News & Politics

Finding Great Stores

Washington clothing once was known for being so conservative that it had almost no style. That’s changed—the arrival of big designers and trendy boutiques has given the city a new look. Here are more than 100 of our favorite places for clothing, shoes, an

Also by: Katie Bindley, Caitlin Carroll, Gretchen Cook, Piper Fogg, Kim Forrest, Alycia Kilpatrick, Cory Ohlendorf, McLean Robbins, Hilary Rocks, and Rebecca Yergin.

How did we come up with these favorite shops and department stores?

We talked to men and women of various ages and tastes—from hip 20-year-olds to classic 40-year-olds to free-spirited 60-year-olds—and asked them where they like to shop. Then our team of shoppers—men and women of different ages—hit the malls and streets, not only to check out the names we’d heard but also to uncover any new stores we hadn’t heard about.

There are more good clothing and accessory shops in Washington than these, of course. We simply could not name them all. So we settled on 100 or so of our favorites.

What made a store one of our favorites?

We looked for stylish clothing, good selection and service, and fair prices. We decided against stores that were uninspired compared with competitors, places where the clothing wasn’t as good a quality as we would have liked for the price, and boutiques where we encountered rude or indifferent service.

Favorite Places to Shop

Alex, 1919 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-296-2610;

Best for: Conversation pieces from past and present.

This Foggy Bottom store offers men’s and women’s clothing and accessories from local, up-and-coming designers like Ruth Barzel, Nectar, and Mona Assemi along with pristine vintage pieces from Pucci and Pierre Balmain. The store promotes the community by hosting trunk shows and loaning pieces for fashion shows.

All About Jane, 2839 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 703-243-4424.

Best for: Fun tops and accessories to pair with jeans or slacks for an evening out.

This small, red-walled boutique carries a bit of everything—from classic Trina Turk suit jackets and Nanette Lepore skirts to colorful Custo tops, James Perse and Three Dots T-shirts, and the occasional party dress. You’ll find familiar designer jeans like Citizens of Humanity and lesser-known lines like Grass and Immortality. Prices range from $30 for a T-shirt to more than $400 for a winter coat.

American Apparel, 555 11th St. Entrance:1090 F St., NW; 202-628-0438;

Best for: Retro-inspired casualwear.

This shop takes after its clothes: simple, bright, and comfortable. The staff is knowledgeable—explaining the difference among fabrics and cuts. Nearly everything—be it a jersey shirt ($15) or fleece pants ($32)—comes in more than a dozen prismatic colors.

An American in Paris, 1225 King St., Alexandria; 703-519-8234.

Best for: Unique dresses.

At first, this cluttered Old Town boutique, with its locked door and don’t-touch-the-clothes policy—you’ll be instructed to pull items by their hangers—may seem off-putting. But bubbly French owner Joelle Solimano puts customers at ease. She has an eye for sophisticated pieces, many unique to Washington. Her specialty is dresses—from cap-sleeve Tocca shirtdresses to Tibi microminis to floor-length black-tie extravagances that cost $500 to $700.

Annie Creamcheese, 3279 M St., Georgetown; 202-298-5555;

Best for: Vintage designer pieces.

This basement shop is unlike vintage stores that make you root through bins or guess from when and where a garment came. Everything is labeled with the brand and era of origin. You’ll find pieces by big names like Gucci, Missoni, Dior, and Pucci.

Ann Taylor, for locations.

Best for: Classic, affordable staples like well-cut khakis and heels that won’t leave feet aching.

You won’t find hot trends here, but tailored suits and comfy weekend wear never go out of style. Petites are in heaven in their own section. New black-tie and bridesmaid dresses are an off-the-rack option for weddings. Bargain hunters might check out Ann Taylor’s less expensive sister store, Ann Taylor Loft, especially for casualwear, but expect fewer luxurious fabrics.

Anthropologie, for locations.

Best for: The vintage-bohemian look.

With all its full skirts, ruffled blouses, and dangly jewelry, a visit to Anthropologie feels like you’re digging through a European vintage boutique. Unique housewares can also be found, so you’ll see customers picking up tailored coats along with crystal doorknobs.

Art & Soul, 225 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-548-0105.

Best for: Women 40 and up who want to embrace their inner flower child.

If you’ve ever wondered where your boho-chic friends find unique hand-embroidered scarves ($50 and up) or caftanlike shirts ($150 to $230), they may be shopping at this tiny boutique. The store’s loose-fitting clothing has a following. One woman came bounding in the door exclaiming, “I just got off a plane from Georgia and came right here!”

B. Scene, 7725 Tuckerman La., Potomac; 301-299-0194;

Best for: Chic casual clothes, like $50 tees and $200 jeans.

Even a twentysomething can feel old at this Cabin John boutique, with its bubblegum-popping teenage crowd and jeans sized for the narrowest of hips. But it’s hard to find a better selection of high-end casual gear: C&C California and Michael Stars T-shirts, drapey LaRok tunics ($168), Juicy Couture hoodies ($92 to $128), and stacks of status denim—from the likes of Wrangler and Habitual—many styles artfully ripped and weathered.

Banana Republic, for locations.

Best for: Working women.

Whether it’s a suit for the office, a dress for going out, or comfortable weekend wear, you can find it at Banana Republic. Check out the shoes and bags but skip the jewelry; our experience is that it tends to be of lower quality. The Tysons store may be the best in the area—you’ll find pieces that you not only won’t find at other locations, but that you might not find on the store’s Web site. Tysons also has the area’s only Banana Republic Petites store.

Barneys Co-op, 5471-C Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-634-4061; 3040 M St., Georgetown, 202-350-5832;

Best for: Funky casual wear.

The stylish staff loves answering questions and putting together outfits. Barneys Co-op skews younger and more casual than its big sister store in New York. Men can find such smaller labels as jeans by Rag & Bone ($225 to $300). For women, Daryl K merchandise and Acne jeans ($198 to $250) sell well. There are differences between the Georgetown and Chevy Chase locations: While you’ll find Theory, Trovata, Marc Jacobs, and Diane von Furstenberg at both, the Chevy Chase store is larger and less focused on jeans and tees.

