Washingtonians aren’t exactly known for flamboyant style—something you realize after moving to DC—but that doesn’t mean we lack fashion sense. Vintage aficionados unearth unique finds in 14th St NW emporiums, including Dr. K Vintage for menswear, Junction for funky clothing and accessories, and Blues Hard Goods for retro denim. If you're looking to revitalize your wardrobe, Ginger Root Design's tailoring service is renowned across town and the store also carries locally designed jewelry and accessories for men and women. Redeem is the place to go for edgy international designers. But there’s much more to prime shopping in DC than clothing. The city is strong on bookstores that offer more than the latest bestsellers—Kramerbooks also contains one of the city’s best coffee shops. If you’re looking to round out your vinyl collection, head to Adams Morgan for Crooked Beat Records and Smash Records.
Best shops in Washington, DC
Not just a bookshop, but an episode of Blind Date, Kramerbooks is an oft-used venue for a first assignation. First, meet in the bookshop, then repair to the attached café (Afterwords), which serves meals and snacks throughout the day. Possibilities of romance aside, the book selection is good.
As you might guess, Politics & Prose carries a lot of both, plus a large section that is set aside for children and teenagers, and there’s a coffee shop downstairs too. The store is much more than just a thriving independent bookshop, it’s a much-loved institution and a must-stop for prominent authors who are on the reading-tour circuit. Carla Cohen, the shop’s well-known founder and co-owner, died in late 2010; two former Washington Post journalists, married couple Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, took over the following year.
There’s not that much fresh Italian produce in DC, but most of what there is can be found at Vace. The aroma of freshly rolled and baked pizzas (their specialty, in slices or pies) will draw you inside, where you’ll find freezers of ready-to-heat pastas, and coolers of soft, delicious linguines plus awesome imported parmesan and other cheeses, all across from a deli case of carpaccio, salamis, hams and, last but certainly not least, olives. And don’t overlook the wine selection.
The decorous wooden shelves of Copenhaver hold what many would call the city’s finest selection of stationery: there’s Crane paper of all descriptions, Vera Wang and Martha Stewart invitations, and insanely expensive letterpress notecards. If you’re looking for sombre double-folds for condolence letters or suitable cotton paper on which to print your dissertation, this is your place. Come December, there’s a lovely selection of holiday cards, along with proper red-bordered foldovers with lined envelopes for your Christmas letters. Staff will engrave your wedding invitations too. Service is personal and exceptional.
This family-owned Georgetown institution offers affordable designer jewelry and comfortable clothes for women, as well as sought-after Mexican imports—Day of the Dead figurines, alebrijes (colorful, fanciful animals) and antique silver. There is a wide selection of separates from the likes of Eileen Fisher, Cut Loose and White + Warren. Semi-precious-bead necklaces and earrings dominate the numerous trinket cases, culled from the collections of local and international jewelry artists. Latico, Ellington and Carla Mancini bags and versatile knit dresses round out the wardrobe offerings.
Known as one of DC’s most cutting-edge boutiques, Redeem carries pieces by international designers with a modern slant, in dark colors: black is definitely the new black here. You’ll also find a selection of independent magazines, high-end men’s shoes, and a section of the store devoted to Mutiny, a DC-based menswear accessories company that carries vintage pieces, stationery and accessories.
The glittering window displays of Tabandeh stop passers-by in the basement of the Mazza Gallerie in their tracks. This jewelry boutique features pieces from high-end designers scarcely available elsewhere in the city. Giant gray and white Tahitian pearls from Samira 13, stunning chunky gemstone pieces from Iradj Moini, and case after case of precious gems tempt the buyer of means. More-affordable pieces include those from Hollywood-popular Gas Bijoux and angular pieces from Alexi Bittar. Accessories, such as bags, belts and scarves, are also in store.
A hidden second floor gem on 14th Street, owner Andrew Nguyen is a master at effortless cool style, which shows in the vintage denim, hand-sewn bandana scarves and bolo ties in his store. Blues Hard Goods is also home to Las Gitanas pop-up boutique in the back room, for delicate vintage gowns, gloves, and hats.
The old hands here have mounted a large yet well-focused selection of voluptuary treats. The extensive wine shop is especially strong in Burgundy and Bordeaux and always has affordable specials. At the deli, the prodigious selection includes prosciutto, Serrano and pâtés, and a world of cheeses from cotswold to mimolette.
You’ll find plenty of women’s vintage in town, but Dr K is the epicenter of men’s vintage, with owner Somkiat becoming a quiet advocate for upping men’s style game in DC, one customer at a time. Open at odd hours (and often not at all), Dr K is the best-kept sartorial secret in DC. Don’t be surprised to find vintage Levi’s from the 1940s, letterman jackets, denim shirts, hats and bags that would easily sell for double in other more style-obsessed cities. Make friends with Somkiat (aka Dr K) and he might pull out something special for you from the back.
If you’re a sneaker head, this is your paradise. Carrying the very latest in skateboarding shoes and designer sneakers, Palace 5ive is where you’ll find all the latest designer collaborations and limited edition sneaks, as well as the classic Nikes, Vans, Converse and Adidas. If you’re a skater, it’s got the decks and wheels to go with the shoes.
People drop in to Pulp for an ironic-chic greeting card and find themselves picking up things they didn’t know they needed: the place has candles, masks, toys, and all manner of gag gifts for the hipsters and sophisticates who frequent the store’s lively neighborhood. The paper goods are excellent: not just occasion cards but boxes of fine-quality cotton notes, plus gorgeous wrapping paper by the sheet—and fancy ribbons to go with them. Friends having a baby? No problem. Need a present for more mature sensibilities? Pulp’s got you covered.