CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Candace Bushnell and Kate Bennett at the book party for the author’s Summer and the City; Bennett with NBC’s Betsy Fischer and Politico’s Mike Allen; Rachel Roy at her showroom
A little more than a year ago, when I arrived back in Washington after a decade away, I started hearing it. That pesky tagline that often rears its head when I talk to people about Capitol File and our commitment to highlighting all of the fabulous and fashionable aspects of this terrific city and its surrounding burgs. Here it goes (I bet you have heard it, too): “Washington isn’t stylish.”
This may come as no surprise, but I beg to differ.
There isn’t a day that goes by when I fail to see a chic Washingtonian. Yes, I am the one at the hair salon ogling Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her polished ensembles; I get the stink eye from her security detail, but I swear I am discreet. Politics aside, she knows her way around a power suit, no matter the palette. Or how about CBS News’s fresh catch, Norah O’Donnell? For our photo shoot, she showed up with three outfits, each more stylish than the last (she noted proudly that they were off-the-rack finds from previous seasons). I marvel at the society dames of Washington; with gowns by the truckload, there is nary a one that has a “miss” moment.
Conservative, some may be, but women like Susanna Quinn never repeat a body-hugging Valentino or plunging Versace, most of which are hand-selected for her by her uber-lobbyist husband, Jack. (Says Susanna, “No doubt he would rather that I spend money on Apple stock and products than couture but I can’t wear an iPad to the Meridian Ball.” True that.) I also love to walk through the streets of Georgetown, noting the outfits of men and women who have perfected the ultimate personification of Washington, and where traditional reigns supreme—but often with a twist. There is nothing wrong with preppy plaids or collared shirts; we have learned to embrace the standard-bearer, and we have done it well. There is something to be said for how far we have come as a stylish city, shedding misguided labels like “fuddy-duddy,” “buttoned-up” and “boring” in the process.
During an interview for this issue, fashion designer Rachel Roy, a favorite of First Lady Michelle Obama, told me her aesthetic would not be what it is today if it hadn’t been for the summers of her youth spent in the District. Her words struck a chord with me, and likely will for the great many of us who deal with the bad rap we face on fashion’s front lines. Says Roy: “You get a certain sensibility in Washington; people dress up, there’s sophistication, there’s formality, there’s tradition. And that’s a beautiful thing.” Indeed it is.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIC RYAN ANDERSON (ROY); PAUL MORIG/RESIDENCES ON THE AVENUE (BUSHNELL); COURTESY OF GRETEL TRUONG/HADDAD MEDIA (FISCHER)
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.