Shopper: Great Accessory Gifts Await at Museums

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sweater from the mall? Bor-ing.

Another DVD? Maybe not.

Step up your gift-giving game this holiday season and shoot for "Yippees!" instead of yawns. Take advantage of what this city's got in droves. Tourists? No, but you're on the right track. Think museums.

While the fanny-pack set ogles the gift-shop tchotchkes, you can search out the gems that are at once fashionable and very D.C.

What could be more Washington than a tribute to the Founding Fathers? Pass along the inspiration of the Declaration of Independence with a delicate silver bracelet from the National Archives Shop (800 Constitution Ave. NW), inscribed "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And your friends will no doubt be impressed when you tell them that their "Here comes treble" tee came from the Kennedy Center ($20).

The area's off-the-beaten-track museums also have boutiques full of artsy trinkets. The selection of wooden and glass beads -- some dating back centuries -- at the Bead Museum (400 Seventh St. NW) is something even non-archaeologists can get into. The shop is stocked with masterly beadless pieces, too -- such as the chunky rainbow "Pop Art" square bracelet made by a Brazilian resin master ($56).

It's worth making the trip to the Hillwood Estate (4155 Linnean Ave. NW) for the unusual gift selection. The museum, once the home of socialite extraordinaire Marjorie Merriweather Post, is one of the top forums for imperial Russian art and its shop is chock full of Russian dolls -- or better yet, a more useful, cheeky Russian doll apron ($28).

For the eco-conscious folks on your list, consider a trip to the Mansion Shop at Strathmore (10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda), where earrings are green in more than color. The Smart Glass line of hoop earrings and necklaces is made from recycled glass bottles.

And don't some accessories grow infinitely cooler when you know their back story? The adorable clutch bags ($42) sold exclusively at the Shakespeare Theatre Company store (610 F St. NW) are made from leftover theater materials, such as drapes and costumes. This year, give the mall a miss and put distinctive gifts under the tree.

-- Ariel Alexovich

© 2008 The Washington Post Company