“Etsy in the flesh”—that’s how owner Autumn Clayton describes her playful shop. Handmade is the focus: Every nook and cranny is filled with beaded cocktail rings, screen-printed tumblers, and brightly patterned pillows. White walls are covered with whimsical prints from artists such as Clare Elsaesser and Elizabeth Graeber, making it one of the most current—and affordable—places to buy art in Arlington. The constantly evolving inventory also includes a few racks of consignment clothing. (5140 Wilson Blvd.; 703-247-9797)
This store’s smart, standalone jackets and sweaters (sizes 0 to 26) make dressing easy—interesting details such as draped collars, ornate beading, and sheeny fabrics liven up a wardrobe. You’ll also find pants, cardigan shells, and basic blouses in a range of styles, colors, and cuts. Coupled with the in-store Lafayette 148 suiting boutique and a rich-looking jewelry selection, Crystal Boutique feels like a much larger department store. Complimentary tailoring is available on most regular-priced items. (2160 Crystal Plaza Arcade; 703-415-1400)
Gently worn separates from popular mall brands such as Ann Taylor, Theory, and J. Crew fill most of the racks at this local consignment chainlet. Though window displays and a handful of front racks project a quirky, vintage aesthetic, this store is best for simply designed, office-appropriate looks (head to the store on DC’s 14th Street, Northwest, for a funkier selection). Jewelry and accessories—some new, some used—are also available. (2529 Wilson Blvd.; 703-528-3079)
This is a smart destination for casual men’s and women’s clothes. Guys will appreciate the Canterbury of New Zealand jackets, and women can browse drapey tops from Ella Moss and Velvet. Oh—did we mention the glorious cherry-wood wall of designer jeans? It’s filled with dozens of styles from A.P.C., Paige Premium Denim, Hudson, William Rast, and more. Don’t be embarrassed if you need help navigating the options—the knowledgeable staff is happy to help. (1101 S. Joyce St.; 703-414-8202)
4530 Lee Hwy.; 703-527-4247
Blue topaz, black pearls, pink tourmaline, and other colorful gemstones in delicate settings fill the displays at this jewelry-design studio. Blackened-silver pieces from Ila & I have an exotic flair, while Kelim’s sculptural designs suit more artistic tastes. Owner Tom Arnold, a third-generation jeweler, works with couples on custom wedding rings.
2700 Clarendon Blvd.; 703-528-6718
The boho-gypsy offspring of parent company Urban Outfitters, Free People specializes in flowy tops, crazy florals, and artisan-inspired jewelry and accessories. Teens love to layer the colorful thermals and henleys, while risk-taking twentysomethings snap up the funky shoes, lace bandeaux, and ’70s-style maxi-dresses. Check out the changing rooms—padded benches and plenty of pillows make them some of the most inviting in town.
3924 Wilson Blvd.; 703-248-9600
With gear for swimming, biking, and running, this friendly fitness superstore is tailored to triathletes. (Potomac River Running Company sublets space within Freshbikes.) Use the Aetrex iStep machine to pick out the perfect running shoe, discuss bike saddles with a knowledgeable staffer, or sift through high-quality wetsuits for your next open-water swim. Dedicated to the idea of athletics as community, the store also sponsors a popular Tuesday-night group bike ride.
566 23rd St. S.; 703-920-1498
At Katherine Glorioso Dress’s cute Crystal City boutique, flirty dresses and tops fill most of the racks, and everything costs less than $100. In June, Dress took over the space next door. The 900-square-foot addition created room for a vintage rack, graphic T-shirts for men, and a fun selection of novelty books. Ten new styles come in every Wednesday—keep tabs on the “just arrived” section of the store’s Web site so you don’t miss out.
2800 S. Randolph St., Suite 110-A; 703-379-4444
Turn-of-the-century France inspires many of owner Angela Phelps’s selections—look for lavender-scented laundry detergent, terra-cotta jars of herbes de Provence, and fleur-de-lis-dotted home accessories. Top your gift off with a card by Smudge Ink or Snow & Graham and you’ll be the talk of the party.
4518 Lee Hwy.; 703-524-4680
Northern Virginia shows its Southern roots in this preppy boutique, where shoppers find such brands as Lilly Pulitzer, Jack Rogers, and Vera Bradley. Not everything’s covered in critters and paisley—the collection of black cocktail dresses will work in a broad range of wardrobes. The children’s rack at the back of the store carries onesies and separates for newborns through eight-year-olds. Tagalong husbands won’t leave empty-handed—Vineyard Vines boxers and ties are nestled by the rear entrance.
No Place Like Home
5140 Wilson Blvd., 703-243-4424
Vintage furniture and retro knickknacks make up the bulk of the inventory at Covet’s downstairs neighbor, where bubbly owner Renee Henninger has a warm greeting for every customer. Fans of ’50s kitsch will like the china and glass sets; garden lovers are sure to find fun trinkets on the patio; and bargain hunters will appreciate the wallet-friendly prices. But our favorite discovery was a few pieces of modern-looking vintage costume jewelry.
4150 Campbell Ave., Suite 104; 703-379-5242
Started by two former politicos, this Village at Shirlington boutique aces conservative chic. Kitten heels by Butter, tweedy Mcginn shifts, and baubles of pearls will carry you through a season of fundraising luncheons, while pretty party dresses by Shoshanna and luxurious Autumn Cashmere sweaters take care of your weekend agenda. Round up your girlfriends and book an in-store shopping party—Periwinkle will provide drinks, appetizers, and 10 percent off all purchases.
2727 Wilson Blvd.; 703-243-6490
The punchy teal walls are a dead giveaway—ShoeFly has personality. Quirky, colorful shoes by Fly London, Restricted, Kickers, and Toms are some of the most popular items. You’ll also find roomy totes and beaded costume jewelry.
2729 Wilson Blvd.; 703-525-3333
The tongue-in-cheek waxing salon Sisters3 knows that an outfit is only as good as its foundations. That’s why the waiting area is stocked with shapewear from Spanx, coquettish Betsey Johnson bras, and even the occasional pasty. Beyond undergarments, the silky nighties and Cat’s Pajamas PJ sets are perfect for lounging around the house. And we love the Urban Aid survival kits, which include the tools to handle everything from accidental spills to one-night stands.
2700 Clarendon Blvd.; 703-807-4083
This East Coast chain is a good choice for versatile, of-the-moment options. Fill out your winter-in-the-city wardrobe with Sanctuary jackets, Hudson jeans, and trendy B.B. Dakota tops. Amrita Singh statement jewelry and Marc by Marc Jacobs makeup cases round out the fashionable mix for women. The smaller men’s selection, including button-downs and blazers by Scotch & Soda, is also worth a browse. Planning a winter jaunt to someplace tropical? The extensive selection of stylish swimwear is available year-round.
Three Mall Finds
Ignore the throngs of high-schoolers who sometimes mob the food court—the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City (703-415-2400) is home to three shopping resources you don’t want to miss.
Opened in mid-September, New York’s luxe accessories emporium Henri Bendel (703-418-1208) is a good resource for gifts—we’re suckers for anything covered in those iconic brown and white stripes. The only Washington-area location of Club Monaco (703-413-6642), a favorite for minimalist workwear and slinky cocktail dresses, resides on the third floor. And the Pentagon City Macy’s (703-418-4488) is one of the few local branches that carry the store’s designer collaborations such as Rachel Rachel Roy and Karl Lagerfeld for Impulse.
This article appears in the November 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.