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The costumer mines the sometimes questionable fashions of the ’80s to provide stylish alternatives for Keri Russell’s beleaguered heroine. By Kate Bennett
Photograph of Gering by Michael Williams.

When it comes to The Americans, the counter-intelligence drama set to premiere its third season on FX in January, costume designer Jenny Gering’s biggest issue is creating memorable looks for a main character whose job is to stay under the radar and blend in. Actress Keri Russell plays Elizabeth Jennings, a spy/wife/mom living in the DC ’burbs in the early 1980s, and while she spends a good deal of time in disguise, she manages to skip the worst of the decade’s fashion. Here, Gering explains the character’s sartorial choices. (Also check out our Q&A with former House of Cards costume designer Tom Broecker.)

How did you research Washington fashion in the ’80s?

It was a decade and an administration that reveled in “society,” and as such, social events were well-documented and gave a view to certain aspects of life in DC. 

What are a few essential items for Kerri Russell’s character? 

Elizabeth [Jennings, Russell’s character] loves a silk blouse, a gold chain, a high-heeled boot, and a pair of tight jeans.

Does her secret life impact her style?

Her goal is to blend in and look as “normal” as possible. She doesn’t need to be a wallflower, but she never wants to appear unusual.

Russell is something of a fashion icon in real life. Does she weigh in on the outfits? 

Keri always has a say in her costumes. Her role is very physically demanding, and she needs to be able to do stunts if necessary. She also knows what she wants to express through her characters; we work together to make that happen.

How should a young, modern Washingtonian incorporate some of the good parts of ’80s fashion into a professional wardrobe? 

Nancy Reagan red is always a winner. It’s a color that has an impact, and it screams confidence. 

Tom Broecker and Jenny Gering will talk more about Washington and fashion with Kate Bennett on September 17 at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center. For more information and tickets to “Dressing for the Small Screen,” visit the Smithsonian Associates website and use the quick tix code: 1L0-050. Find Kate Bennett on Twitter at @katebennett_dc

Posted at 03:45 PM/ET, 09/10/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The wardrobe pro talks about how he created the look for ultimate DC power chick Claire Underwood. By Kate Bennett
Tom Broecker was behind Claire Underwood's ensembles in season one of House of Cards. Photograph by Patrick Harbron for Netflix.

Tom Broecker knows a thing or two about dressing powerful women. The costume designer was responsible for outfitting House of Cards' Claire Underwood in sleek power ensembles for the Netflix drama's first season, and is in town next week for a Smithsonian Associates panel discussion with The Americans costume designer Jenny Gering. We chatted with Broecker about how he envisioned the fashion for the show, how Robin Wright and her costumes helped mold the character of Claire Underwood, and whether Washington can sustain the fashion revolution inspired by complex (sometimes villainous) female leads. (Check out our Q&A with Gering here.) 

Photograph of Tom Broecker by Andrew Egan.

Although we are coming into our own when it comes to fashion, did Washington’s history as a not-so-stylish city have any effect on your choices when coming up with Claire Underwood’s look?

It’s very interesting with Claire. I never thought of her in terms of Washington, DC. I thought of her in terms of the world, almost outside of Washington. Because she was not really a part of either world—the Hill or the media—I wanted her to have a more ousider feel.

Do you see Claire's clothes as serving as her DC “armor”?

I believe so, yes, very much so. [She] was designed that way. I believe we all use clothes to help us navigate our lives; whether we’re conscious of that or not is another thing. But we all know clothes can project ideas and reflect our moods and emotions.

Why doesn’t Claire ever wear patterns? Her looks are primarily neutral solids.

Sometimes on camera a pattern can look cheap, and it can date itself pretty quickly. It also pulls focus away from the face, and Robin [Wright] has such an amazing face—it shows so much emotion, and we did not want to distract from that.

What about color? 

You need to know when and how to use it. Red, for example, has a lot of psychological and political meaning, so we wanted to make sure we only used color when it was right, either for the character or the scene.

What are Claire’s key power pieces?

A great pair of heels, a tailored blouse, a tailored skirt, and a great coat.

If you could give any Claire Underwoods in the making out there a piece of advice when it comes to using fashion to their advantage, what would it be?

