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Taking a Stiletto To D.C.'s Drab Image

Charrisse Jordan, wife of the Wizards' head coach, says she has 200 pairs of shoes  --  at her Maryland house alone.
Charrisse Jordan, wife of the Wizards' head coach, says she has 200 pairs of shoes -- at her Maryland house alone. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Kira Lieberman has more pairs of shoes than there are days in the year.

She knows this because she, a 29-year-old political consultant, and her husband are moving out of their Georgetown rowhouse, and she counted them all. She has 371 pairs of shoes bearing labels such as Chanel, Prada and Chloe, plus 24 pairs of boots.

"Actually, 25," she said recently, interrupting herself. "I just bought a pair today."

The newest addition to her collection is a pair of black Chanel booties with the logo in silver. Price tag, $1,060.

"Yes," she said, "I am a shoe addict."

Lieberman is part of a burgeoning cadre of Washington area fashionistas who are squashing the region's stodgy reputation under their four-inch stilettos. Christian Louboutin platform slingbacks are showing up at trendy restaurants such as Zengo. Manolo Blahniks are clicking on the marble floors of staid government buildings. And Gucci is even making a cameo in school hallways.

Ever since Carrie Bradshaw swept into popular culture in the HBO series "Sex and the City," high-end designer shoes have come to symbolize all that is fabulous -- and all, some could argue, that is not Washington. The city is perhaps better known for the infamous sneakers-and-stockings look. Sensible pumps are big sellers.

But strong local incomes have turned the area into a breeding ground for high-end retailers. Maryland and Virginia were among the top 10 states by median household income last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median income across the region was $74,708, compared with the national median of $46,242. Slowly, the city's signature style is changing. And so, too, are its shoes.

Neiman Marcus has opened its new Cusp store in Tysons Corner Center, stocked with edgy fashions and shoes. The Collection at Chevy Chase, which had its grand opening this spring, boasts big-time fashion names such as Dior and Louis Vuitton, as well as the region's first Jimmy Choo. Intermix in Georgetown opened last year, selling Chloe footwear with price tags well into the thousands of dollars.

"The shoes and bags flew out the first week we opened," accounting for about 20 percent of sales at the apparel retailer, said Crystal Torchio, Intermix district manager. "People were just waiting for it."

Pamela Burns, a local personal shopper whose clients range from chief executives to housewives, said she has noticed a change in the level of merchandise carried in department stores, as well. Higher-end names such as Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada have become more common.

"$200 shoes were expensive before," she said. Now, "$500 shoes and boots are just blowing out of the stores."

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