Saturday, September 12, 2009

Capital Fashion

When we moved from LA to DC, we quickly realized that our wardrobes were woefully inadequate. Not only were our closets full of "student clothes" that wouldn't cut it at the workplace, but we also had clothes fit for California weather. Since California lacks seasons, people wear pretty much the same thing year round. The biggest decision is whether to throw a hoodie over your t-shirt. Once in DC, it didn't take many walks to work in October or the months that followed to realize that we had some shopping to do.

Clothes Encounters

DC, like all big cities, provides easy access to shopping malls (Pentagon City is metro accessible but Tysons Corner offers a much larger selection of stores) and outlets (we like the outlets in Leesburg). Georgetown's M Street features many of the big fashion chains in a unique outdoor setting. Also, if you're looking for deck shoes, pink polos, and whale belts, you can't miss in Georgetown. For the high rollers out there, Chevy Chase and the Mazza Gallerie is the place for you.

There are a couple of regional stores that were new to us and are worth pointing out to new residents. Filene's Basement is a discount store (think Nordstrom Rack) where great deals can be found if you don't mind a little digging around. I found a great pair of Coach heels for 75% off once and B routinely finds great deals on dress shirts and ties. The company recently filed for bankruptcy which has impacted the volume of merchandise, but now under new management, the DC stores are again up and running.

If you are in need of a suit for a job interview, Jos. A. Bank has several locations in downtown DC and calls itself the "expert" in menswear. While you're not going to get Armani quality here, you can find decent suits at low prices and its a good place to get your first post-grad school suit. Try to take advantage of their frequent sales.

DC is not known as a fashion mecca and, as a consequence, does not have a booming boutique industry. There are some cute stores scattered about town that are worth a visit if you're looking for something different than the mega chains can provide. Try Caramel on U Street or Sugar in Georgetown.

DeeDee Dresses DC

Do you ever walk into a store and feel overwhelmed by the options? Don't know the difference between Savvy, t.b.d., The Rail, and Individualist? Frustrated because you spent all of this time in the mall and came home with nothing? It might be time to test out a personal shopper.

Last winter, B and I decided to treat ourselves to a visit to a personal shopper. What most people don't realize is: (A) most large department stores have personal shoppers and (B) they are usually free to use. B did some research and found the wonderful DeeDee McPhaul at Nordstrom Tysons Corner. I must admit I was hesitant to go because I've had some bad service experiences when I'm shopping. Often, salespeople think I'm too young to spend any real money and they ignore me. Luckily, DeeDee made us feel comfortable instantly.

Before our first appointment, she called B and I individually to ask about our personal style and sizes. Don't worry if you don't have a "style" - she'll guide you through the process by asking what your favorite kinds of clothes are and what types of items you're looking for. When you arrive for your appointment DeeDee will have pre-selected outfits that she thinks you might like. Then the process of trying on clothes begins. As you go, you'll tell DeeDee things you love and those you hate and she'll keep bringing in new things until you're satisfied or completely exhausted. Exhaustion is a real possibility as our first trip lasted nearly four hours. I don't recommend making appointments during peak traffic times (or huge sales) because she can get really busy and the level of personal service can suffer a bit. But even on a day when she was balancing us and Beyonce's mom (seriously, she was in town for the inauguration!), we still felt like rock stars.

As I mentioned above, this service doesn't cost you anything but be forewarned: you'll probably end up liking a lot of the clothes she finds for you, so you should work out your budget before stepping into the dressing room. I thought it was a nice touch that she brought us sale items to try on and didn't flinch in the slightest when we suggested that some things might be a bit out of our price range. We also took advantage of opening a Nordstrom credit card and have received lots of Nordstrom Notes (gift certificates) as a result.

Another benefit of using a personal shopper is that it will help you to expand your horizons and find clothes that actually fit you. You may learn you've been wearing the wrong size clothing or that your favorite suit cut doesn't actually flatter your body. DeeDee has encouraged me to embrace color and patterns in a way that I never would have done on my own. I'm not saying that I want to look like a bad 60's flashback, but it has been nice to spend some time away from my best friend: the basic black sweater.

Second Thoughts From B

I'll admit it, shopping for clothes isn't my favorite thing in the world. Shocker, right? Hey, I'm a guy and some stereotypes are true. We all like to look good but it is the process that is a pain.

That said, I probably enjoy/tolerate clothes shopping more than most... But wherever you fall on the spectrum, you can't not love a good personal shopper. For us, DeeDee eliminates all of the exhausting and frustrating elements of a trip to the mall. No hunting for the right size, no debating if this goes with that, no waiting in dressing room lines with a maximum of 5 items. All you do is show up, try a bunch of stuff on (beware of chafing after 4 hours), and determine if you like how you look. It doesn't get much easier.

I know nothing about fashion but I think I have a decent sense of what looks good and what doesn't. After 4 hours and probably 100 different items, there were exactly zero things that I tried on and didn't like. And if I was undecided about something, I had an expert and J to give me their two cents. In truth, it was a fun thing to do together.

So to you ladies out there who are always complaining that your man dresses like a slob, take him to DeeDee. You might not ever get him to love shopping but this is about as close as you'll get. And let me say it again, it is all free! Count me as one of the converted because I'm not afraid to say that I'm looking forward to my next trip.

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