News & Politics

Spring Fashion: Personal Shoppers

Nothing to wear? Tired of your wardrobe? A personal shopper can make buying clothes—and looking pulled-together—easier. These are some of Washington’s most popular helpers.

Looking for wardrobe advice? Whether you’re up for a fashion makeover or just searching for that perfect dress, a personal shopper can be very helpful.

There are two types: in-store shoppers, who generally don’t charge a fee but pull clothing only from their store, and independent consultants, who shop all over but charge a fee for their services.

Most personal shoppers start with a consultation—usually by phone, but often in person—where you give the shopper a sense of your taste, budget, and needs. Independent stylists often combine this get-to-know-you session with a closet clean-out at your home.

Next, it’s time to shop. If you’ve done the groundwork by phone, you usually arrive for that first appointment to find a dressing room full of clothing pulled for you. You’re not obligated to buy anything. Personal shoppers who don’t work for stores can either take you shopping or bring things to your home.

These consultants were recommended by stylish Washingtonians.

In-store Personal Shoppers

Bloomingdale’s, White Flint, 301-984-4600; Tysons Corner Center, 703-556-4600;

Francis Dent, just one of the personal shoppers in Bloomingdale’s At Your Service department, has been at the White Flint store only about a year, but he’s already built a client list that includes such fashionable women as communications executive Ann Walker Marchant and Cheryl Cooper, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women.

Dent is known for going to great lengths to find the right items. He specializes in classic styles for day, sexy yet sophisticated looks for evening. Bloomingdale’s personal-shopping services are complimentary.

Daisy Too, 4940 St. Elmo Ave., Be­thesda; 301-656-2280;

This Bethesda boutique has a loyal following. Women go not only for the hip clothing (think Diane von Furstenberg dresses, True Religion denim skirts) but also for style advice from the owner, Fabiana Zelaya.

Most of Zelaya’s clients are trendy moms who don’t have a lot of time to shop. She shows them how to build everyday wardrobes by mixing and matching new purchases with clothing they own. She also helps find essentials like the perfect white shirt. No charge for private appointments.

Hysteria, 125 S. Fairfax St., Alexandria; 703-548-1615;

Want a sneak peak at Hysteria’s chic spring merchandise, like Tory Burch jeans and feminine Lela Rose suits, before items hit the floor? Make an appointment with owner Courtney Reynolds or manager Kathy Martin. She’ll whisk you to a second-floor salon to present the season’s arrivals along with other clothing and accessories to suit your needs.

The experience is meant to be relaxing: Refreshments are served, purchases can be delivered to your home or office, and the store accommodates customers who can’t visit during business hours. In-store ap­pointments cost nothing; for Reynolds or Martin to come to your home for a closet consultation, it’s $50 for two hours. Fitness guru Denise Austin is a client.

Neiman Marcus, Tysons Galleria, 703-761-1600; Mazza Gallerie, 202-966-9700;

Neiman Marcus is known for its high-end products and excellent service—including delivery of purchases—so it’s no surprise that the two area stores have helpful, well-trained shoppers. Washington Ballet board president Kay Kendall recommends Katja Leonardi at Mazza Gallerie; Vida Samirad and Fahimeh Bagheri are popular with Tysons clientele. Whether you are shopping in the couture section or for new T-shirts, serv­ices are complimentary. ➝

Nordstrom, Tysons Corner Center, 703-761-1121; Montgomery Mall, 301-365-4111; Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, 703-415-1121; the Mall in Columbia, 410-715-2222; Annapolis Mall, 410-573-1121;

Nordstrom has many experienced personal shoppers in this area, but one is especially popular with powerful women. For more than ten years, DeeDee McPhaul has been dressing news anchors, White House officials, and top executives. You don’t have to be a local celebrity to hire her; Nordstrom’s free Personal Touch service offers anyone private shopping appointments. McPhaul works out of Tysons. After-hours appointments are available.