BCBG Max Azria, 3210 M St., Georgetown, 202-333-2224; Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, 703-415-3690; Tysons Galleria, 703-734-0080;

Best for: Girly girls.

BCBG shines in its working-girl wear, but it also has prom-worthy dresses, unique tops for evening, funky shoes, and fun purses. Prices aren’t cheap—expect to spend between $200 and $700 for a dress—but the feminine styling and good fit will win you compliments. And you can wait for sales—they’re frequent.

Betsey Johnson, 1319 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown, 202-338-4090; Tysons Galleria, 703-442-3940;

Best for: Feminine clothes with a funky streak.

Betsey Johnson has been designing for decades, and her fun sense of style has lasted. The clothing is very girly—a cropped cardigan decorated with kittens, for example—and Johnson’s dresses ($200 to $400) are popular with young working women.

Betsy Fisher, 1224 Connecticut Ave., Dupont Circle; 202-785-1975;

Best for: Working women in search of more than a plain black suit.

For more than 19 years, lawyers, journalists, and businesswomen have frequented this small boutique looking for professional pieces with personality. A variety of designers—Yansi Fugel, Gazebo, Pure Color jeans, Diane von Furstenberg, Tibi, Womyn—create a balance between conservative and fun. Prices range from $50 for T-shirts to about $400 for a suit jacket.

Blush, 1089 Seven Locks Rd., Potomac; 301-340-3940;

Best for: Edgy basics.

This once-flowery boutique has new owners (the team behind Georgetown’s Wink) and a spiffy renovation that added towering mirrors and open spaces. Basics in cream, gray, and brown—cashmere hoodies ($275) and leather jackets, military-inspired jackets and sweaters, and clingy Isli dresses ($400)—dominate. There are a few accessories, such as Ya-Ya hobo bags glinting with burnished metallic palettes and one-of-a-kind leather cord bracelets.

Brooks Brothers, for locations.

Best for: Those with an unabashed love of argyle, madras, and seersucker.

Loyal shoppers swear by the no-iron shirts, blue blazers, and cashmere cable knits ($298 to $498). Where else can you buy a V-neck sweater vest called, without irony, the “country club classic”? A great spot to hit before Father’s Day: Cuff links, silk ties, and striped pajamas abound.

Burberry, Tysons Galleria, 703-288-1700; 1155 Connecticut Ave., NW, 202-463-0449; .

Best for: Classic outerwear.

If you’re mad for plaid, this store is for you. (We like the Tysons one; it has a wider selection.) Purses to shoes to string bikinis are done up in the Brit-chic print. Bestsellers include its classic trench coats ($595 to $1,300) and quilted jackets ($395 to $495), with colors ranging from forest green to maroon red. For real deals, head to the Burberry’s outlet in Leesburg .

Caramel, 1603 U St., NW; 202-265-1930;

Best for: Sophisticated indie labels.

This boutique carries smaller lines like New York menswear designer Joseph’s Cloak and LA’s Wendy Hil for women. It also showcases the work of artists from the U Street community. If you like mixing shopping with cocktails, stop in on the third Thursday of the month from 5 to 8 pm for the Shopper Social.

Carbon, 2643 Connecticut Ave., NW, 202-232-6645;

Best for: Unique accessories and shoes.  

Kevin Powers has filled his shop with clothing and accessories for men and women along with contemporary furniture and original art. Check out the shoes from brands like Pikolinos, Tsubo, and Mark Nason.

Chanel, Tysons Galleria; 703-847-0555; .

Best for: Those timeless quilted purses.

It’s all about the interlocking C’s, Chanel’s signature logo. It’s on everything from tennis-racquet covers to earrings. While you’ll find Chanel at some upscale department stores, this much in one place is rare. The staff is friendly—even the beefy security guard greeted us with a smile and a wave. Popular items include the classic flap bag with chain strap ($1,600 to $2,180), favored by celebrities like Lindsay Lohan.

Chico’s, for locations.

Best for: Clothes that don’t cling.

You’ll rarely see a woman under 40 in Chico’s, a sportswear store that specializes in forgiving clothes. Tops ($24 to $88) have more shape than in past seasons, but there are no spaghetti straps here. You’ll find jackets in primary colors with embroidery and sparkly embellishments, pants and skirts that hide bulges, and chunky “ethnic” accessories. Everything is reasonably priced, and the knits travel well.

Clover, 502 Main St., Gaithersburg; 301-869-4544;

Best for: Urban style in the suburbs.

Labels like Vince, Ella Moss, and Twelfth Street may be staples at DC boutiques, but until last year they were hard to find in Gaithersburg. That’s when Jenn O’Brien and Michon Frick opened their peony-pink store in Kentlands. The nipped blazers, designer denim, and flouncy cocktail dresses are trend-conscious but rarely over the top. You’ll also find Lauren Merkin clutches. Half-off sales happen in July and January.

Club Monaco, 3235 M St., NW; 202-965-2118;

Best for: Classic staples like white shirts.

This two-story location carries nearly all of the label’s reasonably priced, work-appropriate, weekend-ready separates. Look for well-tailored dress shirts and crisp khakis for both men and women. There is often an organized sale section with plenty to look through.

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

Best for: Hip moms and their teenage daughters.

This flirty boutique offers well-known brands such as Citizens of Humanity, Ella Moss, Diane von Furstenburg, and Trina Turk. Popular items are Billy Blues cropped pants ($130 to $160) and Aaneta bags ($300 to $400). Check out the funky footwear in the back-room store, Zelaya. For busy women, Daisy Too offers personal shopping after hours.

Denim Bar, 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington; 703-414-8202.

Best for: Jeans.

