A favorite of actresses dressing for the red carpet, the Italian design house Bulgari (301-986-8610) knows a timeless aesthetic doesn’t stop at silver, diamonds, and gold. Here you’ll find amethyst, garnet, and topaz filling the settings, and the hefty men’s watches make a strong statement.
For milestone anniversaries and timepieces you’ll hand down to your grandchildren, head to Cartier (301-654-5858). Signature styles at the French jeweler—in business more than 150 years—include the square-faced tank watch, the Panthère collection, and the iconic 1970s Love bangle, which can be opened only with a tiny screwdriver.
Girls of all ages love a tiny blue box from Tiffany & Co. (301-657-8777). Classic elegance comes in the form of key pendants, sterling-silver heart and bean charms, and simple diamond solitaires.
Also try: Pampillonia Jewelers (202-363-6305) for elegant engagement rings with an Old World feel.
Creator of some of history’s most coveted handbags, Louis Vuitton (301-654-1101) is also the place to shop for high-quality travel gear. Suitcases and trunks of all sizes and styles—with the signature LV print—line the walls, while smaller glass cases are filled with leather passport wallets, personal calendars, and jewelry and cosmetic pouches.
For a night-out shoe, look to Jimmy Choo (240-223-1102). The British line is famous for knee-high boots, strappy sandals, and pencil-thin heels. Look for shoes in leopard print, lipstick red, and glitzy gold. For those whose soles don’t hold up in stilettos, the brand has recently collaborated with Hunter and Ugg to create lines of boots.
The Italian house Gucci (301-986-8902), the power-dressing set’s go-to for modern-sexy accessories, is filled with equestrian-inspired boots and belts, snakeskin clutches, and bamboo-accented work bags and totes. Don’t miss the wall of movie-star-worthy sunglasses as well as the impressive selection of men’s sneakers.
Also try: Christian Dior (301-986-8715) for quilted leather purses and va-va-voom French heels.
Spanish import Adolfo Dominguez (301-576-3355) does casual European chic with an eye for interesting details. Men’s sweaters have asymmetrical patterns and stripes, while women’s separates—in rich shades of olive, violet, and navy—stay flirty despite a deconstructed menswear edge. Opened in May, the store also carries evening gowns, boots, purses, and dog coats.
Ohio-bred designer Nanette Lepore brings a dose of Parisian romance to her colorful collections. With a dazzling white chandelier, her only standalone store in Washington (301-657-1515) feels like a 1950s powder room. The shape-conscious clothing is good for women looking to showcase their natural curves. Popular options include ruched and ruffled skirts, detail-laden jackets, and romantic lace dresses. Lepore fans will be delighted by the selection of jewelry and bags, too.
Also try: The Italian store Piazza Sempione (301-656-0581) for modern, minimalist women’s separates.
>> Next: Casual wear, kid's clothes, and black-tie attire
Saks Jandel (5510 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-652-2250) has been a favorite among congressional wives and ladies who lunch for more than 120 years. In the plush confines of a mirrored formalwear boutique, customers work with seasoned saleswomen to find the perfect ballgown, be it a multilayered Zac Posen chiffon or a classic Carolina Herrera skirt-and-shirt combo. The store is home to the only Vera Wang Bridal, Yves Saint Laurent, and J. Mendel boutiques in town. Shoppers will also find separates from brands such as Donna Karan and Valentino, Armani and Rena Lange skirt suits, and Loro Piana cashmere.
Also try: Chevy Chase Bridal (202-363-9301), a wedding boutique that also carries formal apparel, and BCBG Max Azria (301-656-0841) for higher-hemmed cocktail frocks aimed at fashionable twentysomethings.
New York transplants and edgy hipsters head to Barneys Co-op (301-634-4061) for fresh design talent. Inventory on the industrial-steel clothing racks is always changing, but recent brands have included Opening Ceremony and 3.1 Phillip Lim dresses, men’s lace-ups from Rag & Bone, and Alexander Wang’s studded leather duffels.
FOR THE KIDS
The San Francisco–based chain Giggle (301-664-6407) offers bright clothing, bedding, and toys that feel modern without appearing too grown-up. Moms and dads will find organic bath products and high-tech tools such as the Babycook, a steamer/blender hybrid for making your own baby food. Also impressive are the Scandinavian-inspired cribs and high chairs with moveable parts so they can get bigger as your child grows.
In business 25 years, Full of Beans (5502 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-362-8566)is all about classic, preppy style. Flannel shirts and puffy vests for boys come from brands such as Dogwood and Wes and Willy, while the richly colored dresses of British brand Joules fly off the shelves. Old-school games such as pick-up sticks make for nostalgic gifts.
Also try: Barston’s Child’s Play (202-244-3602) for the most extensive selection of boys’ and girls’ toys in the area.
>> Next: Home design, gifts, and discount shopping
Sleek, low-slung couches and glass- and metal-accented furniture fill the contemporary French furniture showroom Roche Bobois (202-686-5667). Check out legendary French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s interior collection. With graphic-printed couch modules and race-car-inspired chair sets, it’s just as playful as his clothing. But with prices reaching $10,000 for a sofa, this downtown look doesn’t come cheap.