Do not ever sell yourself short. You do not have to wear pants in order to go toe to toe with men; wear what makes you feel confident, intelligent, and sexy. And find a good tailor.

Tom Broecker and Jenny Gering will talk more about Washington and fashion with Kate Bennett on September 17 at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center. For more information and tickets to “Dressing for the Small Screen,” visit the Smithsonian Associates website and use the quick tix code: 1L0-050. Find Kate Bennett on Twitter at @katebennett_dc

Posted at 03:25 PM/ET, 09/09/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Washingtonian's Fashion Editor provides style notes on what pieces she regularly wears to work and where she shops for them. By Valeria Boucas

Here at Shop Around, we aim to keep readers in-the-know about the latest fashion trends, great new brands, store openings, and general about-town happenings so you can be the first to score a great staple piece on sale. But there's one thing our readers don't get to see—what items our very own fashion editors wear to the office and where we shop for them.

Thanks to reader demand, we tapped Washingtonian's fashion editor, Kate Bennett (and Editor-in-Chief of Washingtonian MOM and Washingtonian Bride & Groom) for a glimpse at some of her prized wardrobe possessions in our first monthly installment of What She Wore: Kate Bennett. From airy dresses to knee-length jean skirts, Kate, who is also mom to 9-year-old daughter Tess, can rock just about any look, inspiring us all to take fashion risks. We sat down with her to find out exactly how she pulls it off, starting with, what she wore to work the day of Washingtonian's sample sale.


Kate Bennett at Longview Gallery, the site of Washingtonian's sample sale, held earlier this month. Photographs by Andrew Propp.


"I bought this House of Harlow ring at the sample sale. I picked it up at the Wink boutique booth, which was one of our participating vendors. It's one of my favorite local stores and the owner, Paige Speyer, is celebrating TEN YEARS of Wink with all kinds of fab trunk shows this fall—insider tip!"


"My shoes are Zara, and I can't even tell you how many people stop me on the street to tell me they like them. And when I mention they cost $99, they go nuts! I'm also a pedicure person, and I think OPI's 'I've Got the Blues for Red' is the sexiest, deep crimson. It's my signature toe shade, which sounds so high maintenace, but it's true. In this picture, I'm also wearing boyfriend jeans from Benetton. I tend to stick to a general rule about jeans: I refuse to pay more than $100 for a pair. ($300 for denim? Stop the madness!) So I hunt around for great washes and fits from all kinds of places—I love Benetton, American Eagle makes great styles too, and Massimo Dutti has a dark wash that I like a lot. Zara too, and Gap . . . you name it, all great jeans. If it's in the $60-80 sweet-spot, I will buy them. Fun fact: I have more than 45 pairs of jeans." 
 


"This is my all-time favorite jacket. It's Alice + Olivia and is one of my wardrobe staples. I wear it with everything from shorts to strapless dresses. I also collect little necklaces, especially ones that have a T on them—my daughter's name is Tess. I tend to wear my 'Love' necklace every day. I got it from Dalton Pratt, which sadly, just closed last week. The other two I think I picked up at Lou Lou." 

Want to ask Kate Bennett a question? E-mail me at vboucas@washingtonian.com for a chance to have yours answered on the next What She Wore: Kate Bennett series. 

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Posted at 01:45 PM/ET, 09/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The actress-turned-designer will be in DC on Friday to present her fall collection. By Valeria Boucas
Photographs courtesy of Nordstrom.

Photograph by Featureflash / Shutterstock.

When Sarah Jessica Parker called last week with no assistant, no PR rep, and not even an agent on the phone, I knew right away she was involved with every aspect of her SJP Collection. She had the names and descriptions of every shoe down pat. Fabric types rolled off her tongue with ease. She used words like "sick" and "sweet" to describe some styles. As if I didn't already feel like I was chatting with an old friend rather than an A-list actress-turned-designer, I saw this video of her Wednesday getting doused in an ice-bucket for the ALS challenge and thought, she really is just like us—okay, not so much. 

Aside from her other projects, SJP is also a member of the President's Committee on the Arts & Humanities. So she knows a thing or two about DC, and her new fall line, which hits shelves exclusively at Nordstrom Friday, will give you the chance to put your best foot forward, literally.