Sure, they have Sevens and True Religion. But this boutique is known for denim brands even the hippest shopper has never heard of, like Evisu and Nudie. There are T-shirts and knits, but it’s all about the denim here—ranging from $100 to more than $600 a pair. The staff is helpful, and the store will tailor jeans for $15, but dressing-room space is hard to come by. You might find yourself trying on jeans in the employee office.

Diesel, 1249 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-625-2780;

Best for: Lived-in-looking jeans.

Diesel is credited with restarting the “designer denim” craze, and jeans are its bread and butter. A wall of washed, distressed, and sanded indigo looms behind the signature denim bar. Don’t be intimidated. The staff, tattoos and daring haircuts aside, is considerate and knowledgeable about fit. Check out the unique tees, chunky watches, and sunglasses.

Dior, 5471-E Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-986-8715;

Best for: Well-heeled fans of logos and artful tailoring.

Most of the shoes and jewelry are for logo hounds, but John Galliano’s exquisitely cut, edgy women’s clothes are works of art worth seeing even if you don’t have the means to buy. (Shoes are $395 to $1,200, clothing $450 to $7,000.) White marble floors are the backdrop for a somber palette of gray, taupe, cream, and black. But the embellishments—like distressing on a leather-and-suede coat that gives it the look of a Venetian fresco—make these clothes distinctive.

The District Line, 2118 18th St., Adams Morgan; 202-558-5508;

Best for: Funky men’s and women’s trends from across the pond.

An unassuming flight of concrete steps leads to the District Line, a tiny gem with UK imports like Fred Perry and Merc. Thumping Euro-pop sets a groovy mood where men can find affordable clubwear or dress down in Beckham-esque printed tees ($19 and up). On the other side of a gigantic Vespa sculpture made of clear tape, women find casual shirts ($35 and up) and leather handbags by Gola.

DSW, for locations .

Best for: Great deals for shoe-aholics.

Imagine a football field with row after row of discounted shoes—sneakers to stilettos, boots to ballet flats. The selection of men’s shoes is also impressive. One caveat: few styles for very wide or very narrow feet. Frequent buyers are rewarded with savings certificates.

Eileen Fisher, Montgomery Mall, 301-365-8451; Tysons Galleria, 703-288-1802;

Best for: Minimalist, timeless separates.

Fisher’s approach is simple: solid colors, drapey cuts, and architectural simplicity. Many fabrics transcend seasons. The styles are ageless, though they seem to mostly appeal to women over 40.

Else, 3025 M St., Georgetown; 202-333-1211;

Best for: European designer fashions.

This tiny, two-level shop sells high-end goods from such European labels as Barbara Bui, Missoni, and Gemma Zanzani. There are colorful handmade Dolcepunta ties for men. Slick styling fresh from Milan is favored. Further the Italian experience and have the handsome man at the espresso bar caffeinate you with a shot as you shop.

Emily Grace, 9740 Traville Gateway Dr., Rockville; 301-251-4184;

Best for: Trendy fashion straight out of the paparazzi pages of Us Weekly.

If starlets such as Kate Bosworth or Mischa Barton ever landed near Washington, they’d probably head here. Slinky J Brand jeans ($159) share space with boho-chic Rebecca Taylor dresses and sexy tanks and tees from Park Vogel and Mblem. Accessories include delicate necklaces from LA designer Marie Chavez ($77 to $308) and wide, hip-slinging belts. There’s some work gear, but this mostly is a place for girls who wanna have fun.

Everard’s Clothing, 1802 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown, 202-298-7464; Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert St., Woodley Park, 202-234-5040;

Best for: Bespoke suits and dress shirts.

Louis Everard’s cozy men’s shop carries everything from classic American pieces by Hickey Freeman to traditional British silk shirts from DuChamp. You can also find, among the stacks of shirts and rows of jackets, finishing touches like cuff links and silk pocket squares. It offers custom and made-to-measure pieces.

Everett Hall Boutique, 5301 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-362-0191; Tysons Galleria, 703-506-1707;

Best for: Men with muscles who aren’t afraid of making a statement.

A favorite of local TV newsmen, NBA and NFL stars, and tall, broad-shouldered African-Americans, this shop specializes in athletic-cut suits and sportswear in fine Italian wools. Styles range from classic to flamboyant. Besides standard navy, gray, brown, and black, colors include pale yellow and blue. Suits begin at $1,195 and go up to $5,000; most are around $1,200.

Filene’s Basement, 1133 Connecticut Ave., NW, 202-872-8430; National Press Building, 202-638-4110; Mazza Gallerie, 202-966-0208; Rockville, 301-816-7805;

Best for: Handbags, men’s ties, European designer labels.

Filene’s is for fashion foragers. One week you’ll find a truckload of boutique jeans; the next you’ll paw through a rack of Dolce & Gabbana jackets. Locally the best stuff seems to go to the Connecticut Avenue location. All four stores have a good selection of Italian leather accessories and men’s shirts.

The Forecast, 218 Seventh St., SE; 202-547-7337; .

Best for: Simple, high-end casualwear.

This quaint Eastern Market shop carries only a few lines—most notably Eileen Fisher—but stocks a variety of sizes, making it easy to mix and match. There’s a small selection of formal attire and a back room with Stuart Weitzman and Peter Kaiser shoes. A lower level is devoted to housewares like candles and serving trays.

Forever 21, for locations.

Best for: Trendy pieces at super-low prices.

Don’t want to spend a lot of money on a trend that will last only a few months? Forever 21 is a great option. Teens and twentysomethings like it for the selection of cute tops (most under $20) and jewelry (under $10), but there are also fun dresses. Recently a striped shirtdress perfect for work was $27.80.

Free People, 2700 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 703-528-6718;

Best for: Casual women’s clothing that’s both stylish and comfortable.

An antique bicycle leaning against a weathered green door greets visitors to this shabby-chic store. Aside from beautiful decor—dressing rooms come with carved wooden mirrors and plush throw pillows—you’ll find casual, flirty women’s clothing like flowy skirts, embellished sweaters, comfy hoodies, and knit purses. Prices range from $20 to about $200.

