Washington Style Shifts Street by Street

Washington is a city of international taste, hosting people from a variety of states, cultures, and nations. Even within the city, where cultures commingle, the neighborhoods reflect their own fashions.

“D.C. definitely has its own sense of style. It’s just not a good one,” says Laura Washington, a Howard University student from Philadelphia.

Chunky braids. Red lips. Neon colors. Nike boots. Northface coats. Is this style or a boisterous mix of fashion trends past?

“I think it’s a cry for help,” says Andre Hinds, 22, a resident of Takoma Park, Md. “Not only do they dress like that, but they all act the same too! And they’re bad. It’s not style at all. I think it’s really tacky.”

Actually, those style cues are staples in the mash-up that is Washington style. Take a trip on the Metro or a stroll in Chinatown and it’s easy to see that these styles have evolved beyond a seasonal fashion movement, but seem to have become a lifestyle manifest in fabric.

A few Metro stops away at McPherson Square there’s an entirely different scene. In the heart of downtown Washington are the power players. During the morning hustle and bustle or lunch hours, style is somewhat like a mullet; business on top and a party—or a basketball game—on the bottom.

“High heels are great and look professional, but every woman knows that they’re not the most comfortable shoes,” says Chevy Chase Bank employee Jessica Gassaway, 26. “They’re fine when I’m sitting at my desk, but to power walk to my favorite lunch spot because I only have 30 minutes–heels are not ideal. So I always bring my sneakers.”

High heels are more about desire than necessity in the Friendship Heights vicinity. Chevy Chase is home to some of Washington’s most high-end stores including Saks, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany’s. Anyone looking to go on a shopping spree in this area better bring a slew of credit cards. Only the label-savvy need tread. Otherwise, it may be a little too much couture to take in.

One person who can afford to buy this stuff, Elizabeth Vinson, a resident of Chevy Chase, was outfitted in a classic navy blue Ralph Lauren Black Label blazer and white denim shorts. She was, in her words, “preppy chic.”

“I’m such a prep, it’s not even funny,” Vinson, 24, says. “But really, it’s not just about the label, it’s about quality, too. You get what you pay for.”

While Friendship Heights could be the Joneses everyone is trying to keep up with, other communities are “on the come up” and bringing in new residents. Columbia Heights is one of those areas. Though it has undergone a lot of changes in the past few years, the obvious dominant culture in the area is Hispanic.

“A lot of us work hard so denim and a T-shirt is typically our clothing of choice. It’s comfortable,” says Wesley Herrera, 28, who lives in Columbia Heights. “I know I’m not really concerned with how I look. My main concern is going to work and making money.”

Where do the most stylish people in Washington reside? It’s hard to tell. But one thing is for certain, Washington has plenty of style.