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(James M. Thresher - For The Washington Post)
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Frederick's boutiques may be clustered on historic Market Street, where brick- and scroll-work evoke the town's Civil War past, but its fashion sense is quite contemporary. April Reardon, owner of the girly punk Velvet Lounge (203 N. Market), says the town has made an obvious shift in the past five years toward a younger, hipper crowd -- as witness the WeSC body-skimming gray silk dress and purple Gentle Fawn cropped coat in her shop that would look equally at home on U Street.

The change reflects Frederick's proximity to the booming Rockville hi-tech industry and its own claim to green-tech fame as headquarters for BP Solar. A younger generation of entrepreneurs such as Reardon is trying to make downtown an entertainment destination.

Wine bars, art galleries and specialty shops have sprung up amid the old rowhouses and pubs, and many of them stay open later now that the sidewalks no longer roll up at 5 p.m. Some of the bars are see-and-be-seen places, where looking chic is half the point.

Sky's the Limit (200-A N. Market) is one of the only outlets this side of Los Angeles where you'll find Purlieu's organic cotton, hand-screened, flower-print dresses. (Purlieu's mom is the store manager.) And you can get lots of bangles for your buck at Vibrant Artwear (301 N. Market), where we went weak in the knees at the sight of the Rainbow Brite walls of color-coded jewelry.

But Frederick is still surrounded by countryside, and its small-town feel thrives at Lipstick and Spurs (9 W. Patrick St., moving to 216 N. Market next year), a Dollywood-meets-Hollywood shop where Old Gringo Boots keep company with Ed Hardy bags.

Owner Marjorie Levene, who buys her inventory from trade shows in Dallas and New York, had a more traditional western store in rural Libertytown a couple of years ago but moved it to downtown Frederick to make a play for fashionistas. "We're taking people in Frederick further," Levene says.

-- Ariel Alexovich


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