Pretty People's Annie Lee organizes a rack of vintage dresses. Photograph by Chris Svetlik.
For some women, no prouder moment exists than the post-breakup strut. Finally done shedding tears over that good-for-nothing ex, you shimmy into a stretchy little red number you inadvertently cried your way to fitting into, dab on some fresh lipstick, and proudly show off what you no longer care he’s missing. For former Annie Creamcheese partner Annie Lee, what’s even more satisfying is that in the middle of such a strut, she’s going head to head with her ex in the business world. With the late-March opening of her buzz-worthy Alexandria consignment house, Pretty People, the 34-year-old Rockville native says she’s ready to reclaim her stake in the Washington vintage scene.Lee grew up without a lot of money, so she and her mother Jackie shopped at thrift stores out of necessity. They’d hit churches and regularly spend Saturdays at yard sales, and there’s not a Salvation Army or Goodwill in the Washington area that didn’t feel their touch.
“I had a limited budget, but I was a greedy shopper,” says Lee.
Annie Creamcheese started from similarly humble beginnings: at the Georgetown Flea Market. Thanks to Lee’s nose for finding one-of-a-kind pieces that can stand out and work with a modern wardrobe, the stall she ran with her former fiancé, Garrett Bauman, was an instant hit.
“People loved us,” says Lee from behind the counter of her new shop. The couple began to sell on eBay, then opened a brick-and-mortar store off Arlington’s Glebe Road. In 2004, they relocated to 3279 M Street in Georgetown, where the store is today. Packed with unusual finds ranging from sequined ’80s prom dresses to haute couture Chanel, it quickly became a favorite among posh Georgetown University students as well as visiting celebs. Victoria Beckham and Nicole Ritchie are two of the boldface names to have picked up Annie Lee finds.
Lee and Bauman hoped for bigger and better things for Annie Creamcheese. But the couple began to grow apart both romantically and creatively, she says. And when the partnership eventually ended in August, what she calls a naive decision made early on in the couple’s business relationship came back to haunt her.
“He took 51 percent, and I was 24 and in love,” says Lee. “[At the time], I didn’t know what that meant.”
Despite the fact that Annie Creamcheese logo bore Lee’s likeness, Bauman was the majority owner. Lee is keeping the details of their breakup private but admits that she was devastated. Fortunately for Washington-area vintage lovers, Lee isn’t prone to wallowing. After just a couple of months mourning, she became antsy to build something new.
“I missed running a vintage store,” she says. “I missed seeing my customers every day.”
Lee began scouting locations in College Park, Bethesda, and Old Town. By December, she settled on a renovated rowhouse on North Patrick Street, just off King Street. Pretty People opened for business in late March.
Lee describes the clothes, jewelry, and accessories at her Alexandria store as more fun, feminine, and California bohemian—“more of who I am”—than those in Georgetown. Out are the men’s rocker tee’s, stacks of cowboy boots, and acrylic plastic earrings. In are pillbox hats, flowing ’70s peasant dresses, and one-of-a-kind cocktail frocks. Floor-grazing hippie skirts share space with Navajo fringe vests and oversize ’80s sweaters. In the store’s “antiques room,” Lee’s mother’s collection of 1920s Whiting & Davis silver-mesh evening bags line one wall. If Annie Creamcheese serves to dress the risk-taking high schooler, then Pretty People is here to take care of the Carrie Bradshaw she'll grow up to be.
Also notable: Pretty People’s prices are significantly lower than Annie Creamcheese’s. Jewelry typically runs from $9 to $35 (with a few Chanel and Gucci pieces topping out at $750), cocktail attire will set you back anywhere from $75 for a short dress to $195 for a full-length gown, and tops can be had for as little as $12.
Pretty People, 108 N. Patrick St., Alexandria; 703-739-2522; prettypeoplevintage.com.