Four Years of Dressing DC Women



I hope you’ve had a spectacular time in Italy – can’t wait to see the photos next week.  In DC, amidst trunk shows and trips to the beach, I’ve been celebrating four years since I opened my doors to JULIA FARR boutique on July 21, 201o.  Every year I write you about this anniversary because as every small business person knows, each year is a milestone in progress.  Making a hard right turn from the practice of law to apparel retail and the business of fashion, I have experienced complete on the job training that Retail For Dummies couldn’t begin to teach me (although I tried).  What I didn’t know was a lot and what I’ve learned is a ton.  Everyday I open the door to my store – greeted by gowns, cashmere wraps, sheath dresses and leather handbags —  knowing my mission but never knowing how the day will unfold.  Here are a few not-so-serious but valuable observations I’ve made through the years by consulting with the women who frequent my shop finding the perfect piece (or two or three or four) for just the right occasion:

1) Most women like their arms covered. Even the 30 year olds. Most dresses have no sleeves.  See the issue here?

2).  Women don’t shop on rainy days. But they will shop during ice storms and sometimes heavy snow.

3). Many women aren’t fond of their knees.

4). Most of my clients say they have too many black dresses. Most designers lead each season with black dresses.  This makes my head hurt.

5). Fall is the most exciting season for fashion as seen in all the magazines – especially my favorite –  the September issue of Vogue, HOWEVER, women shop more in the Spring because the sun comes out then and everyone is much happier.

6). Many Washington women like to find the perfect dress for their event minutes before the event starts.  During the weekend of the 2013 Inaugural Ball, MANY women came to the store and bought their gowns between 4-7 pm the day before the Ball.  We did alterations through the night and had them ready for pickup at noon the day of. True story.

7).  Washington women are smart, sophisticated and funny and love to share their thoughts on my business.  This is helpful – really.

8). The clothing and accessories come and go but meeting, getting to know and working with the women who walk through my door is above and beyond the most valuable part of my daily experience.

There are many more things to share along the way, Ann, but for now I am nothing but grateful to be opening the door to my store every morning to see what the day brings my way.  Four Years and absolutely counting….


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A Journey with No Packing Required



I’m extremely impressed with your carry-on perfect packing program for your Italian adventure.  You know I would most certainly add 5 of everything to your list and lug around a large, cumbersome suitcase with no handle or wheels on it for ten days – but that’s just me.  I’m not traveling abroad this summer, but I have spent the last several weeks on a major journey that required no special packing at all.   I just finished a 33 Day spiritual guide book by contemporary thought leader, Panache Desai.  The 33 days became around 66+ for me, as I lost concentration at Day 17.  But I jumped back in after a bit of an unfocused break and finished my journey just yesterday.  It was like a detoxification for the soul without all the kale and bok choy ground up into juice.  I love this book and I think the author, Panache, is my new favorite person.

Discovering your Soul Signature is a daily guidebook to, well, discovering your soul signature, or as Panache describes, your spiritual DNA.  “It is who you are at your core – your singular contribution to the world.”  Each day you read a short chapter that is broken down into a morning, noon and evening reflections of a page or two (so it’s tough to get overwhelmed, although apparently I did).  He begins with a chapter on Fear, ends with a chapter on Love, and lights a path for the reader embracing topics (and these were my favorites to name a few) on Shame, Patterns, Self-Sabotage, Roller Coasters, Harmony, and Messengers.  What I liked the most about it were the clear messages on how to absorb, understand and release certain difficult emotions that we are all really good at suppressing or pushing aside as we barrel through life.  The book is more than inspiration or a new way to be grateful, it is a instructional clearing of the overgrown weeds in our respective gardens to allow the light in again.   We are to embrace our tripping and falling in life, knowing that the stumbles are moving us closer to our higher self.  And Panache explains how we make more room on our path for harmony and integration, celebrating all parts of our life experiences.

At the end of these 33/66 days, not only do I feel detoxified (you should have seen me cry for 2 weeks when we were supposed to release our sadness in the chapter on Sadness), I feel lighter, more clear, and relieved.  So if you have room in that little carry-on of yours, shove in this remarkable book that I believe will bring you a lot of joy on your travels, to Rome and beyond.






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What to Wear in Italy


We are so excited for our upcoming trip to Italy. Although I lived in Italy when we graduated from college, it’s been almost 20 (!) years since I’ve been back.

When packing for  a trip to Italy, there are two essential things to keep in mind:

1. La bella figura – this means “the beautiful figure” but it doesn’t apply just to the body, it’s how one presents oneself, from hair to clothing to shoes to attitude.  Italians appreciate beauty – whether it’s in a painting, a handbag, or a bowl of pasta, they like to look at beautiful things – and not just things, but people. And that means you, American tourist descending upon their medieval village. Do yourself a favor. Leave the baseball caps and tennis shoes at home. Take the idea of la bella figura to heart and take time to pack clothing and accessories that will not only travel well but will look polished and sophisticated.


This does not mean that you have to sacrifice comfort, but bring clothing that is on the dressier side: instead of jeans, bring a pair of black capris, substitute a skirt for shorts. Pack a pair of your most comfortable ballet flats instead of flip-flops. Then, while enjoying your afternoon gelato while strolling along the Arno, you’ll feel like a real Italian.


