cool shops and the fashion horror of women walking around in bad business suits and sneakers. Then, of course, there’s the hairstyles. Callista Gingrich, anyone? Enough said, right?
If you look beyond the self-deprecation, though, and you do have to look to get beyond it, there’s an energy here, the kind of excitement people feel when they know something big is about to happen — like kids on Christmas morning or a bridal party the day of a wedding. Because after people stop rolling their eyes, they’ll tell you that things are getting better and recommend some little spot in Georgetown or the vintage place they love over by U St.
For myself, the first ray of hope came when Refinery29 launched its D.C. edition just in time for my move. I figured if a major fashion site was dedicating an entire edition to a city, something good had to be happening there. And it turned out that Refinery29 wasn’t the only one excited about the D.C. style scene. As I did a little homework (with Google’s ever-obliging help), I was completely blown away by the number and range of D.C. fashion blogs I came across, full of not just great fashion sense but information on local designers, shops and events. Ok, so it’s not Soho. Or maybe even Brooklyn. Yet. But maybe D.C. is beginning to be more of a style oasis than the desert I’d feared.
One way or another, the D.C. fashion scene definitely has my attention. I can’t help but wonder why the dearth of fashion in the nation’s capital in the first place and why exactly is it changing now? And, of course, where exactly am I going to shop? Because I’m guessing that great little boutique — you know the one — is actually out there.