Gap, for locations.

Best for: Well-priced basics with a twist.

Sure, the stores still have jeans and solid T-shirts, but plaid Bermuda shorts? Totes that could be mistaken for Coach? The Gap is one of fashion’s best-kept secrets.

Gucci, 5481 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-986-8902;

Best for: Men’s loafers and body-conscious women’s clothes.

Most of the shoes and bags are for the logo-mad—even a sleek black dress has gold accents with the word gucci—but there are some beautifully tailored pieces for women, sans logo: slim black pants, a plunging violet satin blouse. The men’s shoe department has a cache of those prized Gucci loafers, many with gold horse bits and discreet accents.

H&M, for locations.

Best for: Designer looks on a budget.

If you have expensive taste but can’t afford couture, you probably know about H&M. Blazers reminiscent of Chanel are under $50. Tops that look like they’re from a Paris boutique are $10. Designers like Stella McCartney and Viktor & Rolf have created looks for H&M—those collections sell fast (Your best shot at these hard-to-find items is at the F Street and Tysons stores). You need time at H&M—there’s a lot to pick through. Expect lines for a dressing room and a cashier.

H Hilfiger, Tysons Corner Center; 703-356-7511; .

Best for: Shift dresses, men’s suits, and outfits just right for attending a wedding.

This boutique for men and women—think twenties through forties—carries Tommy Hilfiger’s higher-end, preppy-chic line. High-end doesn’t mean high prices. Sales aren’t heavily advertised, but we found ribbed tanks in a rainbow of colors for $7 each (originally $14.50), ballet flats for $69 (previously $125), and a men’s pinstriped wool suit jacket marked down from $395 to $199. Service is friendly: A salesperson offered a bottle of water on a hot day.

Harriet Kassman, Mazza Gallerie, 5300 Wisconsin Ave.; 202-363-1870.

Best for: Ladylike dresses, gowns, suits.

There’s a “just us gals” feel to this Washington institution, which has been selling elegant clothes to the politico, embassy, and ladies-who-lunch sets for almost 30 years. Harriet is a fixture—a bundle of energy in a smart suit and edgy silver jewelry (the store has interesting statement pieces)—as is her dog, Bastian, a bundle of white fur. This is the only local source for classic Bogner sportswear and Belford knits, both favored by Europeans. Look for traditional takes from Sonia Rykiel and Giorgio Armani as well as less pricey designers like Teri Jon. Dresses range from $275 to the thousands. Sales help is hands-on but friendly.

Hugo Boss, 1517 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown, 202-625-2677; Tysons Galleria, 703-848-2197;

Best for: Men’s suits.

This tiny men’s store carries all three of the design house’s labels. The sophisticated Boss Black label is the biggest seller here, but there’s plenty of the casual, trendy Boss Orange and the sporty Green label.

Hu’s Shoes, 3005 M St., Georgetown; 202-342-0202;

Best for: Shoe fetishists craving a fix.

Besides favorites like Marc Jacobs and Sergio Rossi, this shop carries emerging designers like Alexander McQueen, Chloé, and Proenza Schouler. The minimalist decor allows you to easily browse the rows of sandals, pumps, and boots. Everything is top-shelf, from the D.L. & Co. candles ($75 to $125) to the complimentary Illy espresso.

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

Best for: Designers you once had to travel to New York to find.

This chandeliered Old Town boutique—once a stop-through for girly brands like Lela Rose—is now a full-fledged fashion destination. The frills are still there, but mixed in are edgier designs from Cacharel, Lauren Moffatt, and Development. One thing hasn’t changed: the friendly, smart service (saleswomen are honest if a piece isn’t flattering) plus perks like personal styling and private appointments.

Inga’s Once Is Not Enough, 4830 Mac­Arthur Blvd., NW; 202-337-3072; .

Best for: Women’s couture at a bargain.

High fashion at low prices—relatively speaking—draws socialites and professionals to this consignment shop. So does former fashion consultant Inga Guen, who loves giving makeovers. Chanel, Christian Lacroix, D&G, Prada, Valentino, YSL, and other top couturiers run about one-tenth retail. A $4,000 suit by Akris (Condi’s fave) was $400, a $1,200 cashmere Hermès top $184. A score of Manolo Blahniks and Hermès bags attest to Inga’s shoe and purse passion. Not everything is previously worn: Many items are new with tags. Beaded gowns, furs (about 75 percent off), and power suits are geared to women of a certain age, but Inga also stocks a few more youthful lines.

Intermix, 3222 M St., Georgetown; 202-298-8080;

Best for: Splurging on the latest fashions you rarely see in Washington.

Walk by Intermix and you can’t help but stare at the fashion-forward window displays. This New York City chain houses all things current, like designers LaRok and Nieves Lavi. Intermix combines “downtown cutting edge” and “uptown chic,” so you’ll find shirts by Rebel Yell and Ella Moss near pricier pieces by Chloé and Stella McCartney. Salespeople can explain how to tie that tricky Diane von Furstenberg top or tell you which Theory pants fit best.

J. Crew, for locations.

Best for: The preppy set.

Kids looking like they stepped out of a prep-school brochure frequent this store, but so do ladies who lunch, style-conscious men, and hipsters looking for classic basics. Cashmere sweaters come in an array of colors, and khakis are comfortable and fit well. The swimsuit collection really shines, with pieces for all body types. Some branches don’t stock many accessories, but if J. Crew makes a shoe or bag, you’ll probably find it at the Georgetown store.

J. Jill, for locations.

Best for: Separates in soft colors and fabrics.

Aging flower children and hippie wannabes love J. Jill. Floaty layering pieces abound: camisoles, tees, shrugs, sweaters, scarves. Petites take note: J. Jill has an extensive selection.

J. Press, 1801 L St., NW; 202-857-0120;

Best for: Menswear for Ivy League grads.

