Category Archives: Bellacara

The Perfect Shopping Saturday

I have lived in the DC area for nearly seven years. Yet, even though I am admittedly a shopaholic, it is a rare weekend that I ever venture outside of Old Town Alexandria. Why should I? A quick jaunt through the Old Town Boutique District always meets my shopping needs.

When you can find a dress straight from this season’s runway at a boutique like Treat or Hysteria and a pair of handmade leather heels from an exclusive Italian designer at Shoe Hive, the argument for getting in my car to drive 20 minutes on the beltway to a shopping mall or to head to Georgetown to fight for parking suddenly loses credulity.

I am not lazy. As the owner of a new small business, I work crazy hours and am glued to my Blackberry and laptop. My weekends are much coveted free time to hang out with my husband and relax.

For me, there’s nothing better on a Saturday morning than rolling out of bed, hopping on my Dutch-style bicycle, and heading to Old Town for the Farmer’s Market followed by an afternoon of shopping in the hidden gems of the city’s boutiques.

So, over the past two Saturdays, I formulated a mini quest to chart out the perfect shopping Saturday in the Old Town Boutique District. I had intended to do this in one day. Yet, I was faced with the difficulty of this venture by its sheer magnitude because there are 28 shops in the Old Town Boutique District.

I love the idea of shopping local, both to support the city’s economy and to explore the unknown within the familiar. I’m always amazed at the selection of unique design, impeccable craftsmanship, and sheer variety available with the shops that comprise the Old Town Boutique District.

Combining data from my two samples, here is my personal ideal shopping Saturday in the Old Town Boutique District. Since I am a fashion addict, this list is exclusively clothing and accessory-related, and covers only a small fraction of the other shops in this group. There is no purchase necessary on my Saturday agenda, as most of the fun (and hence angst for my husband) is in wandering around to discover things.

  • Begin with a leisurely coffee at Grape and Bean.
  • Get a designer consignment fix at either Mint Condition or Diva.
  • Browse finds from this season’s sample sales at Treat.
  • Wander up King St to stock up on makeup and beauty products at Bellacara, then check out lingerie and sleepwear at Bloomer’s (secret: it’s also the best place in the DC area to find Spanx).
  • Walk down to Arts Afire or Fibre Space to admire their handcrafted goods.
  • Heading back down King St, saunter down St Asaph St to look in window of Fitness on the Run in order to contemplate whether or not to trade in gym membership for a private studio.
  • While pondering fitness goals, go to Red Barn Mercantile to browse their quirky and unique home furnishings.
  • Favoring the fitness value of walking via window shopping, walk five blocks to S. Fairfax St. to check out selection of designer clothes at Hysteria.
  • Walk a quarter of a block south into a cute little brick courtyard to admire (and inevitably try on) shoes from familiar and little known designers at Shoe Hive.
  • Finally, drag tired feet a few more blocks north and then east to buy a much-deserved piece of dark chocolate or other sweet treat from The Sugar Cube.

My next quest? To tackle La Cuisine and their myriad of cooking resources.

Shopping Local for a Wedding in Italy

By Nancy Purves Pollard of La Cuisine 

My daughter Tatiana got married in Ascoli Piceno with over 100 well dressed Italian men and women in attendance.  How to dress as the prospective suocera (“mother-in-law” in Italian) with suitable chicness was easily accomplished right in my own neighborhood.    

The big day

Nancy in one of her new ensembles!

First stop: Donna Lewis  at 309 Cameron Street (703 548 2452)for a serious investment in clothing that I could wear to the wedding festivities and the rest of my life.  Chris Lewis primarily uses Belvest in Italy to do suits and dresses.  We went through books of swatches of beautiful fabrics and chose a deep blue herringbone linen and a black and gray seersucker.  He had both a shell dress and slacks made to go with two classic jackets. Plus one yellow sleeveless shirt in linen and a fancier black silk one. I wore these constantly throughout the two week trip.