Customers can meet the lady of the hour herself between 5 and 6 PM at Nordstrom Tysons Corner Center, where she will be signing purchases, time permitting, from her fall 2014 Nordstrom-exclusive shoe and handbag collection. The made-in-Italy line will range in price from $350 for a pump to $695 for a knee-high boot. Handbag prices vary depending on style—crossbody bags cost $220, totes $495. 

Before she arrives in DC, we asked her to recommend styles for various DC women. 

What shoe would you recommend for the Washington woman, starting with a young professional on Capitol Hill?

Fawn and Lady are really popular. These styles are some of our best sellers I think because they suit such a variety of people. Fawn is our pointed-toe pump that we launched in a beautiful, bright teal color in suede and a black in nappa, nude in nappa, and we've started expanding on Fawn because it's been so popular. So those I think are really appropriate but they come in such fun colors so if you're younger, and you don't want to call attention to yourself, it's a super great shoe. Lady is also really nice because it's an almond-toe which is a different approach to the pump. We launched with a poppy and the whole shoe is a grosgrain so it bounces off a lot of light. They're both a good height so they're not crazy tall. They're great office shoes with a youthful approach to it. 

The Virginia equestrian?

We have some really good boots like the Alyssa (named after my assistant). It's got a little bit of an open toe and is a nice shoe for the office too actually so it kind of covers a lot. I've been wearing it in the summer although I'm sure I'll use it in the fall too. It's a really soft leather with like 2 pieces of fabric draped around your foot. Lee is another great boot- both are strangely appropriate for an office but can also work into the nighttime too. They're a little edgier and they're nice for people who aren't uber feminine people; ladies who like a less obvious approach to a heel height. Coming up, we'll have more boots, higher ones, more equestrian styles, fashion, slouchy, editorial boots- you name it. This category specifically is growing a lot.

If you want to be literal about the equestrian girl though- then I'd say to go with the Kelly. It's a truly equestrian boot in a deep, rich bark color. Girls in our office have loved this boot.

The Georgetown girl?

Alyssa, again, is great for this category. There's also a shoe called Rachel that I would recommend for the "Georgetown Girl." Another style, Diana, would suit a preppy young girl too. It comes in a grey patent and nude nappa. If we're talking about an edgier Georgetown girl though I'd suggest Gina. This style comes in a mushroom-grey really gorgeous shade. 

And the 14th Street trendy hipster?

The Pat boot is sick. There's another style, Serge, which comes in a grey suede or an olive green. Really beautiful. And they're both very strong. 

How would you describe the FLOTUS style? If you were to dress Mrs. Obama in one of your shoes, which would it be and why? 

In a way, I kind of think I'd put her in Carrie. It's a multi-strap shoe. All of our shoes are made in Italy, they're incredibly comfortable but this one in particular is also very sexy. There's a lot of coverage but it's gentle, and petit, and I think it would look amazing on the First Lady. She looks good in a variety of looks; she seems to enjoy different feelings. Some people feel very comfortable in one sort of idea and the First Lady really seems to like various designers that are radically different from one another. She can be incredibly sexy, and appropriate, and bold, and then also conservative. There's something also kind of naughty about Carrie. The silhouette is from the seventies- a period that I absolutely love in shoe design. It's a very influential period for me and my business partner George (Malkemus, also President of Manolo Blahnik). I think it's a great shoe for her. We have it in purple, in a beautiful red, black nappa, soon we'll also have it in cream and a crazy gorgeous metallic blue with a grosgrain on the back. 

I would also suggest Daphne for the First Lady. It's a charcoal color grosgrain with just a strap right below the arch. It's got like 6 rhinestones across it. Love that shoe. That comes in a grey and a poppy. 

Are you partial to one particular style from the collection? 

I love Carrie, always will, but there's a shoe called Blythe that I'm really into right now. It's a single t-strap in a really cool bright, indigo color like an oregano almost. I love them all though especially all the new colors. They're not all for me, but I love 'em. 

Describe your design process with George. 