One look at where J. Press has its four US stores—there’s also one in New Haven, Connecticut, and one in Cambridge, Massachusetts—and it’s no surprise that this chain sells ultra-preppy suits and sportswear. Fabrics—think wool, cashmere, and harris tweed—are exquisite. Sport coats range from $345 to $750, suits $555 to $1,200. Where else can you buy a muffler in your alma mater’s colors?

Jimmy Choo, 5481-D Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 240-223-1102;

Best for: Ladylike yet sexy pumps, slingbacks, and sandals.

Carrie Bradshaw and her pals on Sex and the City may have made Jimmy Choo a household name, but a blowup photo of Nicole Richie, a Choo handbag on her arm, hangs in the window of the Chevy Chase outpost. This shop is for girls who like their heels high. Expect luxe leathers and suedes in basic hues with the occasional bright or metallic.

Junction, 1510 U St., NW; 202-483-0260;

Best for: Designer fashions old and new.

Vintage from Chanel and Pucci mixes here with recent fashions, such as designs by Marc Jacobs. This is a great place to find well-worn vintage jeans or to discover a label you didn’t know, like local jewelry artist Renee Prioleau.

Kate Spade, 3061 M St., Georgetown; 202-333-8302;

Best for: Classic accessories and handbags.

This corridor of a store looks like every woman’s fantasy closet: well lit and organized by style and color. A friendly and attractive staff helps you find what you need. You can also pick out men’s bags by Jack Spade.

La’Vand 1301 S. Joyce St., Arlington; 703-413-3434.

Best for: Wild styles for nightlife fiends.

With its lime-green walls and thumping rock and pop, this new store in Pentagon Row is a source for of-the-moment designs from New York and Los Angeles. La’Vand generally carries six to ten of each item, so stock rotates quickly. Recently the minimalist racks and shelves offered rock-inspired tees by Hard 8 and Affliction ($40) and artfully ripped jeans by Monarchy ($170) for men, and retro dresses and tops for women, including a red-and-white polka-dot halter dress ($78) and a gray military-style shirtdress ($45).

Loehmann’s, 7271 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church, 703-573-1510; 5230 Randolph Rd., Rockville, 301-770-0030; 5333 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-362-4733;

Best for: Eveningwear, coats, and trendy designs at a discount.

The grandmother of discounters still struts her best stuff in the Back Room: sparkly evening separates and edgy sportswear from Moschino and Marc Jacobs, among others. The selection of shoes and bags is great in Rockville. The Friendship Heights store is best for uncovering something current by Theory or Diane von Furstenberg. A word to the modest: While stores have private dressing rooms, you may find yourself in a communal changing room.

Lucy, Tysons Corner Center, 703-506-6755; Union Station, 202-589-0888; .

Best for: Workout clothes.

Whether you’re a yogi or a weightlifter, this store has clothes for all kinds of athletic pursuits. Cotton tees in a variety of colors ($20) are the softest we’ve felt. Even simple black workout pants are taken seriously: There are six varieties for different body types ($45 to $70). There are also hoodies, sports bras, and accessories like yoga mats and water bottles.

Luna, 7232 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-656-1111.

Best for: Twentysomethings looking for hot designs that won’t fizzle quickly.

Equal parts trendy and classic, the clothes at Luna stay in style for more than one season. Private-label silk kimono tops ($120) and J Brand Cigarette Jeans ($148) are affordable and chic, and the most popular items, like Milly dresses, fly off the racks. Join the mailing list and get invites to the twice-yearly Luna Party, where everything is 20 percent off.

Madeline, Wildwood Shopping Center, Old Georgetown Rd. and Democracy Blvd., Bethesda; 301-564-9087.

Best for: Sophisticated women who’ve kept up their fitness regimes.

Everything from embroidered jean jackets to sexy evening separates is fitted to flatter any age. You’ll find Nanette Lepore jackets and dresses, Mycra Pac coats too pretty to save for rain, and Elliott Lauren sportswear. Prices range from $60 for a tee to $600 for a Lepore jacket.

Madisonbelle, 5 Loudoun St. SE, Leesburg; 703-443-1790;

Best for: Flirty, fun tops and jeans.

This small shop oozes attitude with Joe’s jeans, Michael Stars tees, lacy camisoles, and chunky belts. Even if you can’t squeeze into the small sizes, you’ll love the big, squishy handbags and artsy jewelry and accessories.

Max Mara, 5471 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-656-0581; Tysons Galleria, 703-556-6962.

Best for: Classics with a twist and gorgeous party frocks.

The new Chevy Chase Max Mara is the largest in the world—two floors of the Italian brand’s well-tailored clothes in lush fabrics. Besides the classic coats and jackets, flowing slacks, and feminine skirts Max Mara is known for, the store has fun pieces from the sport line like a wool shrug with cutouts across the back and stunning party frocks both long and short. This elegance doesn’t come cheap: Tops start at $145, coats around $800, and gowns can go up to $2,000. We found sales help friendlier at Chevy Chase than at Tysons.

MicMac Bis, 5454 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-654-8686.

Best for: Artsy flair.

At this shop, a favorite of European and Asian women, sculptural designers who play with shape and color, like Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, rule. We love Miyake’s knapsacks and totes. Check out the relaxed pieces from DKNY and Marithé François Girbaud, and arty jewelry both bold and delicate. Creativity doesn’t come cheap: You can pay $500 for a skirt, though Michael Stars T-shirts start at $26.

Muléh, 1831 14th St., NW; 202-667-3440;

Best for: Modern pieces with international flair.

After living in Southeast Asia, Christopher Reiter opened Muléh, filling it with home furnishings inspired by the Far East. Two years ago, he and co-owner Vici Subyanto began selling clothing and accessories. The fashion, like the furniture, spans the world with lines like Nicholas K., 3.1 by Phillip Lim, and Linea Pelle.

Nana, 1528 U St., NW; 202-667-6955;

Best for: Pieces you can wear straight from work to a night out.

