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On two of DC’s sweetest designers, retro DIY has never looked so polished. Can we please get one of those neckties? By Brooke Kao

Who (left to right): Kristen Swenson, 24, and Erin Derge, 28
Owners of the U Street shop Ginger Root Design

The Ready Launch Austria jewelry and fashion show at the Austrian Embassy

How did the idea for Ginger Root Design come about?
Kristen: “I kind of accidentally started my own tailoring business last year. [Kristen started as a tailor at the 14th Street vintage shop Treasury. I got really behind, so I brought Erin out here.”
Erin: “One day, we were sitting outside, and we were like, ‘Do you wanna open a store?’ ”
Kristen: “We were working out of my apartment and broke the closet, so we took that as a sign that we needed to expand. We found the space [on U Street] and opened our store within six weeks.”

What kind of wearables do you offer at Ginger Root?
Erin: “We sell eight local artists and two from the Midwest, including my mom’s jewelry. And then we have our designs, which are all repurposed. For instance, this is a man’s shirt. And I made the tie from scrap fabric.”

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Posted at 08:13 AM/ET, 02/22/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
A high-school student schools us in layering By Brooke Kao

Who: Ann Russell, 17
Junior at Bethesda’s Walt Whitman High School

What she’s wearing: Her mother’s wool sweater and bag, an Urban Outfitters scarf, a coat from Anthropologie, and Guess boots.

How did you come up with such an intricate look?
“This sounds cliché, but I generally just wake up and pull things from my closet. I like the layered look, and I also like mixing feminine clothes and more boyish pieces, so sometimes I throw things on that don’t necessarily go together.”

Prom is almost here, isn’t it? Do you have a dress yet?
“I want to wear a shorter dress, probably an awesome sparkly vintage cocktail dress of my mom’s.”

Does fashion factor into your life on any other level?
“Yeah—I’m working on costumes for the school play, The Diary of Anne Frank. We design them and then send them elsewhere to get made.”

Brooke says:
I was shocked to find a 17-year-old with such a thoughtful approach to repurposing secondhand clothing. I love the textural differences between her coat and her cardigan as well as the whimsical nature of the whole outfit. Her bag also matches her hair, which is a nice touch. 

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Posted at 10:12 AM/ET, 02/15/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Can fur hats, combat boots, and suit jackets peacefully coexist? By Brooke Kao

Who: Rashad Muhammad, 21
Graphic-design student

How would you describe your style?

“Urban professional. I always pay attention to what I wear, and sometimes—like today—I just like to dress it up.”

What do you have on today?

“A blazer and a skinny tie from a thrift store that doesn’t exist anymore, an Express shirt and pants, an H&M hat and bag, and Steve Madden shoes.”

What’s your thrift-store-shopping strategy?

“If I find something that I like and it happens to fit, I get it. Or if it doesn’t fit, I make sure it’s bigger so I can get it tailored smaller.”

Where do you get your clothes tailored?

“Luckily, I have friends who will sew for me.”

What do you do besides graphic design?

“I’m a photography minor, and I run the photo lab.”

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Posted at 11:18 AM/ET, 02/08/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Too bad more frat boys don’t dress like this By Brooke Kao

Who: Chris Lin, 20
International Development major at American University

Where’d you find the pieces to this handsome ensemble?
“The pink button-down shirt is from J. Crew, and the tie is from China. I got the cardigan in Hong Kong.”

How does the shopping in Hong Kong compare to here?
“There’s this store called Georgiana, which is pretty popular—most of my stuff is from there. Everything in Hong Kong is a lot cheaper.”

Any particular reason you’re dressed so nicely?
“I have to go to a formal event after this—it’s for my fraternity. I dress for whatever the occasion calls for. But if I could wear a T-shirt every day, I would.”

It seems like you pay attention to fit, though.
“My mom doesn’t like me wearing stuff that’s too baggy.”

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Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 02/01/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Elegant and attention-getting don’t have to be mutually exclusive By Brooke Kao

Who: Mary Anne Gale, 82

Secondhand Rose, a vintage shop in Georgetown

How did you come to work at Secondhand Rose?
“I used to own my own vintage shop with my partner a little up the street. That was in the 1970s. The owner of Secondhand Rose needed some help, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ ”

What are some of your wardrobe staples?
“Hats! No one wears hats anymore. Accessories are important—it’s really the little things that complete the whole look. You can’t just throw on a dress and expect to look finished.”

Has your style changed over the years?
“Not really. I don’t really shop anymore—whatever clothes I wear now I get from my own closet. I love the style of the 1920s—the drop waist, the flapper look. I always say I wish I were born 15 years before [Gale was born in 1928]. I also have a number vintage pieces, but they’re not exactly things you can wear everyday.”

Why not?
“Well, some things you can’t just wear out on the streets. Some things you only want to wear on certain occasions, if you know what I mean.”

Related >> See Mary Anne in our Fashion’s Night Out gallery

Brooke says:
On a whim, I decided to check out Secondhand Rose. Instead of browsing the clothes, though, I wound up chatting with the fabulous woman who worked there. Despite the freezing weather, she was elegantly clad in a fedora and movie-star sunglasses, and dared to wear tights and heels with a high-slit skirt. Here’s to hoping my style is just as fierce when I’m 82.

