Thursday, February 28, 2008

In the first of our occasional forays into boutique hopping, Shopper heads to Old Town Alexandria, one of our favorite districts, where plucky independent retailers coexist with vintage buildings and plentiful antique shops that conjure the area's merchant-class past.

Along King Street, our first stop is Chinoiserie, with its artfully edited collection of vintage furniture and Asian-inspired accents. Mixed in were a couple of sweet, unexpected gift ideas for kids: Makie's cotton pillows with colorful patterns and a small bag for bookish tots.

A couple of blocks east is Bellacara, an upscale apothecary for men and women. Inside, the smell is divine, thanks to fragrant soy candles, all manner of silky, youth-perpetuating potions and Mor's shea butter soaps. Speaking of smelling yummy, Susanne Lang's box of six eaux de parfum are meant to be layered on for a little aural variety. Tr¿s fab!

Next up: the Shoe Hive, a paradise for trendy, well-heeled aficionados who live for brands like Belle by Sigerson Morrison and Butter. Bettye Muller's patent leather flats, available in day-glo orange or green, have a swinging '60s silver heel and clear buckle -- perfect, once the weather breaks, for that stroll to the Metro.

After splurging on shoes, hoof it over to Hysteria, the Shoe Hive's sister shop. It's a mecca for young trendies seeking to stock their wardrobes with swank lines like Milly and L.A.M.B. Brimming with of-the-moment accessories at reasonable prices, Hysteria has a little something for every age, including a gold necklace with turquoise "good fortune" beads by local jewelry designer Mona Assemi, and Moyna's cream linen clutch purse with black beading.

-- Jill Hudson Neal

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