September 20th, 2014

Dressing DC on TV

Washington, DC fashion looks one way in person (pretty sharp, we think) and another way on the fictional small screen. Think Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Nancy Reagan- red dresses on “Veep” (take notes, Hillary!) and “Scandal”’s Kerry Washington rocking sharp trenches and sharper suits as a political fixer. But how do costume designers figure out how to dress cap-city based characters in a post “West Wing” world?

Last night, the Smithsonian Resident Associates hosted a chat about just that with costume designers from two locally set hits: Netflix’s dark political thriller, “House of Cards” and FX’s 1980s spy-vs.-spy drama “The Americans.” We were on the scene for the conversation moderated by Washingtonian fashion editor Kate Bennett , and picked up clues on dressing to look powerful and, ironically, how not too stand out too much in a still-conservative town.
robin 4
Why does “HOC” star Robin Wright always sport oh-so-fitted dresses and menswear-ish shirts as she’s portraying Claire Underwood, wife of political star (and sneak) Francis Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey? Tom Broecker, costume designer for Season One of the show, says her Prada and Gucci dresses, “are almost like suits of armor, yet they’ve got a femme-fatale sexiness,” — in part due to his staffs’ retailoring them to fit Wright like a chic second skin. She’s always in heels (usually Louboutins ), too, he says. “It’s something about the way heels give you a different posture, and a character like Claire wears them to go toe-to-toe with men,” noting that women characters in background shots are often wearing flats. “They’re the ones doing the work,” Broecker laughs.


Wright’s better, er, more scheming half, Spacey, gets his conservative-yet-sharp style from Saville-row tailored suits that Broecker and his staff meticulously reassemble for a high-end look. “I wanted to show that Francis is at a higher level — like John Boehner or John Kerry — and that he’s into expensive suits,” says Broecker. And, for anyone who’s ever caught an Iowa stump speech (think Obama with those rolled up shirtsleeves ), Francis has a separate, more-folksy wardrobe from when he jets back to his home state of South Carolina to ply constituents.


FX’s Americans depicts a very different D.C. and very different characters: Set in the early 1980s, the spy drama focuses on two deeply imbedded, married Russian KGB agents, played by Keri Russell and hunky Matthew Rhys. “Their looks are riffs on classic late 1970s sportswear — trench coats, cashmere, boots— more than things from the mid 1980s,” says costume designer Jenny Gering, who uses mostly vintage pieces to give the show an authentic feel. “Keri spent most of Season One in my mom’s old knee boots!”


Still, while she plays a spy (disguised as a suburban mom and travel agent), Russell also exudes authority via what she has on. “She’s strong and confident, not overtly feminine and girly,” says Gering. “She loves a silk blouse that’s unbuttoned a bit too far and jeans that are a little too tight. That’s her armor.”

The takeaway — besides a lively discussion (and the scoop that Kevin Spacey sometimes wears a tie he got from Bill Clinton): Proper tailoring and classic pieces  never go out of style on-screen or off.

Oh, and we’d all like to be able to rock heels and a sheath like Robin Wright.

Jenn Barger is a DC Style Factory stylist with 13 years’ experience working as a fashion  journalist in the nation’s capitol. Her DC Style Factory clients include professional Washingtonians looking to add unusual, funky pieces to their classic DC wardrobes. She specializes in vintage shopping and is an expert in combining pieces with history with new, modern looks. Email to work with Jenn!

September 19th, 2014

Goodwill Struts Its Stuff

Last night, DC Style Factory had the pleasure of attending Goodwill’s annual Fashion of Goodwill  Runway Show and Gala. This year’s “Let’s Get to Work” event featured a runway full of drool-worthy items available for auction on Ebay following the show.
“We have a much larger pop-up shop this year and people will rave about what they see on the runway,” said Karen Wathen, blogger for DC Goodwill Fashionista, which provides “savvy and entertaining” insight on vintage and contemporary style with a unique focus on budget-conscious, eco-friendly fashion.
Pre-show, we perused a large pop-up shop of budget-friendly vintage finds and hung with two our favorite style bloggers, the two Alisons of Wardrobe Oxgyen and DC Celine. N’jeri scored a red bowler hat for $4 (can’t wait to see how she styles this statement piece!) and missed the boat on this faux fur beauty (she was still kicking herself this morning).
The event’s glitz and glam had plenty of heart to boot. Goodwill of Greater Washington CEO Catherine Meloy spoke about this year event theme, “Let’s Get To Work,” and how it fully encompasses the mission of the organization. Following her speech, graduates of the Goodwill and Marriott Marquis Training Program — now employed by Marriott Marquis – surrounded Meloy and walked the runway into the crowd of attendees. You could not NOT be moved by what the event was really about .