George and I come together and it's kind of hard to describe. It's unlike any other collaboration I've ever been a part of. It's crazy, crazy simple in a way because we have lots and lots of ideas, our points of references are really similar. We didn't realize but we have a short hand that's really fun. We basically think about feelings and themes and from there we work. We get to a place where we have enough information to send to Ricardo in Italy, he makes our shoes for us, and then Ricardo gives us feedback. It's an amazing three-way conversation. Then the samples come back and we tweak, tweak, tweak. We change the proportions, the elastic, we almost have a formula down now. 

What are the biggest challenges of creating your own brand?

Any new business has countless challenges it’s hard to even itemize them. How to make smart decisions about growing, how not to grow too fast, how not to be disappointed if a shoe doesn’t sell the way you had hoped. Just smart choices about marketing. We don’t really have a marketing or PR budget, I run the instagram page myself. We started with no followers at all, we’ve taken every picture ourselves. And by we I mean my assistant Alyssa and me. That’s all been a challenge. To do it right and to tell the story the right way- to help get your message out, to capture people’s interest. That sort of thing. Learning the customer is really challenging, when you’re just starting out especially. When you don’t have information yet from skews selling or not selling. The whole thing is a complete privilege though. There’s occasions like on these tours when I get to hear the customers thoughts and their stories and I get to see the shoes on the actual customer. The challenges are eclipsed with pure euphoria like an endeavor like this.

What's the color story for fall? 

Everybody has plenty of browns and blacks and we want to give people purples and olives and poppies and cabernets and daffodil and lots and lots of shades of blue.

Find Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.

Posted at 11:58 AM/ET, 08/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The blogger behind Curvy CEO talks dressing professionally while staying cool in the summer heat. By Maddy Berner
Photograph via Shutterstock.

Dressing for work in Washington’s summer humidity is hard enough—but for some women who aren’t the size two commonly seen on fashion blogs, finding office style inspiration can be even harder. Enter Curvy CEO, a DC blog that provides a haven for professional women on the hunt for work-appropriate clothes that celebrate their curves. Its founder, Kim (who prefers not to use her last name because of her day job), has been working on Capitol Hill for the past seven years and noticed a gap in the fashion landscape where plus-size styles were concerned. She launched her blog in 2011, and it now attracts more than 14,000 hits a month from readers who appreciate her frank and honest discussion about dressing for your profession and body type while also expressing personal style. 

We talked with Kim about the common issues she and her readers face, favorite products to beat the heat, and local stores she loves. 

What’s the main wardrobe problem you and your readers come across?

Finding things that are going to be appropriate as well as durable. The temptation is to throw the dress code out the window when the temperature goes up, but you still want to wear things that are office-appropriate, that have sleeves, and that are not going to get rumpled by the time you leave the office. I’m a big fan of layering. For instance, you might want to wear a sleeveless dress or top and then have a blazer or lightweight cardigan that you can slip on when you’re in the office. I’m a big fan of letting the clothes do the work for me, so I like to wear bright, cold colors or patterns. I also look for clothes that already have the embellishments as part of the design, or that have some sort of detail—a dress with a sweetheart neckline, maybe an accent around the waist, some sort of draping in the fabric—so that’s one less thing you have to do to make your outfit interesting. 

Washington is notorious for its heat and humidity. How can a curvy girl dress to celebrate her figure but also give her body room to breathe?

I’m a big fan of items that are made from a mixture of natural fabrics and synthetics. By getting something that’s made of a more blended material, you’re going to be in a sturdy fabric, but it’s still lightweight. 

There’s also this great accessory called Hot Girls Pearls: You keep them in the freezer, and then when you put them on they keep your neck cool. They’re great when you’re commuting, to help you get where you’re going. 

The biggest barrier is probably your own self-confidence. Everybody’s hot, everybody’s sweating. If all else fails, don’t be ashamed.

Are there any products or tips you swear by to help curb the always-terrible thigh-chafing issue?

Spanx are your friend—not just for smoothing but also to prevent “chub rub.” Monistat makes a great product called chafing gel, which is a smooth gel that creates an almost powdery layer on your skin to prevent your legs from rubbing together. Sometimes I’ll use baby powder and add in some Love’s Baby Soft, a baby-powder scented perfume, so I smell great while staying cool.

What are your go-to stores for professional clothing for curvy women?

