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Posted at 04:58 PM ET, 11/17/2011

Ann Taylor, and D.C., get a bad fashion rap

Ann Taylor may be the patron saint of fashion in Washington, D.C., as Monica Hesse summarized in her story, “A suitable muse.”

But the implications of D.C.’s fondness for the retailer may not be as bad as it seems. Yes, there is a set of professional women who use Ann Taylor suits as a uniform, an all-purpose go-to of sorts, as highlighted in Hesse’s story. But that is only one facet of Ann Taylor customers.

Let’s look first at this full-on convert, a professional who is up at the crack of down and knows she can easily pull out an Ann Taylor suit and get out of the door without much fuss.

And in the grand scheme of fashion, this may not be such a travesty. The suits generally follow a central rule of mature style: they fit. Stylists, including Stacy London, from TLC’s “What Not To Wear,” routinely stress the importance of well-fitting clothes, which is one of Ann Taylor’s strengths.

Stores offer a variety of styles, like curvy or petite, for women who don’t want to spend the money or time getting a garment custom tailored to their figure.

The second subset of Ann Taylor customer, though, is less concerned with interchangeable suit and top combos. She is the casual consumer.

This shopper purchases the staples from the national-retailer and uses them as a blank canvas. She pairs a well-made, and moderately priced, cream cardigan with animal print scarves from a local boutique. Or a black pencil skirt with a designer cape she splurged on at Bergdorf’s.

These casual clients are part of the group which is slowly, but surely, helping the emergence of D.C. street style. (Check out our street style gallery for proof.)

For this woman, Michelle Obama may be a more apropos fashion muse. Obama is famed in fashion circles for doing just that, mixing designer labels with J. Crew skirts.

Last week for a Veterans Day service in Arlington, Obama paired a simple black turtleneck and a lace-printed suit with knee-high boots and a statement necklace by Miriam Haskell. This type of look, and the mixture of high and low, has become a type of fashion signature for her as well as many other working women in the district.

There is a third type of Ann Taylor shopper, or non-shopper. The evader wouldn’t dream of crossing the threshold of the white-walled stores. For her, the vintage stores on U Street and in Adams Morgan are more appealing, as well as the independently owned boutiques that true D.C.ists know are alive and well here.

Which Ann Taylor shopper are you? Evader, casual consumer or full-on convert? Tell us in the comments below, or contribute your fashion statement to our street style gallery.

By Cara Kelly  |  04:58 PM ET, 11/17/2011

 
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