Saks Fifth Avenue, 5555 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-657-9000; the Men’s Store, Mazza Gallerie, 202-363-2059; Tysons Galleria, 703-761-0700;

The Fifth Avenue Club in Chevy Chase is a team of 16 people. Katie Jaggers, who’s worked at Saks for 20 years and is adored by clients like The Charlie Rose Show producer Jackie Duberstein, leads this group. Jaggers doesn’t work with new clients; after an initial consultation, she pairs a client with a consultant according to style and personality.

The Fifth Avenue Club offers free courier service for purchases. If you can’t make it in, an employee will meet with you at home. They even edit closets.

For women who shop at Tysons, WJLA-TV news anchor Alison Starling recommends Heidi Ardestani; other women swear by Michelle Collins. The men’s Saks in Mazza has its own personal shopper, Doug Thompson. Fifth Avenue Club serv­ices are free.

Saks Jandel, 5510 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-652-2250.

Many of Washington’s best-dressed women adore this upscale store not only for its selection of Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent but also for the outstanding serv­ice. The store doesn’t have a separate personal-shopping department because the entire sales staff offers clients special attention—they get to know a customer’s tastes and needs and often deliver things to the person’s home or office. Some associates and customers have been working together for more than a decade. Barbara Bellis is popular.

Independent Stylists

Alison Lukes et Cie, 202-362-9559;

Alison Lukes is one of the city’s most recommended personal stylists—who wouldn’t want fashion advice from someone who used to work for Michael Kors? Businessmen and social ladies alike love working with her.

Her philosophy for a great wardrobe: Forget trendy; go for pieces that are always in style. The process starts with a closet cleanout to determine what should stay and what should go. Lukes and her staff can show you new ways to wear your clothing and can shop to fill in pieces, either meeting you at stores or presenting clothing in your home. Fee: $100 an hour.

Intelligent Chic, 202-285-6550; mva-ndo­

Maryann Van Dongen’s image-consulting business focuses on women age 40 and up who want a classic, elegant look. In addition to personal shopping, she helps women understand what looks good on them and can recommend hair and makeup experts, too. Clients include Patricia de Stacy Harrison, CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Carole Brookins, a former executive director to the World Bank. She charges $150 an hour.

Helen Moody, 202-291-6489;

After more than 20 years in this business, former model Helen Moody has many loyal clients; a Washingtonian who moved to London still uses her services. She works with some high-profile women like WUSA-9 news anchor Andrea Roane.

The first step is a wardrobe analysis: She purges, reorganizes, and puts together outfits so there’s no more standing in your closet trying to figure out what to wear. Then she’ll go shopping with you. Moody takes clients to stores based on their needs, but she frequents Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Her hourly rate is $100.

Jennifer Roberti, 301-656-7073;

Most of Roberti’s clients are women in their midthirties or older—professionals and stay-at-home moms—but she also works with men and has styled wedding parties.

Whether she’s suggesting a Dries Van Noten shirt from Relish, shoes from Neiman Marcus, or Gap basics, her strategy is the same: long-term wardrobe building that will allow you to look put-together year after year.

Her fee is $100 an hour, but if you’re on a budget, try a closet consultation to get advice about what to wear and what to buy so you can shop on your own. Clients love her “lookbooks”—she’ll take photos of head-to-toe outfits from your wardrobe so you can flip through and pick an ensemble.

Two Fashionistas, 703-965-2994;tw­of­a­

Tara Weintritt and Yolande Fidellow have been friends for years. They love fashion and shopping—Weintritt is trendy, Fidellow classic and preppy—so a few years ago they decided to make a business of it. Clients range from recent college graduates to CEOs.

They start with a free, half-hour interview to identify your clothing preferences and budget. An optional closet makeover is $500—they tell you what to keep, what to tailor, and what to give up, then reorganize everything, suggesting outfits and creating a shopping list.

Although the Two Fashionistas shop at a variety of stores—from Neiman Marcus to TJ Maxx—they tend to frequent Georgetown boutiques. If you want them to shop for you, it’s $250 an hour if you go with them, $175 if you don’t. There’s no charge if they have to go back to stores to make returns or exchanges.