Nana’s hip, hard-to-find styles—you might recognize brands like Sweetees and Wrangler—appeal to twenty- and thirtysomethings. So do prices, with most things under $100. The back room holds a small array of colorful vintage items, and the fitting rooms have the odd charm of outdoor showers at camp. The friendly staff makes Nana feel like a neighborhood shop by greeting many customers by name.

Old Navy, for locations.

Best for: Stocking up on staples.

Want flip-flops? For $5 they’re yours. Old Navy is perfect for getting back to basics, with cheap ribbed tanks, classic tees, and fleece outerwear. Trendier items often come with odd embellishments—black Bermuda shorts looked better with the beaded belt cut off.

Periwinkle, 1557 Potomac Greens Dr., Alexandria; 703-519-5242;

Best for: Conservative young things with a sense of fun.

Periwinkle specializes in preppy with a twist. Strapless cotton dresses in bright florals and pop-art prints could go from the Gold Cup to Smith Point. Suits, from brands like Liquid and Yoana Baraschi, span from funky (a tulle skirt suit is $646) to gray gabardine.

Pink November, 1231 U St., NW, 202-232-3113; 1529 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown, 202-333-1121; .

Best for: Finding a dress no one else in Washington will be wearing.

Funky dresses ($120 to $320) reign at Pink November, a shop for those unafraid to take a fashion risk. Both locations carry vintage-inspired and intricately detailed separates by designers like Anna Sui. But it’s the jersey dresses by Rachel Pally and Frenzii that have the strongest following: They fit many body types. Fall styles also include chunky sweaters, big belts, and oversize cardigans.

Pirjo, 4821 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; 301-986-1870.

Best for: Marimekko’s bold designs and ageless separates.

When Pirjo Jaffe opened shop, she featured Finnish designers; she has since expanded to sell a well-edited collection of European imports. There are knockout leather handbags you won’t see elsewhere.

Pop, 1803-A 14th St., NW; 202-332-3312;

Best for: Affordable clothing, unique gifts.

This small shop proves that stylish clothing and accessories don’t have to cost a fortune. Midrange lines like Free People, Original Penguin, and Dollhouse can be found along with gift items like candles and bath products. Owner Sheila Sharma buys in small batches so you won’t see your outfit all over town.

Proper Topper, 1350 Connecticut Ave., Dupont Circle, 202-842-3055; 3213 P St., Georgetown, 202-333-6200;

Best for: Not just hats.

The shop has great hats, but what may draw your eye are the other accessories—watches, earrings, handbags, computer totes, and more. Both stores carry a small but impressive selection of dresses, pants, and tops by designers Susana Monaco, Nanette Lepore, and Tracy Reese.

Ralph Lauren, 5471-A Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-718-4223;

Best for: Preppy sportswear.

Mahogany paneling and riding gear give this shop for all things Ralph the feel of a country manse. English tweeds and Nantucket-ready sportswear fill the men’s department on the first floor. Upstairs, plaid jumpers and navy blazers rule for the playground set. Women’s offerings include a chic shoe salon with a fringed sofa and dressing rooms with banquettes, velvet wallpaper, and brocade pillows.

Relish, 3312 Cady’s Alley, Georgetown; 202-333-5343;

Best for: Conversation-starting pieces.

This boutique offers customer service as high-end as its designer wares. Shoppers will find fashion darlings like Dries Van Noten and Junya Watanabe for men and Marni and Martin Margiela for women. Owner Nancy Pearlstein’s “lifestyle store” also offers an in-house tailor, fresh flowers, candles, and perfumes.

Rizik’s, 1100 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-223-4050;

Best for: Gala dresses.

Nearly a century old, this elegant salon caters to ladies on the black-tie and benefits circuit. There are regal suits, lacy Pamela Rowland dresses ($1,200 to $1,500), contemporary furs, and colorful knits from European designers such as Missoni.

Romance for the Senses, 1102 King St., Alexandria; 703-549-1102;

Best for: Lingerie both adorable and sexy.

Though this boudoir shop is as ladylike as it gets—antique tables are lined in marabou feathers—owner Torun Walker seeks out lingerie for every kind of woman. There are lime-green pushup bras and jeweled thongs ($106), Eberjey boy-cut briefs ($28), and haute underpinnings from La Perla (bras range from $115 to over $300). Other methods of seduction include chocolates and bedroom games.

Rugby, 1065 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-298-5928; .

Best for: Ironic preppy pieces.

Ralph Lauren’s new brand for the Ivy League is preppy but edgy—many of the slim-fitting pieces are embroidered with a skull and crossbones, perhaps a nod to the Skull and Bones society at Yale. When men purchase a rugby shirt ($68), they can choose from a variety of new and vintage patches ($8 to $24) to be applied for free. For women there are fun pieces like an elongated rugby shirt tailored into a slim cotton dress ($88). Top off this all-American look with a burger and fries at the cafe.

Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store, Mazza Gallerie; 202-363-2059;

Best for: Classic and trendy menswear.

The circular, wood-paneled second-floor “men’s club”—with its wet bar and flat-screen TVs tuned to CNN—has a Masters of the Universe feel, ideal for the power brokers who shop for Bruno Magli loafers and Canali and Armani suits ($995 to $5,500). On the first floor the mood is edgy, with designers like Jil Sander, John Varvatos, and Dries Van Noten. Jeans are big here, be they Dolce & Gabbana straight legs or distressed jeans ($195 and up).

Saks Jandel, 5510 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-652-2250; 2522 Virginia Ave., Foggy Bottom, 202-337-4200.

Best for: Upscale day and eveningwear.

This longtime stop for A-listers has added hot designers like Alexander McQueen, Chloé, and Etro for a younger clientele. Old Guard socialites still love the exclusive Feraud, Yves Saint Laurent, and Valentino boutiques. Alongside price tags in the thousands, it’s possible to find $45 Three Dots T-shirts (with the store’s label sewn in) and a simple black jersey cocktail dress for $160. Instead of the standard “May I help you?” you’re pleasantly greeted with “How are you today?”

