Oh snap! Whether you’re ready for it yet or not, looks from the nineties have come back into fashion this fall. Yes, combat boots and plaid shirts may be involved—but I’m most excited about the 2016-meets-1995 unreal chokers that are bad-girl or bohemian while they seem to defy the laws of physics, and the dark, vampire-bitten lips in unbelievably creative sultry shades. You can cultivate these centerpieces of your “old school” outfit, and, actually, punk lips and chokers can save you some money too, if you pair them well with the clothes you already have.
This month, I’ll tell you where to find the clever chokers and smouldering lipstick right here in DC. First up… chokers!
My Favorite Chokers
#1 Free People
Just like Spike did many times on Buffy the Vampire Slayer—I’m going straight for the throat. My favorite place to get chokers right now is Free People. Actually, I learned this on my first trip to Free People, though I’d seen their brand around. (There’s probably a Free People section at your favorite department store or discount store, like Nordstrom Rack if you can’t make it all the way down to Georgetown or their other locations.) A friend of mine who’s fluent in the ins and outs of the fashion industry, both in Paris and New York, once suggested I visit the store, and it took me more than a year, I’ll admit, to try something that at first seemed to me be radically new. I’m not one for bohemian styles, or so I thought. And, I’ll admit higher-end prices do intimidate me. I always wonder if I’m really getting what I’m paying for. But everything at Free People that wasn’t blissfully simple and comfy-cozy looking, which I enjoy more and more now I’m in my 30s. Their styles are definitely sexy too, and man, are they clever.
In a nutshell: The necklace rack near the stairs at the George Town location blew my mind. Gorgeous, layered necklaces that have choker collars and long hide or chain details that swing past your belly button will brighten every outfit. I got one in yellow, and I can’t wait to pair this golden choker-slash-show-stopper with the subtle sheer yellow lipstick I bought from MAC early this year — I just want to squeeze in one more wear! And on their website, please definitely take a look, because these styles are just amazing… Free People has velvet chokers with delicate chains of moons and stars that cascade down your back, bright silver collars with dangling mirrors and roses… Like I said, defying what we think of as even ‘the standard’ choker, using it to sensualize parts of the body that chokers don’t usually touch.
Geodes and crystals you don’t usually see in most accessory locales are getting very popular this season too. I also found a ring I loved at the counter: one long, clear crystal at the center encircled by aqua stones along the band. Now, that was incredibly inspired and playful. Really, Free People jewelry is the stuff of your dreams.
Yes, I’m being dramatic, but I did just become a huge Free People fangirl overnight. Try it yourself, it feels good…
I’m sure there are a lot of great places out there, but Francesca’s is where I stopped by just last weekend, and Francesca’s is where my sister walked me through a kind of panic when I couldn’t choose between a braided black leatherette choker with a single teardrop crystal, or a sassy thread of the same with gold tips, meant to be encircled round the neck three times before tying it in a really sweet, but seductive bow.
What I just had to buy: I went with the teardrop version because, when I do have to choose while shopping, I always go for the one that seems hardest for me to find elsewhere. But both are girly while sneaking in a little seduction.
#3 Cookie Wear
Do you know about Cookie Wear? They started out on Georgia Avenue and feature designers in the DC area. Now, it’s in Union Station. (It’s on the second floor, left side, close to the Union General store). It’s like walking into an H&M just for Black people—it is that much fun. Your people, their personalities, their hoodies and bold, fresh urban styles are everywhere you want to look. But then, it’s so far beyond that. Check out the beautiful dressing rooms, the clever gear emblazoned with ‘Manifest Thangs’ and other empowering sayings you share with your ‘cuz, the leather couch with a TV showing music videos at all times (one day, it was Janet Jackson hour, and a coworker, a man, came back beaming that he got to watching nothing but Beyonce music videos while shopping). You’ll be looking like the Fresh Prince of Bel-air, Jazzy Jeff, Tatyana Ali or Hillary (the Black Hill-ary) in no time. Carlton? Ehhh… not so much. But, we’ve always been able to go to Bannana Republic for that.
What I went with: I’ve cheated a bit here—I didn’t actually get a choker, but it is a collar-like necklace that I love, love, love, because it is so ghettofabulous/urban chic and also, very nineties. So it falls into the category. Check out this huge pearl necklace with the huge diamondy “Keep Calm” underneath a tiara. It’s hella fab. As for what you’re supposed to be doing while you keep calm, a-la all the other keep calm memes on the internet? I guess the wearer is the lovely object of your active attention while you remember to keep calm. Something like that. Or, it’s a positive message. Or, it’s damn cool. They have other big-bling nineties necklaces, notably silver glam cassette tapes on chains. The last I saw those, they were right behind the counter as you walked into the store.
Okay, okay. I’ll fess up. I do still stroll into Claire’s sometimes on my lunch break when all the small children are busy at middle school. I did spring for sheer rainbow knee-socks that barely fit me, a tiara—two tiaras because I couldn’t decide, a Katy Perry necklace made of blatant plastic cherries, black elbow-length gloves, and tiny fruit-shaped earrings because they were shooo cyuuuute… though not all in one sitting.
What I fell for: I’m very interested in getting into steam punk cosplay, and (wait, don’t run off yet, I promise it’s normal!) I bought a matching set of earrings and a black lace choker with glittery chains attached. I actually did buy the set for cosplay, but I’m not above pairing (just one of these at a time) with a simple gray dress, a white t-shirt and black jeans, or a simple t-shirt and blue jeans with combat boots combo to get that nineties look. A trip to Claire’s is worth it for nostalgia’s sake anyway, trust me. I smile every time.
Later, I’ll give you some solid tips on where to get those dark, but dope shades of lipstick, like the one I’m wearing above. Stay tuned for part two.
Now I know I must have missed some great spots for chokers. Where’s your favorite place get one?