Gossip Girl

Looking for affordable fall fashions that no one else carries? Rumor has it Gossip on 23rd is your go-to source.

Katherine Glorioso Dress really wants to get her hands on you. “I have a lot of fun when I get to style someone!” beams the owner of Gossip on 23rd, a completely unstuffy women’s clothing and accessory boutique just two blocks off Crystal City’s main drag. “When someone comes in looking for help and I get to dress them from head to toe, I thank them.”

Dress (yep, that’s her real name) is prepared for all kinds of requests: For the past five years, the owner of this happy little shop has sought to make breezy, California-beach style accessible to customers of all stripes, from high school girls prepping for prom and party girls who want to show up in something no one else will be wearing, to professional women weary of the D.C.-politico uniform and those looking to revive a flatlining wardrobe.

A former cocktail waitress-turned-mortgage banker, Dress took the leap into retail after the housing market bottomed out in 2007. With the support of a friend who owned a boutique in Los Angeles (called Gossip on Melrose), she decided to open a sister store in the D.C. area. She stocked up on much of the same merchandise as her L.A. counterpart and tested the waters by selling clothes through trunk shows—and, for a few Sundays, at a booth at Eastern Market.

Buoyed by the swift response to her wares, she decided to stake out a brick-and-mortar location and soon found a 300-square-foot storefront on 23rd Street in Aurora Highlands. In spring 2011, she expanded to take over the space next door, nearly tripling her original size. (She recently expanded yet again with the launch of “Thread Truck,” a mini Gossip on wheels that’s  stocked with merch and available to groups of 10 or more for mobile fashion parties. Instead of a trunk show, it’s a truck show. Get it?)

Today, her three-room shop is packed with hats and shoes, jackets and undergarments, jeans and formal wear, scarves and jewelry. There are a few stacks of graphic tees for guys, and a wall filled with quirky, eye-catching gifts and coffee-table books.

Clothing here is youthful; jewelry is trendy and affordable. Dress makes sure that nothing in the store costs more than $100, and most items don’t even come close. Nearly everything is designed and/or made in California. You might recognize some of the labels—Ya, Ezra, Everly, Glam—but to Dress, it’s more important that you dig the vibe.

“I’m not a name-brand girl,” she attests. “I just want something cool and different.” That said, she aims to populate her racks with fashions you won’t find anywhere else. If she finds out that another store in the area is carrying the same stuff, she stops stocking it.

Dress also might be the happiest person I’ve ever met. It’s abundantly clear that she loves her job, as well as her clientele. “Over the past five years I’ve figured out what my customers like,” she says. “When I go to California to buy for the shop, sometimes I see something and think, Oh, there’s a Gina top, or There’s a Resa dress.”

When she talks about spending time with her three sisters at her parents’ home in Great Falls, her dad’s cooking, or how she met her husband, David, she can’t stop smiling. During our interview, she opens the door for a delivery man and proclaims, “This is the greatest UPS man in the world!”

But when it comes to outfitting her patrons, she takes her job seriously—right down to their unmentionables. “If you have an undergarment situation, we probably have the cure,” Dress says, pointing to a stash of backless bras and high-waisted underwear that she’s affectionately dubbed “the muffin stopper.”

Because truly, this proprietor wants you feeling as good as you look when you leave her store.

“I have a rule here: You love it or you leave it,” Dress says. “If you buy it and you don’t love it it’s just going to sit in your closet, so why not just let it sit here with me?”

Fall Fashion Tips

  • A good blazer—or vest—can be a girl’s best friend. Throw one on over an ethnic-print maxi dress, pair it with a scarf, swap your sandals for boots, and transform a summer staple into an outfit you can wear through pumpkin-picking season.
  • A skinny gold belt over anything is hot right now.
  • If you can rock a romper, go for it; it’s not an age thing. If you don’t have the legs for it, try a jumpsuit instead.
  • If you can fit your hand between your waist and the waistband of your jeans, go down a size.
  • On skirt length, “I abide by the old Catholic school rule,” says Dress, meaning your hemline should be no shorter than where your fingertips hit your thighs when your arms are straight down. If not, try some leggings underneath.
  • Want to try the crop top trend but are shy about baring your midriff? Layer it over a dress or an extra-long tank top.
  • “There’s no reason we need to see your bra straps,” Dress smiles. To that end, she stocks adhesive bras, fashion tape and bra-strap converters that can help you maintain your modesty.

Gossip on 23rd: 566 23rd St. South, Arlington, VA 22202, 703-920-1498, www.gossipon23rd.com

Know someone who could use a good wardrobe makeover? Send an email to style columnist Adrienne Wichard-Edds at lawichard@yahoo.com.

Categories: Style