Substance and Style in NW D.C.

An Insider’s Guide to D.C. Style, a course presented by Knowledge Commons D.C. and the D.C. Public Library, is a testament to how style is becoming a significant thread in the fabric that binds the city.

 NE x NW blogger duo Elizabeth Demeo and Jessica Phippen spearheaded the class at Shaw Public Library to a small but earnestly curious classroom of students seeking help in reinventing their looks. The premise of the course went beyond superficial aesthetics, though.

“Being well dressed empirically helps success,” Phippen noted.

A 2007 study from the Human Resource Development Quarterly describes how clothing effects work habits and the subsequent career ladder – dressing appropriately essentially creates better opportunity for promotion and promotes stronger work habits. That’s why KCDC and the NE x NW team hosted the class, particularly with young professionals in mind.

“In the last four to eight years, [D.C. has become a] young person town. People are moving partly because of jobs, but the urban playground is becoming large part of D.C. life,” Phippen said.

In 2010, D.C. raked in $552,335,000 in clothing and accessory store sales, CLRSearch.com reports. The need to be properly suited for the urban playground is reflected in the gaggle of retail stores that exist and continue to pop up within the northwest quadrant. Boutiques like Current, Rue 14 and Buffalo Exchange line up on 14th street. TJ Maxx, a discount store chain, opened its doors in Georgetown earlier this month and an H&M opened in Chevy Chase at the beginning of August.

The opening and the success of these stores aren’t a coincidence – trends and, surprisingly, the Hill influence business owners in the area.

“Character and tone changes with the administration,” Demeo said. And President Obama has “contributed to the artistic and style shift” in the area.

“Laura Bush was very proper, but Michelle Obama has been instrumental in this high-low mixing style,” she continued.

Matt Lesko, partnerships and outreach organizer of KCDC, noted that the class countered the old standby joke that D.C. isn’t a fashionable city. But despite the jokes and stuffy stereotypes, Demeo and Phippen insisted that style is something that everyone can have – regardless of age, size, gender, social status, position or income.