Across the street, Anora Home (202-363-3033) uses warmer colors to create a softer impression. Creams, beiges, and reds cover modular leather couches while wooden chairs, beds, and tables feel livable and inviting. Lacquered sectional wall units fit together with Tetris-like dexterity for unusual media storage, and the metal-and-glass lamp collection would fit well in most any home.
For those with more vintage tastes, designer favorite Finials Antiques (202-362-8400) offers 19th- and early-20th-century dressers, dinnerware, and home accents as well as one of the best-stocked selections of antique chandeliers in the area.
Also try: Sur la Table (202-237-0375) for high-quality kitchen and dining accessories.GIFTS
Celebrate the seasons with a gift from Periwinkle (3815 Livingston St. NW; 202-364-3076). Owner Judy Philactos packs her cheery store with retro decoration ideas and fun knickknacks. In fall, the shop is stacked high with pumpkin centerpieces and dozens of tree ornaments. Popular year-round options include Russell & Hazel calendars, Jonathan Adler desk accessories, and Bella reusable shopping bags as well as a lovely selection of chocolates.
Designer-at-discount favorite Loehmann’s (202-362-4733) has always been dependable for teen staples such as Steve Madden flats and Juicy Couture casualwear. But recently it has upped its fashion ante with Cynthia Steffe shifts, Chloé separates, and futuristic Costume National pumps. Insider tip: Sign up for the Insider Club Red Card, which gets you 15 percent off on your birthday as well as e-mail notice of sales and events.
World Market (202-244-8720) is filled with discount dinner-party gear. Glasses, table linens, and silverware line the aisles, while dark-wood tables and colorful home-decor items—most with a South Asian slant—take up the rest of the space. The foreign-food section offers popular snacks such as Australian Vegemite, Japanese Pocky sticks, and German Milka bars. And check out the surprisingly well-stocked wine section.
Also try: Filene’s Basement (202-966-0208) for more deals on name-brand clothing and lingerie and T.J. Maxx (202-237-7616) for women’s DKNY winter jackets.>> Next: Lingerie, department stores, and more
Whether you’re searching for lace-and-satin seduction tools, sturdy shapewear, or a simple cotton robe, you can count on Sylene (301-654-4200). Though everyday service is unpredictable—saleswomen can be friendly and attentive one day, bored the next—customers who make appointments for services such as bra measurements and post-mastectomy prosthesis fittings won’t leave disappointed. Brands include Oscar de la Renta and Hanky Panky, and bathing-suit options—sold year-round—range from the luxe French line Eres to tummy-controlling Miraclesuits.
Bloomingdale’s (240-744-3700) caters to the urban-contemporary “it” girl with in-store boutiques for Tory Burch, Diane von Furstenberg, Leifsdottir, and Rebecca Taylor plus a gigantic designer-jean collection.
With labels including Jason Wu, Armani, and Z Spoke, Saks Fifth Avenue (301-657-9000) dresses women with deep pockets and offers personal-shopping services to help them navigate the extensive inventory. Thanks to finds such as La Mer face lotion, the store also boasts a better makeup counter than any of its competitors.
Neiman Marcus (202-966-9700) is smaller than its Tysons Galleria counterpart but maintains the same high taste with its Louboutin-packed shoe salon and evening frocks worthy of an inaugural ball.
For work dresses under $150 and surprisingly good sales-rack finds, head to Lord & Taylor (202-362-9600). Well-stocked departments such as French Connection, Michael Kors, and BCBG Max Azria are never picked over.
Washington power players head to the upstairs club room at the Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store (202-363-2059). The men’s haven—complete with flat-screen TVs and a wet bar—offers complimentary wardrobe consultation services. Chauncey Foust and Mike Davidson, two of Saks’s top sales associates, help shoppers select everything from power suits to weekend sportswear. Lines include Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Jil Sander, and Alexander McQueen. The shoe selection, which ranges from classic Tod’s lace-ups to get-noticed Ferragamo sneakers, is one of the best around.
Women in search of personalized shopping assistance might look to newcomer Julia Farr (202-364-3277). With glossy white furniture and a flower-embossed turquoise wall, this boutique feels straight out of the Real Housewives’ Orange County. Clients can schedule appointments for leisurely shopping consultations (with complimentary wine and small treats) as well as custom clothing and tailoring orders. Inventory includes Milly, Catherine Malandrino, Adam, and Tibi plus Farr’s self-designed line, which features classic pieces such as camel pencil skirts and sheath dresses.
When it comes to preppy, nothing beats Ralph Lauren (301-718-4223). In a two-story building evoking the Victorian era, the store boasts walls of primary-color collared shirts and ties for men, eveningwear for women, and, upstairs, two gorgeous Ralph Lauren Home showrooms. To the right, you’ll find Brook Street, which pays homage to London haberdashery with pieces in black, white, and stainless steel, lowball tumblers, and Rat Pack photos. To the left is Heiress, a ruffled, romantic collection of muted beiges and dusty rose.
Friendship Heights is also home to the largest Brooks Brothers (301-654-8202) in Washington. Hill staffers depend on the brand for durable business basics such as rugby-striped ties, no-iron shirts, and sensible heels and loafers. Be on the lookout for the shrunken jackets and ankle-length pants of the Black Fleece line, Brooks Brothers’ first collaboration with American menswear designer Thom Browne.
This article first appeared in the December 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.