Catherine Meloy, CEO of Goodwill of Greater Washington, talks about the partnership with Marriott Marquis that has employed District residents following a job training program.

And then… the runway show. Initially I was a little confused by the parade of models strutting the runway in french maid, cowboy, police, etc. outfits (the Let’s Get to Work theme literally). The music and energy of the show and models was so infectious, though, I found myself bopping in my seat and just getting into the fun of it all. Soon, models started emerging in looks styled from Goodwill finds. And boy were they some true finds. We are not accustomed to associating Goodwill with fashion, but this event definitely changed our minds.
After coming last year I said I had to come this year because the fashion show gives you a new perspective on what you see from Goodwill,” said Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen.
We couldn’t agree more and we look forward to next year’s event!

Pop-up shop!


The lovely Karen Wathen, DC Goodwill Fashionista blogger. in the dress readers selected.


These two! Alison from Wardrobe Oxgyen and Alison from DC Celine.


Fierce in animal print.




One of my personal favorite looks of the evening.


Classic camel coat.


Just. Wow.


The ’90s are back with a vengeance.


Thank you Goodwill for a great show and memorable evening!

September 16th, 2014

What Our Stylists Want this Fall

I do an “I want” shopping list each season, but this time I decided to hand the reigns over to DC Style Factory’s two new stylists, N’jeri and Jenn. The three of us  like many of the same designers, trends and even articles of clothing, but wear them in such different ways. Funny how that personal style thing works, eh?


N’jeri has worked in front of and behind the camera both as a model and stylist for photoshoots and music videos. Her DC Style Factory clients include young professionals transitioning from college to the workforce, teens, tweens and more. Her personal style is an eclectic mix of bohemian/earthy with an urban edge.

This season, she is looking for…


1. A floppy fedora.

Screenshot 2014-09-12 17.08.02

The great thing about a floppy fedora is that it feel effortless. There is something very  “I threw this on and look how chic I am” feel about the hat’s shape, N’jeri explains. As the weather cools, she plans to wear it with a flowing print midi dress with boots or with a blazer/tee/denim combo.

“From simple to statement, I plan to wear my fedora in every way possible this fall/winter.”

2. An oversize shearling jacket.

Screenshot 2014-09-12 17.16.48

“Usually when you think of a leather jacket, you think bada$#. Someone who is effortlessly cool. I love the classic biker jacket, but the shearling adds a luxe feel and the oversize fit makes it tomboyish.” This Acne one runs $2,000, but for a more budget-friendly version, try this one one Piperlime.

3. Dark skinny jeans.

Screenshot 2014-09-15 19.15.04

This has been a DC Style Factory staple for season after season. This year we have seen denim and trouser silhouettes relax (i.e. boyfriend jeans) and Bloomberg has the fashion industry betting on the death of the skinny jean. Still…nothing tucks into boots like skinny jeans.

“I am all about the newer, more relaxed silhouettes for pants, but I still need my skinnies with boots and chunky sweaters once the cold hits.”


4. Grey ankle boots.

Screenshot 2014-09-15 19.13.37 (1)

Ankle boots have also become an essential for fall/winter. This year, instead of black or brown, N’jeri is looking for a charcoal pair (Topshop, $135) to mix up her look.


5. Anything and everything ’70s-inspired.

diana ross

Here at DC Style Factory we always talk about inspiration — being inspired by a movie, a particular decade, etc.  “Everything in this picture inspires me. From her unique head wrap to her ribbed turtleneck and chunky earrings. After seeing so many chunky oversized sweaters on the runway, I plan to take this picture and translate it into my own style by wearing oversized chunky turtleneck sweaters with high-waist pleated trousers.”