Sassanova, 1641 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-471-4400;

Best for: Shoes that will make women stop and ask, “Where did you get those?”

With its pink walls, cheetah-print carpet, and polka-dotted loveseat, Sassanova could be a funky lady’s sitting room. This shoe boutique boasts the best of lines—Bettye Muller, Issac Mizrahi, Sigerson Morrison—in everything from basic black to colorful patterns. Shoes start at around $125 and can go up to $625. Accessories include chandelier earrings, delicate necklaces, and Lauren Merkin purses.

Secondi, 1702 Connecticut Ave., Dupont Circle; 202-667-1122;

Best for: Hip designer bargains.

Designer jeans seem absurdly priced to you? True Religion, Blue Cult, and Sevens can go below $55 at this consignment boutique, and prices drop another 20 percent every month. Don’t wait long; goods fly fast—or get tossed after 90 days. Kate Spade, Versace, and Todd Oldham designs appeal to young urbanites, but that $80 Gucci sheath or $270 pink YSL jacket would suit any professional. The sunny second-floor shop is divided into casual (hip T-shirts and sweats are the best buys) and dressy (gowns so well priced you can afford to wear them only once). Counters and cases are crammed with sunglasses, handbags, and other accessories.

Shake Your Booty, 2439 18th St., Adams Morgan; 202-518-8205;

Best for: Twentysomethings looking for urban-chic footwear and accessories.

It’s hard to miss this hot-pink brick building chock full of metallic ballet flats ($70), strappy heels and pumps ($50), and brands that run the gamut from the unknown to less conventional picks by Sugar, Sanuk, and Puma. You can score great deals on purses ($39 to $70) and oversize shades ($15) as well as basic T-shirts ($21) and handcrafted jewelry.

Sherman Pickey, 1647 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-4212; .

Best for: Preppy clothing and accessories.

This self-proclaimed “unapologetically preppy” boutique outfits the sailing set with embroidered corduroy, ribbon belts, and matching leashes for their pooches. Three former Ralph Lauren employees opened the shop, which offers Tory Burch and J. McLaughlin for the ladies, Bills Khakis for men, and plenty of Vineyard Vines for both.

Shoe Fly, 2618 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-243-6490

Best for: Shoe lovers who don’t want to sacrifice originality for price.

Most shoes at this three-year-old boutique are under $100—embroidered flats, retro sneakers, and ladylike kitten heels in such hard-to-find brands as Seychelles, John Sluevog, Pink, and Pony. You’ll find a small selection of men’s shoes and funky purses and jewelry.

The Shoe Hive, 115 S. Royal St., Alexandria; 703-548-7105;

Best for: Colorful—and often surprisingly affordable—footwear.

A lot of style is packed into this tiny shoe store. Sensible suede loafers and linen flats are next to towering metallic heels and bright-green wedges. Prices are as varied—from $70 Bronx patent-leather stilettos to $375 Bettye Muller peeptoes. In June and January, the current season’s stock is discounted 30 percent.

Sister’s Boutique & Gifts, 20691 Ashburn Rd., Ashburn; 571-223-1735;

Best for: Weekend wear for working women.

When Susan Novak quit her corporate job to open a boutique, she moved in with her sister to make it happen. Her aptly named Sister’s is a small, stylish-but-not-too-trendy store carrying Trina Turk, Velvet, Cynthia Steffe, Sweet Pea, and denim brands like Immortality and Citizens of Humanity ($120 to $220). Most items are between $100 and $300.

South Moon Under, 2700 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, 703-807-4083; 10247 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda, 301-564-0995; 11950 Market St., Reston, 703-435-0605;

Best for: Casual clothing for twenty- and thirtysomethings.

This chain started as an Ocean City surf shop in 1968 and has grown to ten stores. You still find a broad swimsuit selection in summer, but the store carries more than beachwear. With its Bulga handbags, beaded earrings, Quicksilver button-downs and Paper Denim jeans for men ($65 to $175), and everything from Billy Blues trousers to BCBG party dresses for women ($180), you can find something for a cookout, a wedding, or anything in between.

Sugar, 1633 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-333-5331;

Best for: Clothes that mix sophistication and fun.

Everything at Sugar has a twist: A black sweater is never just a plain black sweater—it may have unusual detailing. A suit may come with shorts. Dresses, pants, tops, and skirts by Nanette Lepore, Lauren Moffat, and Cynthia Steffe grace the racks. Colorful tees by Splendid and C & C California and affordable earrings by Viv & Ingrid appeal to a twentysomething crowd, while older customers like the versatile pieces by Shin Choi and Saja.

Sylene, 4407 S. Park Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-654-4200;

Best for: Swimwear and lingerie.

One of the area’s best swimwear and lingerie collections, Sylene offers brands like Juicy Couture, Eres, and Manuel Canovas along with beach accessories like coverups. Lingerie ranges from high-end La Perla to down-to-earth Cosabella and Hanky Panky; prices go from $7 for a thong up to hundreds for a bustier. Besides lacy, satiny things, there are body shapers and pretty PJs, camisoles, and boy shorts. The store has swimwear, lingerie, and prostheses for women who have had mastectomies and lumpectomies.

Terri & Kate, 756-C Walker Rd., Great Falls; 703-759-7005; .

Best for: Colorful separates.

With a focus on updated classics, Terri & Kate carries everything from Spanx undergarments to sexy slides, sportswear to black tie. You’ll find $400 Italian hobo handbags next to $90 lookalikes. Featured lines include jeans by Rosner and Pure Color ($145 to $199), knits by Thalian (around $200), and Susan Faber bags ($299 to $500).

Thomas Pink, 1127 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-223-5390;

Best for: Tailored shirts and ties.

This British import has long been the choice for dapper men looking for button-downs, ties, and cuff links. The store has a variety of styles, fabrics, and price points (shirts are $140 to $210). There’s a small women’s section of conservative, ladylike blouses ($140 to $195).