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Posted at 08:01 AM/ET, 01/25/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Texture takes over an American University professor. By Brooke Kao

Who: Iwan Bagus, 40
American University professor and freelance photographer

Where are you from originally?
"Jakarta, Indonesia."

When did you first come to the US?
"December 1994, for school."

How do your professional interests affect the way you dress?
"In general, I'm interested in art. I'm a photographer.  If I'm lecturing about pattern and texture and tonality, I might as might as well apply it."

Is there a certain type of photography you like to shoot?
"I love portraits and food photography. I used to love shooting fashion, but now I'm more into brand creation."  (View Iwan's portfolio at

Brooke says:
It was my first day back from winter break, and I was already an hour late to class. The moment I walked through the door, the first thing I noticed was my professor's dissaproving glance. The second thing I noticed was his outfit. I love how well he mixed the earth tones in his clothes, his almost-steampunk-looking glasses, the belt, and the pop of hot pink in his scarf. With some trepidation, I approached him for a picture. 

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Posted at 02:16 PM/ET, 01/18/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus one sunny blonde reason to covet a yellow coat By Brooke Kao

>> See All Sidewalk Styles

Who: Ashley Bright, 25
Journalism-and-public-affairs graduate student at American University

Where she’s originally from: Sedona, Arizona.

What she’s wearing: A J.Crew coat from Goodwill, an H&M shirt, an Ann Taylor Loft cardigan, a Gap skirt, and shoes from Urban Outfitters.

Where do you typically shop? “I shop at Goodwill—the two-story one off Columbia Road—once a week. I shop at Gap a lot for certain items. I shop at H&M daily, and I love the new Forever 21 that opened in Metro Center.” 

How does Washington style compare to the look of Arizona? “I think the style in DC is way preppier than in Arizona. I never saw seersucker ties, Longchamp bags, or any of that until I moved here. In Arizona the style is definitely more laid back. People don’t think as much about what they wear, unless they’re going out clubbing. People dress mostly for comfort because it’s either really hot or really cold.” 

Brooke says: Ashley was writing a fashion story for American University and requested my help with it. I noticed that she was looking quite polished in a bright yellow coat and brown tights, so I decided to ask for her help as well. 

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Posted at 07:01 AM/ET, 01/11/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
A jewelry designer gets winterized with peg legs and a nubby sweater By Brooke Kao

Who: Jennifer Jeremias, 28.

Where: Georgetown, at the grand opening of the new Madewell store.

Can you tell me what you’re wearing today?
“I’m wearing a thrifted sparkly sweater and jeans that probably aren’t very flattering! My shoes are Marc Jacobs, and I’m also wearing blue stockings and a belt. Basically, everything’s thrifted. Oh, and my own earrings.”

Your own earrings? Can you explain?
“I repurpose vintage pieces and sell them at craft shows. I also go to school at the Corcoran part-time, which is where I made these earrings. I’ve been taking jewelry classes for about two years now. I’ve been working with different materials and learning how to metalsmith. I like wearing things that I made.”

How do you feel about Madewell opening in Georgetown?
“I’ve never heard of Madewell before, but I do think that up close the clothes are high quality. They have really great- -looking shoes. I’m looking at their jewelry, too, and I’m pretty pleased.”

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Posted at 07:15 AM/ET, 11/23/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()
Our favorite DC comedian cleans up quite nicely By Brooke Kao

Who: Comedian Seaton Smith, 28

Where: A Chinatown studio for a Brightest Young Things photo shoot

What brings you here today? “I work with BYT a lot. We do monthly shows called ‘Family Hemerlein,’ where my friend [musician] Matthew Hemerlein and I host a comedy/music show. He does the music, and I do the comedy.”

Is anything in this outfit secondhand? “This military canvas belt was $1. This is a vintage cardigan. I have a checkered shirt, also vintage—no idea where I got it. The glasses are from some consignment shop. Also a vintage jacket.”

Your jacket fits really well for vintage.
“I have no idea why it fits so well. I was so happy because I specifically told myself, ‘I need myself a tweed jacket.’ Very rarely do you have a want in a thrift store and have it immediately achieved.”

Do you have a strategy for shopping vintage?
“This is all luck. This is eight years of thrift-store shopping. Sometimes you get lucky.”

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Posted at 02:31 PM/ET, 11/17/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()
What photographers wear in their down time By Brooke Kao

Who: Freelance photographer Kyle Samperton, 59

Where: Opening night at the Chocouture photo exhibit, Biagio Chocolates.

Why are you here today?
“To support Worn Magazine, because it’s a long-overdue creative endeavor that needs to be in DC. It focuses on the people that are from here.”

Do you have any personal connection to it?
“I just want to see it succeed. Tremendously. That’s the personal connection I have.”

Where’d you find the pieces of your outfit? “I got the coat in a market in DC—it’s a Mongolian riding jacket. The scarf is Indian. And the shirt’s Tibetan.”

Is there a reason why you wore this outfit today?
“It’s like Popeye: ‘I am what I am.’ ”

Brooke says: Amid a crowd of nicely—but safely—dressed twenty-, thirty-, and fortysomethings, Kyle definitely stands out. He looks like a rugged mountaineer.

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Posted at 06:23 AM/ET, 11/09/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()