Shop Talk

Shop Talk

Wedding Belles, Personal Stylists, Build-a-Bear and Bow Ties.

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Wedding Belles

Weddings have gone high style, with trends that are hitting the runway influencing bridal gown design. One reason is that well-known designers—think Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta—have crossed over into creating wedding gowns. Another is that brides who follow fashion 24/7 want to look up-to-the-minute on their big day. Though there will always be classic styles, this spring’s on-trend brides will be wearing gowns with fishtail and trumpet hems, keyhole backs, slim column cuts, plunging V-necks, boleros, and lace, lace, lace. Check out the latest looks.

This Is Personal

In this era of DIY, it’s comforting to know that personal service isn’t dead. It’s alive and well at Etcetera in downtown Bethesda, where longtime Chevy Chase resident Polly Sturm sells the edgier, less pricey line of Carlisle, a luxury clothing brand typically sold at in-home trunk shows.  

Until a couple of years ago, Etcetera was also sold through home shows. Now there’s a brick-and-mortar showroom—the only one in the country—filled with samples to mix and match before ordering.

Sturm manages Etcetera, where she and nine other area salespeople/stylists bring clients to try on clothes that range from $175 tops to $495 jackets/coats. You visit the showroom by appointment and the experience feels much like having a personal stylist. Bonobos, the new menswear showroom on Bethesda Avenue, takes a similar approach.

Sturm, who previously worked in public relations but always had a passion for clothes, began selling Etcetera 12 years ago when her kids were teenagers. “I like helping women feel good about themselves,” she says.

4709 Montgomery Ave., Bethesda, 301-215-8363,

Not Your Average Bear

Build-a-Bear at Westfield Montgomery Mall has gone virtual. That doesn’t mean the stuffed bear is no more. But the process of creating it has gotten more interactive. You can customize your bear ($10 to $25) with personality traits (brave, smart, silly) displayed as emoticons at the Love Me Station; and add sounds, such as recordings of your own voice and music loaded onto a chip that’s inserted in the bear at the Hear Me station. The Fluff Me station is a virtual bathtub with rippling “water” and “soap bubbles.” Even naming the bear has gotten more high-tech, with kids creating a personalized birth certificate and photo at the Name Me station. All of it is included with the price of the bear, except for the sounds, which range from $4 to $8.

Westfield Montgomery Mall, 7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, 301-365-8388,

All in the Family

It was probably inevitable that Giuliana Rancic would end up as a fashion doyenne for the E! television network. Her father, Eduardo DePandi, has been a master tailor making bespoke suits for such notables as Placido Domingo for more than 35 years. DePandi’s most recent shop was the now-defunct Bruno Cipriani in White Flint Mall, but now he has opened an upscale men’s clothing store next door to Saks Jandel and across from the pearls-and-mink strip of Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton in Chevy Chase. In addition to custom suits made from luxe fabrics, DePandi also carries ready-to-wear suits, shirts, ties, leather goods and sportswear from such lines as Stefano Ricci, Versace and Marol. And while daughter Giuliana prefers gowns on the Red Carpet, her husband, Bill Rancic, is an avid fan of DePandi’s suits.

5518 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-718-1901,

Tie One On

Life is too short to wrestle with a bow tie. So Sasha Whitaker has come up with a solution: the magnetic bow tie.

Whitaker, who grew up in Bethesda and attended Holton Arms, now lives and works in Rockville. She created her first bow tie by folding fabrics and hand sewing, and then started selling the bow ties through her company, Sasha Bella, last summer.

Besides bow ties for boys and men in preppy plaids, gingham and stripes, Whitaker also launched a women’s line this past year with magnetic bow accessories featuring crystal, ribbon and leather. Each bow or bow tie has a strong magnet sewn into it with a second magnet for snapping it into place.

Whitaker has a small staff that hand- and machine-sews the bows and bow ties. “My sister and I grew up sewing, thanks to my mother, and I have always made my own clothes,” Whitaker says.

Next up are matching accessory sets for couples so that a woman’s purse can match her man’s bow tie. Sasha Bella bows and bow ties sell for $7.95 to $35.95. Custom bow ties can be ordered, as well. Whitaker donates 10 percent of the proceeds to orphans in India through the Sahasra Deepika Foundation. and

Without a Doubt

Renan Kennedy of Potomac began her chemical-free skin-care line, Sans, in 2012 as a real labor of love. Her mother had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the chemo had turned her skin to cracked leather. Unable to find 100 percent chemical-free lotions to help, Kennedy, a graphic designer by trade, decided to create her own.

“I not only researched ingredients,” she says, “but I was interested in how the body processes what we put on it.” After some trial and error, she came up with Sans (meaning “without” in French), a line of scrubs, serums, body butters and lip balms made from plant-derived ingredients and beeswax.

Kennedy’s mother lived long enough to see the products sold at Flora’s Feathered Nest in Potomac, the first store to carry the line. Sans is still sold at Flora’s and through Someone With, a Frederick-based outfit that works with cancer patients, as well as online. Prices range from $6 for the lip balm to $65 for the company’s Nourish Face Serum, which targets elasticity and cell regeneration.

Sans Petite, a product line including bath and skin products for babies, debuted in November. Her new challenge? A chemical-free post-surgical balm to heal scars. Kennedy says several doctors have contacted her and she is working on it.

Flora’s Feathered Nest, 12211 River Road, Potomac, 301-765-0003, or


A branch of Pure Barre, a ballet-based exercise chain, has opened at 4930 Hampden Lane in the former Bundles of Cookies space in the Shoppes of Bethesda. Think classes like Fab Abs, Lifted Seat and Bye Bye Inner Thighs.

T.J.Maxx, the discount retailer for everything from bath towels to designer shoes, has relocated from 4350 Jennifer St. NW to 5252 Wisconsin Ave. NW, the former two-level Filene’s Basement locale, in Friendship Heights.

Gaylord Lighting, the lighting fixtures and repair shop, has moved from 7833 Woodmont Ave. to 5272 River Road in Bethesda, where parking is more readily available.

Friendship Pharmacy has opened a beauty and health department adjoining the pharmacy in the Chevy Chase Building at 5530 Wisconsin Ave. in Chevy Chase.

Cynthia Hacinli lives in Chevy Chase and has written for GQ, The New York Times and National Geographic Traveler. Send Shop Talk ideas to

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