If you live in Washington, D.C. or visit frequently, you could be invited, at least once, to a fancy cocktail party, a black-tie affair, or even something more formal. Here’s the bottom line; just because a career girl or guy wants to look like a million dollars doesn’t mean he or she has the money to pay for it. D.C. can be very expensive! So how and where do smart sartorialists spend their hard-earned money? They maximize their buying power at well-stocked vintage and thrift stores that only make it look like they spent a fortune.
And when they want to spruce up their pad, these same shoppers make the most of design-on-a-dime strategies, whether they’re into shabby chic or Ikea minimalist. Every thrift store or used furniture mart could have a provincial dresser or glam sofa that’s a diamond in the rough. Here is a list of some of the best places in the city to help you look good and make your digs look good too.
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Amalgamated is a vintage clothing store that supplies fashionistas and stars of the stage and screen | Courtesy of Xang Photography for Amalgamated
For those who collect it, wear it, and pine for it, the hunt for vintage clothing is more than just clothes shopping; it’s a lifestyle quest. If you are a discerning shopper that only buys the best, finding the crème de la crème of mint condition vintage jewelry, shoes, accessories, denim, and clothing for both men and women is almost impossible. Almost. In Arlington, Virginia there is a treasure trove, unknown to the public, which has gorgeous pre-1950s clothing. It’s called Amalgamated Costume and Design Studio. A professional costuming company, Amalgamated rents high-end, period costumes to television, Broadway, and film productions but opens their doors on the weekend to sell select items to the general public. Once you see the quality of their vintage selections you will see why Amalgamated is well regarded within the costuming industry. Hours: Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
You know a thrift store has street cred when expensive interior decorators fight for first dibs on furniture with shabby chic wannabes and students looking for dorm room design accents. Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot has been around for more than 20 years and makes decorating fun and funky with the store’s wide selection of colorful housewares, decorating accessories, lighting, and gently used furniture. Vignettes of mid-century sofas and accent tables vie for attention among whimsical painted chairs and glass ashtrays, but be careful as Miss Pixie’s selection can turn even casual shoppers into fanatics. Hours: Open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
With high rents and a high cost of living, it isn’t easy to furnish an apartment with flair. Nothing is more depressing than milk crate bookshelves and an old sofa you found on the sidewalk. Mom N Pop Antiques in Petworth has the affordable furniture and home accessories you need to be a design diva, and their vinyl collection helps set the mood with a hip 60s vibe. Hours: Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Monday–Wednesday, closed; Thursday–Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Retail with a cause or conscience is starting to become mainstream now, but Martha’s Table is a D.C. non-profit that has been doing it for years at their thrift store called Martha’s Outfitters. For 35 years, Martha’s Table has been providing D.C. residents in need with “healthy food, affordable clothing, and quality education,” and the sales revenues from the thrift store help support a program called Martha’s Outlet. The Martha’s Outlet program provides free, quality essentials, like clothing and shoes for men, women, and children, housewares, linens, and furniture to people who cannot pay. Now, in addition to the Northwest D.C. location, they have added a second Martha’s Outfitters in Southwest D.C. in Anacostia. The selection at both Martha’s Outfitters is always clean, in good condition, and changes regularly. Regular customers go because they know they can often find stylish, brand name, and well-cared-for vintage goods priced at or below $20, with some prices going as low as $3 and $5. Hours: Sunday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, closed Dupont Circle, the K Street Corridor, and Georgetown are favorite haunts for restaurants and high-end boutiques, but to shop in style for your style, the best place to go is Secondi on Connecticut Avenue. This consignment store stocks couture and everyday designer wear and helps everyone from underpaid Hill staffers on a budget to high-paid executives look like fashion mavens. Inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap, and the women’s clothes, shoes, jewelry, and accessories at Secondi are shown the same attention and care as any Fifth Avenue store. Ladies who buy ready-to-wear or Vera Wang all go home excited with their new frocks; they’re Secondi to none. Hours: Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday & Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesday–Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.