DC Shopping Spree: Send My Sister to College in Style
August 6, 2007 11:02 PM   Subscribe

What are some good places to shop for dorm decor, cool fashion accessories, and other college-related frivolities in the DC area?

My little sister starts college in the fall, and she's coming to visit me this weekend for the last time before she leaves for school. I'd like to take her on a shopping spree for some really neat stuff for her dorm room and maybe some fashion accessories, things the other kids at her off-in-the-boonies school won't have. I'm already planning to take her to Urban Outfitters, and we'll make the obligatory trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond for the basics. Where else should we go? What are the best places to buy posters, duvet covers, tapestries, and throw pillows? Where do the cool college kids, the ones I'd actually like spending time with, shop?

Also, where can we get her an awesome messenger bag, some interesting buttons/pins and t-shirts (nothing political, which is hard in DC), and maybe a cool hat? I'd like to be able to get her some great stuff without spending a fortune, so cheap would be better. She has a pretty conservative personal style for a teenager, but she's still cooler than me, and I have no idea "what the kids are into these days." Help me make my little sister even more amazing and make my last weekend with her rock!
posted by decathecting to Shopping (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Urban Outfitters is very expensive and their stuff doesn't last very long. I would take her to Value Village near 410 in Maryland; Ikea, either in Alexandria or in College Park; and for bedding, go to Linens and Things in College Park (near the Ikea) instead of BBBeyond, it is far less expensive than shopping in Washington.
posted by parmanparman at 11:16 PM on August 6, 2007

In D.C., I love Nana for clothing and bags. For plain old T-shirts, I would just save money and stick with Target.

If Baltimore's not too far for you, then Double Dutch has a lot of unique clothing and accessories -- much of it from Baltimore designers. (I love their shoes and bags.) Ninth Life has some really fun T-shirts and decor stuff (like fun postcards). They are both in Hampden, and it might be worth walking around The Avenue for interesting accessories and decor.
posted by Airhen at 11:30 PM on August 6, 2007


No, really.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:43 PM on August 6, 2007

As an RA emeritus who's seen some pretty intense move-in days and some pissed-off families before seeing the best system ever which I'll describe at the end of this, I have a bit to say. This doesn't directly answer your question and I don't want to derail, but from the way you wrote it I just want to make sure you don't end up getting screwed on move-in day!

Eseentially: I'd recommend waiting until you get there to buy everything except clothes, books, and personal effects, and just not buying or bringing other things altogether.


• don't buy furniture of any kind - until you see the exact room and negotiate with the roommate(s) about what's going to fit, and find out if the university is OK with you replacing school furniture with your own (which they almost certainly will not be).

• don't buy a 100-load container of detergent, or a papasan chair, or a hanging shoe tree, or a refrigerator, or any sort of huge plastic storage container organizer system. These are clutter-inviting annoyances, not essentials. The "value", at least to me as a former dorm resident, of buying these essentials was reduced every day I had to pile my books or my clothes or my boyfriend somewhere else because these one-purpose tools had taken over the room. The plastic bins made it easier for me to not throw things I didn't need away. The fridge was rented from some shady university contractor and leaked everywhere and made my room shudder with the KAWHUNK of the compressor. I could have just bought more detergent when I needed it, or gone to the dining hall when I was hungry, and since it took me two years to go through one of those detergent boxes, I had to lug it with me and make room for it wherever I lived because I wasn't going to throw out two years' worth of detergent. It was like being held hostage in a tiny space by my possessions.

Do you have a list of recommended items to buy from the university yet? If you do, I recommend looking at the list, paring it down to bare essentials, and getting nice, compact, high-quality versions of those things. And I mean really, really pare down:

• do split larger, better-value items with roommates - instead of having two crappy inkjet printers, get one slightly nicer b/w laser printer and network the computers to use it. A task-light that clips to the side of a desk instead of sitting on the desk taking up space. A laptop instead of a desktop. Photo albums instead of picture frames. If it fits, an additional crossbar for the closet.

• do pack up all the stuff you are taking in collapsible duffel bag-type cases, as these can be stored almost anywhere (one of my residents stuck his between his mattress and his bed frame!).

• do contact your sister's RA/residential life office with your specific questions about specific items. Some places say no thumbtacks, others say no nails.

• do talk to your sister's roommate to see what, if anything, they're bringing that you won't need to replicate, like an iron, a TV, or a wireless router.

• do explore college-town thrift stores, Freecycle, and Craigslist to pick up items from students who had to get rid of their stuff really cheaply at the end of last year.

You talk about buying:

posters, duvet covers, tapestries, and throw pillows, an awesome messenger bag, some interesting buttons/pins and t-shirts..., and maybe a cool hat.

The solution is: the Internet, after your sister gets settled. The percentage of the shopping I did online as a student for my total non-food/gasoline purchases approaches 80%. Check out some previous AskMe threads on the items you're hunting for and you'll be in business, without traffic jams.