“I am  also dying to go thrifting and stock up on vintage chunky earrings!” 


Jenn has a wealth of style knowledge and experience working as a fashion and travel journalist in the nation’s capitol for the last 13 years. Her DC Style Factory clients include professional Washingtonians looking to add unusual, funky pieces to their classic DC wardrobes. She  specializes in vintage shopping and is an expert in combining pieces with history with new, modern looks.

This season she is coveting….

1. A graphic tunic

Screenshot 2014-09-12 19.48.29

Dresses over pants are big this season, but it may not be for everyone. So an alternative way to get a similar look/silhouette is to do a tunic over pants. We love the print and neck detail on this  Zara tunic. It has a fun, cool throwback feel and is still utterly wearable for work and play.

2. Statement dresses for the office.


Screenshot 2014-09-12 16.58.13

Jenn’s clients are professional Washingtonians who need to present themselves in a polished manner. Jenn is always looking for ways to achieve that polish while playing with silhouette and pattern. Enter this Meg bell-sleeved dress.

“Not only is dress is  eye-catching, with such a rich, Missoni-ish print, but it is also comfortable. I’d wear it with pumps in September, then pair it with tights and boots when the weather gets chillier.”

3. A biker jacket with a twist.

Screenshot 2014-09-12 19.52.16 (1)
The black-white trend stays strong this fall. Jenn loves the interplay of the clean black and white with the  rock-and-roll feel of this Rag & Bone jacket. Add in the oversize element, and the moto style gets a new twist this season. Edgy AND grown up.


4. Everyday statement necklace.

Screenshot 2014-09-12 16.54.58

Statement necklaces were everywhere for many seasons. It’s nice to have pieces that  are simple and easy enough for everyday wear. Jenn has her eye on this upcycled necklace  from Proper Topper. “I like the boho cool of this necklace — it’s like a few charms you might throw on a chain yourself.” 


5. Color pointy-toe flats.


Screenshot 2014-09-12 17.01.32Who doesn’t love a cute AND comfortable shoe? “I’m thinking of these French Sole shoes  as my ruby slippers for fall. And much like a pair that’s really red, these burgundy beauties will go with so much — a pop of color under skinny jeans, a very French accent with a black dress.”

N’jeri and Jenn are available this fall for DC Style Factory wardrobe appointments. Please email  today to schedule a free phone consult with one of our new stylists!


September 8th, 2014

The Best Styles You’ve Ever Screened?

When we meet a new client, one of the first questions we ask is “Is there a style icon, movie, celebrity etc. you gravitate toward?” It helps get the personal style conversation started to see who and what resonates with that individual. Here, Jenn Barger highlights some of the modern and throwback influences the big and small screens have had on personal style and asks…have movies, television and its characters ever influenced your own personal style?

The first time I caught an episode of “Gossip Girl,” I barely registered the lines spoken by the show’s Upper East Side (and Brooklyn) teenagers and their attractive middle-aged parents. It was the clothes that kept me riveted— the slightly flashy, entirely elegant mini skirts and slouchy tops on Blake Lively’s Serena, the age appropriate-yet-sexy Hugo Boss and Tory Burch sheaths sported by her mother Lily, played by 40-something hottie Kelly Rutherford. Downloading episodes each week, I’d find myself aghast at the bad plot twists (threesomes! royal suitors who turned out to be phonies!) but hyped up to buy a blouse I’d see on Rutherford or to mix items in my wardrobe up in a boho way like Serena.


Any stylista who has ever swooned over the bias-cut gowns in a 1930s screwball comedy or rushed out to buy an Olivia Pope-esque sheath dress after an episode of “Scandal” knows that what characters wear on the big (and small) screens influence how we dress. “Watching a movie (or a television show) means that you are investing a significant amount of time looking at what is presented before you,” says Rebecca C. Tuite, a New York City-based fashion historian and writer who recently released the book “Seven Sisters Style” ($25, Rizzoli). “Perhaps more than in any other real-life situation, a film or television show encourages a viewer to engage with and watch more closely any number of outfits or garments.”


