Shopping in Washington, DC
There's no shortage of stores willing to sell you beauty products in the DC area (including DC's home-grown luxury chain, Bluemercury), but Bellacara stands out both for its status as an independent boutique and its charming shop on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. Brands include high-end staples like Stila, Paula Dorf, Dermalogica, Creed, and Molton Brown, with a carefully chosen and organized selection based on products the owners know and love. The staff know their stuff, but leave customers to make decisions without a pushy sales pitch. Most weekends feature free makeover events or mini-facials with brand representatives.
DC fashionistas have many reasons to envy the New York shopping scene -- among them, the designer sample sales where New York's fashionable set always seem to score perfect goods an unheard-of prices. Thank heavens for Treat, Old Town Alexandria's "sample sale boutique," which features designers like Tracey Reese, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Nanette Lepore, and Diane von Furstenberg, all at 30-80% off retail prices. Treat also offers a selection of affordable independent labels. Voted "Best Independent Women's Boutique" in 2010 by readers of the Washington Post Express. The inventory is small, but check back often -- new items arrive nearly every week. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Home Rule is the political system that allows District of Columbia residents to govern certain affairs without Congressional oversight. Home Rule is also a quirky, jam-packed housewares shop on 14th Street NW. Owners balance quality with fair prices and the useful with the utterly unique, creating a "something for everyone" store perfect for stumbling across your new favorite thing. Home Rule is the type of place where you walk in looking for a kitchen timer and walk out with robot-shaped ice-cube trays, an octopus dish scrubber, and three kinds of French-milled soap. If you're a frequent visitor, be sure to ask about their rewards program.
Appalachian Spring opened its first store in Georgetown in 1968, featuring goods from artists and craftspeople throughout the Appalachian region. The original shop has grown to five stores throughout the DC area and the artisans now live and work throughout the United States, but Appalachian Spring remains a one-stop shopping destination for the finest in American craft. Wares include beautifully made items for home and apparel, including jewelry and exotic-wood jewelry boxes, artful kaleidoscopes and wooden children's toys, and blown glass and art pottery. The Union Station location, tucked away in the ornate East Hall, is our particular favorite. (Former President Clinton reportedly agreed, visiting that location every year to shop for Christmas gifts.)
With brands like Lanvin, Givenchy, and Chloe, prices that sometimes reach four digits, and the artistic quality to match, Georgetown's Hu's Shoes could be considered an art gallery for your feet. The selection is small but relentlessly curated to offer statement pieces in styles from traditional to edgy. The staff is helpful, knowledgeable, and refreshingly free of the icy attitude that accompanies too many high-end boutiques. Following the success of her shoe boutique, owner Marlene Hu Aldaba opened an equally equisite clothing boutique across the street with investment pieces from designers both classic (Jean Paul Gaultier, Donna Karan) and modern (Alexander McQueen, Junya Watanabe).