Tickled Pink, 103 S. St. Asaph St., Alexandria, 703-518-5459; 7259 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, 301-913-9191;

Best for: Beachy cotton prints.

Lilly Pulitzer’s ultra-preppy look isn’t for everyone. But lovers of everything pink and green flock to these all-Lilly boutiques for her splashily patterned skorts ($100), cocktail dresses, shifts, and halter dresses ($175 to $398) for women and girls plus grosgrain headbands, ribbon belts, and Tretorn tennis shoes.

Trousseau, 306 Maple Ave. W., Vienna; 703-255-3300;

Best for: Lingerie for yourself or as a gift.

With its headpieces and underpinnings, this lingerie shop is a haven for brides. Nonbrides can find pretty camisoles and bras ($32 and up) and sleepwear that’s sexy, comfy, or both. (We liked the super-soft PJs by Arianne; two pieces run $75 and up.) The wait for a dressing room can be long on Saturdays. But they offer a wide size range and bra-fitting. Check out the classic, well-priced evening bags ($19 and up).

Unsung Designers, 2412 18th St. (rear door A), Adams Morgan; 202-234-1788;

Best for: Latest trends from designers you won’t see anywhere else.

What began a year ago as an online boutique has expanded into one of the hippest places to shop. This showroom for emerging designers—open only Saturdays noon to 6—features everything from Onion casual dresses ($98 to $160) to Cinderloop tops ($68 to $110) and Misile’s funky apparel ($110 to $280). Among the accessories are Byjeanie jewelry (under $105) and Oovoo handbags ($80 to $160), made in partnership with women in Vietnam.

Urban Chic, 1626 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-338-5398;

Best for: Dressy tops for evenings out.

This store is so spacious, it feels like more than a boutique. Customers love the dressy tops ($50 to $300) by Catherine Malandrino, Foley, Mint, and Plenty by Tracy Reese; all pair perfectly with denim by Paige, Rock & Republic, and True Religion ($80 to $270). There are flirty dresses ($150 to $550) and fitted blazers ($150 to $300). Salespeople are happy to debate with you whether to go up or down a size in a pair of jeans, and they have good suggestions if what you bring into the fitting room doesn’t work.

Urban Outfitters, 3111 M St., Georgetown, 202-342-1012; 737 Seventh St., NW, 202-737-0259; 7861 Tysons Corner Center, 703-847-0394;

Best for: Affordable riffs on runway looks.

Even professional fashion stylists hit this hip chain for inexpensive renditions of what’s hot: leggings, Marc Jacobs–like Peter Pan–collared blouses ($48), tweedy shorts (around $50), and skull jewelry. It’s popular with high-schoolers but frequented by men and women of all ages. The Georgetown branch is often packed; we like the immaculate Chinatown store.

Valise, 1624 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-3622;

Best for: Finding a dress for a special event.

This tiny shop has dresses suitable for bridal showers, luncheons, cocktail parties, and anything hosted by the Capital Club. It’s a girly girl’s heaven with lines like Nicole Miller, Kay Unger, and Helen Wang ($150 to $475). The feminine, preppy-leaning styles are fun enough to be fashionable but classic enough that you’ll get more than a few wearings out of them. There’s a small collection of denim ($180 to $215) and casual tops ($29 to $130).

Wink, 3109 M St., Georgetown; 202-338-9465;

Best for: Basics that aren’t boring.

This narrow, below-ground shop houses many of the usual girly boutique brands: slim-cut Splendid and Michael Stars tees, streamlined Theory officewear, and bold Milly and Diane Von Furstenburg dresses. The two twentysomething owners have an eye for whimsical, lesser-known lines too, such as French designer Paul & Joe’s new Sister collection, sexy Brazilian dressmaker Iodice, and Jungal.

Wild Women Wear Red, 1512 U St., NW; 202-387-5700;

Best for: Funky shoes.

This boutique carries an unusual mix of slides, heels, wedges, and boots. Most are over $100, but you won’t see brands like these—Audley, Fornarina, Chie Mihara—at department stores. The shop also sells bold handbags.

Zara, 1238 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown; 202-944-9797; .

Best for: Trendy, affordable office attire.

Because its color-coordinated, organized stock turns over frequently, if you like something at this Spanish chain, you’d better get it that day. The limited supply offers a sense of exclusivity at a fraction of the cost of designer goods. Known for slimmer silhouettes, the office-appropriate pieces can do double-duty at night.

Who’s Very Best?

Best for jeans: B. Scene, Denim Bar, Diesel, Urban Chic.

Best for 9-to-5 attire: Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Betsy Fisher, Brooks Brothers, Clover, Everard’s Clothing, H Hilfiger, J. Crew, Max Mara, Periwinkle, Saks Men’s Store, Sugar, Zara.

Best for handbags and accessories: Chanel, Intermix, Kate Spade, Neiman Marcus.

Best for shoes: DSW, Hu’s Shoes, Nordstrom, Sassanova.

Best for cocktail and black tie: An American in Paris, Bloomingdale’s, Hysteria, Inga’s Once Is Not Enough, Loeh­mann’s, Rizik’s, Valise.

Best for nights on the town: All About Jane, Hysteria, Intermix, Luna, Madeline, Urban Chic.

Best for weekend casual: American Apparel, Blush, Chico’s, Emily Grace, the Forecast, Free People, J. Jill, Madisonbelle, Urban Outfitters.

Best for swimwear and lingerie: Bloomingdale’s, Romance for the Senses, South Moon Under, Sylene.

Best for cutting-edge: Barneys Co-op, Intermix, Muléh, Neiman Marcus, Relish.

Best for country-club casual: J. Crew, Sherman Pickey, Tickled Pink, Valise.

Best for ladies who lunch: Jimmy Choo, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Rizik’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Jandel.

Best for coats: Bloomingdale’s, Bur­berry, Loehmann’s.

Best for cheap chic: Forever 21, H&M, Secondi, Zara.

Best for vintage: Alex, Annie Creamcheese.


Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.