Still, this doesn’t mean you should hunker down with downloads of “Sex and the City” or “Clueless” and take copious notes on the outfits. “To be inspired by movies and fictional characters is one thing, but you want to make your look modern and today,” says DC Style Factory owner Rosana Vollmerhausen. “You need to add elements that are current.” This means “yes” to rocking a floor-sweeping camel coat à la Faye Dunaway in “Bonnie and Clyde” but “no” to pulling it on over a Depression-era dress. Try it over jeans and a sweatshirt instead, she suggests.

And choose your screen sirens wisely, unless you’re into renaissance festivals or want to give off a Halloween-night vibe. “There’s a risk of looking like a caricature,” says local fashion blogger Alison Santighian of DC Celine. “More so if you’re deeper into Nova on ‘Star Blazers’ than Carrie on ‘Homeland’ — Claire Danes’ wardrobe on that show is so covetable. I’d wear every single piece.”

Many times, your fave sitcom or rom-com might exert a subtler influence on how your style develops or changes. Me, I cop to getting my love of bright colors and blazers from watching too much “Designing Women” in high school — though I’d never wear those funny little fitted suits. Santighian loved the sultry-sophisticated pencil skirts and drapey dresses Rene Russo wore to seduce Pierce Brosnan in 1999’s “The Thomas Crowne Affair.


Vollmerhausen dug menswear-obsessed characters like Lisa Bonet in “The Cosby Show” and Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall.” “They didn’t wear body-conscious, overtly sexy clothing, but they were still undeniably sexy,” she says. Vollmerhausen’s dandyish 1970s and 1980s sirens influenced one of her top high-school outfits: Tapered, slouchy pants with her dad’s college-professor-like tweed blazer. “I felt so like me in that outfit,” she recalls. “Now, I’m not sure how it looked, but I remember really feeling good I had put it together.”


The sets and props of a movie or show can also spark style changes — as in how Baz Luhrmann’s glam spin on “The Great Gatsby” had me snapping up vintage cocktail shakers and big flower arrangements for parties, hoping Leonardo Dicaprio might drop by. “A recent example of a movie that influenced me was ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’,” says Tuite. “Every frame was so rich in colors, textures and beautiful objects. While I don’t want to wear the uniforms of a hotel porter, I noticed how those rich jewel tones look so beautiful together.”

Just the kind of wardrobe — and life — inspiration I tune in for.

grand budhapest

Post by Jenn Barger (, @dcjnell).

August 18th, 2014

Inside DC Style Factory: A Wider Circle

Where does the clothing go after a closet audit?

So we’ve gone through your entire wardrobe and pulled out items that don’t fit or no longer work for you. We take them away in bags and you are left feeling lighter…freer. Where  exactly do we bring those bags filled with clothing, shoes, accessories, etc.?

Right here:



This is the professional arm of A Wider Circle — a nonprofit organization in Silver Spring, Md.  with a  “mission of helping children and adults lift themselves out of poverty.” The organization addresses the “whole person” with programs that not only meet people’s tangible needs, but also what founder, Dr. Mark Bergel, calls “inner needs.”

One way A Wider Circle addresses these “inner needs” is through educational programming for job preparedness that includes resume-writing, interview skills, career path identification, among other topics. Job coaches are provided to every participant. Access to computers for resume-writing and job searching is also provided.

A Wider Circle’s Center for Professional Development also includes a well-stocked showroom of professional attire and accessories, which is where DC Style Factory donates clients’ clothing.

My daughter and I toured the showroom last month nd I was impressed with the wide array of clothing, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and impeccably organized floor.  It was such an wonderful moment seeing all  those racks of clothing and knowing that pieces my clients no longer can use are going to people who need the right look to make those strides in life we all want.

My daughter even picked out her favorite dress:


I want to thank all my clients for their generosity. That suit that no longer fits? Well, it may just be getting someone their dream job.

This article is part of the Inside DC Style Factory series,  highlighting how we work and some of our most popular services.