Here in our nation’s capital, history is always in the making. So it’s not surprising that locals also love reaching back in time to spice up their wardrobes. The past few years have seen an explosion of amazing vintage stores, vintage-focused side projects, and pop-up shops in the area. In recent weeks, Butler & Claypool and La Petite Marmoset, two of our favorite vintage purveyors in Washington, just upped the ante by bringing an appointment-only shopping experience to the mix.
Both businesses recently opened showrooms and are using local fashion blogs and word of mouth to create buzz about their curated selections of clothing. In order to shop at either spot, you have to make an appointment and divulge a few details about what you’re looking for.
Holly Thomas, co-creator of Butler & Claypool (and Refinery29’s DC Editor) says the appointment-only approach avoids the high rents charged by storefronts in DC and is an act of the city’s creative subculture fighting against big retail.
Katherine Martinez, the designer and brain behind La Petite Marmoset, says shopping at her Petworth loft is sort of like going over to a friend’s house to look through her closet. Seekers of her modern vintage recreations can expect hors d’oeuvres and a lot of personal attention.
“We love helping people find their groove, their style,” Martinez says. “I think a lot of people are moving toward vintage because it’s unique and much more accessible than big-ticket designer items.”
Martinez sees both La Petite Marmoset and Butler & Claypool as a necessary response to our federal city’s call for a sense of style and a push toward creating a fashion identity for the District. “There is so much going on in the city related to fashion where there wasn’t before. We’re part of a movement of people who want to make an individual style for our city,” she says.
Thomas, who scours suburban thrift stores and estate sales for Butler & Claypool’s inventory of not-too-girly frocks, shirts, skirts, and accessories, says the evolution of the business has been a lot about building momentum. The collective started by doing pop-up shops on weekends; next came a small Etsy store, and in May the showroom opened on Capitol Hill.
“The biggest thrill for me is to meet people who are on board with our vision,” Thomas said of the flow of people she’s encountered since the brand’s inception about two years ago. She describes starting the vintage business as being like opening Pandora’s box—in a good way.
Martinez’s path was not so different, though the name of the brand was a holdover from her high school dream of owning a boutique. She chose it as a tongue-in-cheek play on the way many brands incorporate French terms to make them seem more chic. She began the line as a blog in 2010 and steadily gaining a following; then in her bedroom at her parent’s house she began re-creating vintage pieces to sell on Etsy. By early 2011 she was selling her wares at Violet Boutique and using her bedroom as a mini showroom. The showroom opened this spring.
While Washingtonians are unlikely to live in vintage alone, the option to add something one-of-a-kind to the workday wardrobe has become a lot easier (and more fun) thanks to Butler & Claypool and La Petite Marmoset. Both Thomas and Martinez say not to let size or budget keep you from scheduling an appointment; it’s all about finding your personal piece of history.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a shopping appointment at La Petite Marmoset’s showroom. To book a time at Butler & Claypool’s showroom, e-mail email@example.com.