Don’t skip the small stores at Wheaton’s Westfield Mall the next time you visit. You almost exclusively see Black women wearing these urban-chic styles as they stroll up and down U Street, queue up for Marvin’s, or lean over cocktails at Park and 14th downtown.
First, Lemme Break It Down
What is “Wheaton Plaza”?
Westfield Mall in Wheaton, Md. has gone through a lot of transformations since the first big facelift that I can remember: the arrival of Old Navy in the 90s. (I know you’re laughing at me and the throwback; it’s okay.) Back then, everyone was excited about this store with the clever ads and inexpensive, super-comfy clothing. If you visit this Maryland mall today (and it hardly feels like you’ve gone to Maryland if you’re coming from DC, when the Metro-bound folks can walk there in minutes from the subway), you won’t find an Old Navy; that’s long gone. But you will find other mainstream stores like Express, New York & Co, DSW, Macy’s and its Sephora counter, ALDO, H&M, Victoria Secret—all typical mall fare. Even better, though, are the brilliant little stores that have arrived in Wheaton, packed with brilliant, affordable styles that you can’t find in any of the big-name places.
I call these hidden gems since they may be the kinds of stores you wouldn’t go into precisely because they aren’t big names like H&M or Forever 21. Also, the mannequins are wearing strange things in the windows. I’m warning you now that the super-punk, downright scandalous raver clothing is pretty damn freaky!
But Don’t Be Afraid to Try It
Then again, because I am secretly a super-punk, crazy pink-wig-wearing raver deep down (and I was one long before Nicki Minaj’s neon wig craze, if you can imagine), I always do go inside of Olive Olé, Papaya, A’GACI and so on anyway, to at least try out the crazy clothes and entertain myself. I promise you, though, if you can put your breathless giggling and a little of your ‘but I’ve never heard of this brand’ pride aside, you have a real chance at some of the hard-to-find urban chic styles that cannot be found at the H&Ms of the world.
And, here’s another wonderful twist regarding Olive Olé: I can’t confirm this, but I get a vibe that Olive Olé has Asian roots… you can see it all over the store. Whatever the answer is, some very special fashion fusion is going on!
Tip: Try out stores connected with Asian markets for a reliable source of affordable, truly edgy, “Omg, where did you get that!” styles.
Now Go Get it, Girl
Check out these pics of my best finds at the little stores inside Westfield Mall (or “Wheaton Plaza” to us DC natives).
Long blue shirt
This is just… beautiful. All that flowing blue, but it’s not as restricting as a dress. I wear this over jeans (the mannequin helped me with that idea), but I’m going to experiment with shorts, next. Also in peach. Found recently at Olive Olé.
Pink fluffy skirt
Olive Olé has a new iteration of fluffy skirts that look vintage. This one is from last year. I think you can still find similar skirts at Charlotte Russe.
I went back and tried on this slightly-nineties-or-eighties-tacky blazer twice, before caving in. I adored the strong yellows and greens; I thought that was so brave, rather than relying on the pink element of the floral pattern. Get this now at A’GACI.
Gold chain headpiece
Another long-time-want-not-able-to-find item. A warning that the one I chose wasn’t long enough to fit over my natural hair, even when I slicked it back as flat as it goes. I may try another one. You can get these today at Olive Olé.
I’ve been wanting one of these for years, but I couldn’t figure out where to find one! Olive Olé has an excellent selection. Try these in pearls, silver, gold, insanely sexy, artistic—whatever you like. Another great find from Olive Olé.
I’m wearing this with the gold body chain, and there’s an even better pic at the top of this post. Even without the chain to break up all that black, I got a compliment on this the first time I wore it out! I recommend getting a strappy black slip to wear underneath the jumpsuit, because these jumpsuits/rompers are sheer. In-store, you can also find these in sapphire, gray, white, pink and neon lime. Oops, Olive Olé did it again!
Tiger back shirt
I love the long back of this super soft belly shirt. Matching tiger pants are also available. Both are now on the sales rack at Olive Olé.
These shades are probably the most conservative on the rack. I’d also like to mention that I saw a nude-colored pair of shades that were only $5 that are nearly identical to a pair of $30 shades at Ann Taylor LOFT. Find these and even more creative, wild styles of sunglasses at A’GACI, near the counter.
Poofy off-the-shoulder top
My jaw dropped when I saw this in the window of A’GACI, and it’s what got me speedwalking into the store in the first place. This is a hot top. The picture does not do it justice and it looks lovely, if not pretty scandalous on me (and it’s not that kind of blog!) so this is my best shot of it on the hanger. Think fairytale princess ballroom gown, without the gown. You get the fluffy, bouncy shoulders, but then they’re off-the-shoulder, and the waist is all layered ruffles that show off your belly button if you skip pairing this with a high-waisted skirt or pants. The mannequin was wearing white jeans with this, and I think that’s totally nailing the look. Now, go for white ripped jeans—and you’ll really get the classy-but-casual look with this shirt.
Tip: Never be ashamed of finding and wearing precisely what the mannequin has on in the store, when trying a new bold look.
The Small-But-Mainstream Gems
Last, but not least—I would like to give a shout out to a couple of my favorite stores of all time.
First, Charlotte Russe. Charlotte Russe is on the lower level of Westfield Mall and always has great styles and fantastic jewelry at cheap prices. Also, nothing beats their immortal $5 rack, trust me: it’s always well-stocked and it’s always there. Then, the turnover of the non-sale items into the sales rack happens pretty regularly, so you don’t have to wait long if you’re aiming to save some money on something cute.
G by Guess
G by Guess (imagine the Guess store in Pentagon City Mall, but way more affordable) is a more mainstream store at Wheaton’s mall, but another huge favorite of mine, especially for those denim-and-leather purses with matching shoes. Or, were the shoes made first, then paired with the purses? Gotta love it; Guess styles are seamless.
So promise me that you’ll spend some quality time in these places before you leave Westfield Mall. And, remember, never ever judge a book by its cover (especially when it comes to shopping).
What’s your favorite store at Wheaton’s Westfield Mall?