My top favorite is Macy’s. I love, love, love Dress Barn—it’s a professional woman’s dream, because almost anything in there you can wear to work. Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack, JCPenney. If you are a size 18 and under, you can go to Ann Taylor. If you are a size 16 and under, you can fit into Banana Republic, the Limited, or White House Black Market.

How about everyday beauty essentials to curb sweat and keep makeup looking fresh?

You definitely want to stick with powders in the hot weather, because anything creamy is going to slide right off your face. Things with a little more powder will help absorb sweat. Lip and cheek stains are good; my favorites are from Benefit. 

Finally, do you have a mantra that curvy girls should keep in mind when navigating the streets of DC?

Whatever you’ve got, make it look good. As a larger woman, you can command a presence in the room. You be as big as you are. Own your space. Stand full in that space.

Posted at 04:30 PM/ET, 07/09/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The quirky local blogger tells us how she put together six of her stylish ensembles. By Diana Elbasha

Anyone who believes the stereotype that the Washington area lacks fashion creativity should get to know Nife Oluwole. The cheery, Maryland-based blogger behind SkinnyHipster boasts a signature style of vibrant hues, busy patterns, and out-there combinations that makes her one of the most flawlessly dressed—and eye-catching—women walking around DC.

That’s why we turned to her for help in mastering a tricky trend: mixing prints. She’s proven time and again that she nails the perfect balance; we pulled together six of our favorite examples and asked her to explain how she put together each look.

Captions run left to right. 

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Posted at 02:48 PM/ET, 03/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Five local style bloggers show us how to pull off the tricky but beautiful piece. By Diana Elbasha

Spotted last year on daring street style stars such as Blaire Eadie and Leandra Medine, the full midi skirt has now evolved into a full-fledged trend. These voluminous pieces, with hemlines that stop mid-calf, may seem intimidating but truly can flatter all body types and styles—as long as they’re paired with the right top and accessories. Below, local style bloggers teach us five ways to style the feminine, flirty skirts.

TammyA Loyal Love

 

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Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 03/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Casie Mace of WhippedStyle shows us three stylish ways to wear the cozy fall staple. By Diana Elbasha
Casie Mace styles this simple, oversize knit for work, play, and relaxation. Photograph by Melanie Yu.

With our seemingly ever-shrinking budgets in this city, we’re always looking for ways to save when it comes to our wardrobe. Stylists say the best way to do so is to invest in high-quality, versatile pieces you can incorporate into multiple outfits and keep for years—but the advice isn’t always easy to follow. Luckily, we have such neighbors as Casie Mace of WhippedStyle in our ’hood to convince us otherwise. Below, the blogger shows us how to wear one of our favorite fall-to-winter staples—a solid, oversize sweater (in this case, it’s Topshop’s knitted tulip-stitch jumper)—for work, play, and relaxation. Nordstrom, here we come. . .

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Posted at 02:55 PM/ET, 09/26/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The of-the-moment hue appears in everything from necklaces to nail polish. By Diana Elbasha

It dominates Kate Middleton’s closet, Citibank’s bicycles, and Facebook’s logo. Dazzling Blue, a slightly brighter navy, is seemingly everywhere we turn. The popularity of the universally flattering hue isn’t dying down anytime soon, which might explain why Pantone selected the shade as the It color for spring 2014. Here are ten of our favorite ways to add the standout hue to your wardrobe.

Posted at 12:58 PM/ET, 09/11/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Our reader wonders how to look polished while pregnant. By Michelle Thomas
Some of the stylish options from local maternity line More of Me: Sadie shorts, $55; Betty dress, $99; sequin party dress, $110; and Betty top, $99.

Q: I’m seven months pregnant. Where can I find stylish maternity clothes? —M.

Kim Kardashian, is that you? Kidding! Congrats to you—and excellent timing, because with the current pregnancies of tabloid magnets Kim and Kate, maternity style has suddenly taken a major leap to the fashion forefront.

While it’s tempting to simply buy a few serviceable empire-waist cotton dresses and blame your lack of fashion on the baby, pregnancy doesn’t have to mean nine months of style starvation—there’s a whole world of options that go far beyond shapeless tunics and blah wrap dresses. Read on for our top five sources for achieving pregnancy perfection:

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Posted at 04:00 PM/ET, 04/24/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()