Next stop:  The Shoe Hive.  I was so worried about losing luggage that I picked up a dandy gray and black canvas and leather bag by Sequoia at Shoe Hive, in which I stuffed some wedding clothes, just in case… Once I had the outfits squared away,  the rest of me needed to be fitted at The Full Cup.  After my uplifting experience, those too got packed in my anxiety bag.

Having been told by the sister of the bride that she did not want to see her mother running down the hotel in bare feet and tee shirt at night, I picked up a cool night shirt and Patricia Green  slippers along with the best panty hose I have ever owned (they never once had runs). 

The shoes!Earlier at The Shoe Hive,  I had gotten some cool dark gray wedges which also went into my anxiety bag.  Then I went to Hysteria next door, and picked up a blue patent leather clutch for the Big Day.  All the better to be prepared to sit down in a café for an aperitivo after all the stress.   Finally, a quick trip to Bellacara for a Bliss and Frederic Fekkai  fix, plus some cool  Sue Devitt make up including some very racy eye shadow. 

I didn’t lose my luggage, didn’t need  to shop in the duty-free store at the Charles DeGaulle Holding Tank, the wedding day was  gorgeous, and the mother-of-the-bride was molta chic!

Manliness – Available Locally

By Joe Egerton, Arts Afire

I love living in Alexandria and shopping in Old Town because it is so international here.  For instance, I like a line of fragrances from Italy “Santa Maria Novella”, the oldest farmacia in Italy.  They make a scent “verbena” that is great for summer. However, it’s really hard to find. There’s a shop in Tysons Galleria that carries the product, but they seldom have this particular scent that I like.  Then, I can order it from a company in NYC spending about 30 mins. online and paying $12 to have it shipped in addition to the $110 for the product.  Just yesterday, I stopped at Bellacara and asked if they carried anyting with “verbena” in it.  Within minutes I was given the choice of a British product “Fresh” and I was able to achieve my desire.  I purchased a great scent for $75.00 (no shipping and spending only 5 minutes of my time).  You know we fellas don’t like to spend the day finding something. In and out, that’s the way we shop. Bellacara has an impressive stock of quality fragrances, more than you can find at any of the big boxes and they are so accommodating and knowledgeable.

I wonder how many men know about all the great manly fragrances and other products Bellacara carries.  If a man bothers to look good, he also wants to smell good. This is definitely a store more men should know about.

A Successful First Week of Shopping Local

Thursday and Friday were the first days that I truly “redirected” dollars I might have spent somewhere else to shopping local.  In both cases, it was a matter of convenience that would have led me to the old standby, Target.  However, I realized that, if I planned my errands, it would actually be easier to go to a local store and so I took advantage. 

BellacaraThursday, I was doing food pickups for the Bubbles and Bluegrass event and was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have a lipstick to wear that night (I usually just wear lip balm or, at best, lip gloss).  It occurred to me that Bellacara was at the other end of the block from Nickells and Scheffler (where I was picking up an AMAZING orzo, apricot, and pistachio salad that they donated to the event), so I popped in for a quick look.  Sure enough, the lady behind the counter was more than happy to offer me input as to what looked best AND let me try them on so I could be sure.  You definitely cannot try on lipstick at Target!  I ended up with two, of course- one perfect for the day and one darker and more for evening.

Friday, I was in a rush to find a gift for my nephew’s fifth birthday the following day.  I had to go to the bank anyway, so I continued down Prince St. planning on stopping in to Why Not?.  I’m sure I would have found something wonderful there but, as I parked on the corner of Prince and S. Royal St., I found myself staring in to the window of The Whistle Stop at a Star Wars themed Lego set.  Perfect since his entire party was Star Wars themed!  My kids and I went in and came out with the Legos, a Duncan Imperial yo-yo (old school and more for my brother than my nephew but I knew he’d have fun teaching him), and a cool monster truck my daughter insisted her cousin would love.  Needless to say, he loved it all.

Shop Local Alexandria Mission Week One- Accomplished.  Obi-Wan Kenobi would be proud!