Hope this wasn't too much of a screed, but at my college, move-in day was more coordinated than anything I've ever worked on, though this isn't the case with all colleges, obviously. First, families/students were mailed a staggered arrival time card based on their distance from campus and issued ONE parking permit. After pulling into a remote lot and making sure they were in the right place, they were offered snacks and drinks by student employees, who explained the system once they arrived at the dorm. Specific permit numbers were radioed up to specific dorms, and as cars pulled up to the buildings, more student workers (free housing goes a long way to motivate people) descended on cars and moved people's stuff with them to the specific room, or at least out of the car, within a THREE-MINUTE window, after which the car needed to be OUT of the dorm's tiny lot and back to the remote parking area. Families would split up: one driver goes back to the remote lot to park the car and catch the shuttle back up the hill to the dorm ten minutes later, and everyone else unpacks the now-situated items in the dorm room. We moved in nearly 1000 students and all their stuff, with no traffic jams and no injuries, over a seven-hour time span; so the lesson is: the less stuff you have on move-in day, the better.

Good luck!
posted by mdonley at 12:26 AM on August 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

mdonley sounds like he knows what he's talking about, and as I haven't been to college yet I really don't. But: I suggest Ikea. I was perusing their catalog today and oh wow, they had some good stuff. And cheap. That and Target and you'd be good, I expect.
posted by MadamM at 12:37 AM on August 7, 2007

One thing about IKEA is that I don't recall them stocking extra-long twin sheets, which were the only ones that fit on our mattresses.
posted by mdonley at 12:41 AM on August 7, 2007

I was just in Target over the weekend and they have a whole section of the store set up with a "College '08" theme.
posted by smackfu at 5:46 AM on August 7, 2007

It is great that you are taking her shopping before she moves into the dorms. I also was an RA fro three years and move in day can be really stressful for freshmen and their families (as mdonley says). But, one way to really make that easier is to have some nice things that your sister can use to make the room feel more homey. Dorm rooms can be very institutional and bringing duvets, throw pillows, etc can immediately make it feel more like a home. I thought it was great to have a fridge and a few other appliance like things and your sister will probably too. Coordinating with the roommate on splitting those things is ideal.
posted by sulaine at 7:42 AM on August 7, 2007

Where else should we go? What are the best places to buy posters, duvet covers, tapestries, and throw pillows?
I don't know about her taste in posters, but she might try looking at the museum shops. They've definitely got lots of posters, as you'd imagine, and they also have a wide array of other crap that could be nice for a dorm room. It's been ages since I did a lot of shopping in D.C., but I remember finding good stuff at the Freer/Sackler shop (Asian art) and the Renwick shop (crafts.) I think all of the museums gift shops have an online presence, so you could browse around beforehand and see what looked promising. It all might be a little pricey, though, especially compared to Target or Urban Outfitters.

Lucky Magazine's D.C. shopping guide might be useful for you. There's a definite emphasis on clothes, but they've got a few housewares stores there.
posted by craichead at 8:18 AM on August 7, 2007

I think if "cool" is what you are looking for, you should go to Urban Outfitters. I was a teenager outside of DC, and going to UO was the highlight of the occasional weekends we'd trek to the city.
posted by sweetkid at 9:57 AM on August 7, 2007

Response by poster: We're not planning to buy any utilitarian stuff or anything big and bulky, just fun, funky accessories to make her room feel more like home. Her college does not give out roommate assignments until the week before school starts, so there's not really an opportunity to coordinate.

She specifically requested that our weekend be a shopping trip in "the big city," since her college is in the middle of nowhere, so I'm trying to oblige. I asked her whether she wouldn't rather shop once she gets there, but she said she'd rather shop in person than online because she likes to see stuff in person. She may change her mind in a few months--she's 17; they're fickle--but I'd like to give her what she wants now.

Urban Outfitters is definitely not my taste, but it's the sort of thing she's really into. Thanks for the suggestions, and keep them coming!
posted by decathecting at 10:29 AM on August 7, 2007

Best answer: On most Saturday's there's an open air market up near me in Adam's Morgan on 18th just south of Kalorama. ( Western Market

There's also the tons of local stores up on 18th that sell all sorts of african/ethiopian/etc... rugs, mats, baskets, etc...

Also, most of U street is lined with boutique shops for clothes, and apartmet/dorm accessories and decorations. Starting around 16th and going east on U.
posted by zap rowsdower at 12:57 PM on August 7, 2007

Best answer: I second the museum shops. The seatbelt bags they sell at the Hirschorn are popping up on people's shoulders everywhere I look these days.

I also second U street-- although those little boutiques can get pretty expensive.

Then of course there's Georgetown. Take her to Commander Salamander-- it's like Urban Outfitters but a little more original.

In Adams Morgan I think the District Line and Shake Your Booty are also pretty original and maybe not quite as expensive as your typical U street boutique.

In Dupont Circle, Tabletop has the most interesting post card selection I've seen in D.C. (after the National Gallery of Art)-- so she'll remember to write home once in a while.

If you can make it all the way out to Takoma Park then the thrift stores that line Carroll Avenue (I might be one avenue off there) always have something unusual and pleasantly cheap.

And last but not least, you could always do the traditional college thing and browse the Container Store in Tennleytown.
posted by emmatwofour at 1:38 PM on August 7, 2007

yeah, the funky stuff is U st/Adams Morgan

You could also go up to friendship heights and go to World Market (it's on the bottom floor of the building on the corner with the j crew in front), they have really funky bags and jewelry and imported stuff - paper lanterns and lights and throw pillows, etc. It's neat.

Eastern Market on Capitol Hill also has people selling all sorts of funky furniture/accessories on the weekends.

Urban Outfitters is awfully overpriced in my opinion.. but if you do.. there is one in Chinatown now as well as Georgetown so you might fit it into your trip.
posted by citron at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2007

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