2. The Italian Grandmother I mean this both figuratively and literally.

Figuratively – Italy is still very old-fashioned in many ways. You don’t see women (even young women) in short shorts, mini-skirts or skimpy tops. For men, think about how you would dress if you were going to escort your grandmother to Sunday brunch at her favorite restaurant. No cargo shorts or untucked shirts. And certainly no tank tops.  The overriding principle is to dress modestly and respectfully.  Most churches, and several museums (the Vatican Museum in particular) will not allow women to enter if their shoulders are bare or their skirt is too short. Women should always keep a lightweight scarf in their bag, to throw over their shoulders if the need arises.

Literally – the big-bosomed, black-sweatered, opinionated Italian grandmother is alive and well in Italy. And if you try to dis her church or her village by looking like a bum, she will not hesitate to shake her finger in your face while chewing you out, making you feel like you are a naughty toddler.



So, let’s get down to specifics.

We are only bringing carry-on bags (I know the very idea of that terrifies you). Our trip will last only for 11 days and we plan to cover a lot of territory, so we’re travelling light.

-Packing smart is essential. But, I want to look good, right (see above)?

-Italy is hot in the summer, especially southern Italy.  Lightweight clothing is key.

-I won’t pack anything unless it matches at least two other pieces of clothing, i.e. every top has to go with at least two bottoms and vice-versa.

With that in mind, here is my packing plan:

1. Four dresses – two sleeveless shift dresses, a maxi dress and our Julia Farr Collection Eastern Market Dress -

Eastern Market

Won’t this look fabulous while I’m strolling through San Lorezo Market in Florence?


2. Four Skirts  – our Julia Farr Collection M Street skirt,


because it goes with everything and I can dress it up at night. A maxi skirt that I’ll wear on the plane ride over there (easy care and will keep me warm on the chilly plane), and two other midi-length skirts in fun patterns.

3. One pair of Joe’s Jeans – in hot pink, so they don’t look like jeans, more like trousers. And, I’ll take my chances with the Italian grandmothers and throw in one pair of tailored shorts.

4. Four tailored, cotton tops to pair with my skirts. I’ll also bring our Prospect Linen blouse

The Prospect with J. Crew seahorse print shorts on a humid day in Charleston, SC

-it’s perfect because it covers my arms (so maybe the grandmothers will let me get away with wearing it with shorts), but, since it’s linen, it’ll keep me cool on those hot Roman days.

And, I can’t leave home without my Sequoia sleeveless top – my essential travel piece.

Julia Farr LLC - SM - 21

5. A lightweight scarf that will fit easily into my handbag.

6. Speaking of handbags, I’m packing one of my old, neutral cross body bags in hopes that I can ditch it over there and come home with a fabulous, new Italian handbag!

7. For shoes, I’ll bring one nice pair of ballet flats, two pairs of sandals and a pair of wedge heels. All of them are comfortable to walk in.

A packing tip: I always pack my shoes in a nice, fabric shoe bag like this one

photo (5)

It keeps things tidy and keeps the ancient European soil from spreading all over your suitcase.

8. We will be spending time at the beach, so I’ll pack a bikini and my favorite Trina Turk cover-up, which could pass for a dress.

9. I only bring costume jewelry with me when I travel – and only a few pieces – two pairs of earrings, a couple of necklaces and bracelets. For some reason, I love to wear lots of bangles when I travel. I’m not sure if it’s because bangles seem so footloose and fancy free – perfect for a vacation – or because I feel the need to make a lot of noise, so I don’t get lost from my travel companions (much like wearing a cowbell).

For the plane, I’ll wear the maxi skirt with a loose t-shirt and my favorite silk/cotton wrap in cream to keep me cozy while I try to catch some zzzzzs.

That’s it!

photo 2 (2)

And, guess what – it all fits in my carry-on.

photo 1 (2)

Of course, I’ll also pack a duffel bag that can expand to carry home all the great treasures I’m sure I’ll find in la bella Italia. I promise to bring some goodies for you!





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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


The craziness of the beginning of summer has settled down and I finally had some time last weekend to do a bit of shopping and to peruse my fashion magazines.

Because I’m surrounded by clothing all the time, I rarely shop like I used to. But, last weekend, I ran into Old Navy to see if they had any casual tops I could bring with me on my upcoming trip to Europe. I didn’t find any, but I did find an amazing pair of sandals.


These simple, elegant t-strap sandals will be coming with me to Italy.

Women's T-Strap Sandals - Gold

They are surprisingly comfortable, with a cushioned insole, and will offer much more support than a pair of flip-flops. In fact, they remind me of a pair of sandals that I bought in Capri the last time I was in southern Italy. It’s ridiculous how excited I am about these $19.95 pair of shoes. Sure, they’ll probably only last a season, but they look timeless during that short time.


There wasn’t much fashion to excite me in either issue of InStyle or Vogue. In fact, I completely disagree with two of InStyle’s predictions of the new “it” items.

Did you know the jumpsuit is the new maxidress?




I like the novelty of the jumpsuit, it’s fun to see it on people like you – who are over 5’10” –  but for the rest of us? I know I certainly can’t pull it off.  Don’t get me started on the logistics of going to the bathroom while wearing one – I’m sure it takes the better part of a half an hour to disrobe. I prefer the comfort, elegance and ease of the maxi dress.


Really? These awful Adidas pool shoe knock-offs are supposed to be good looking?



Or, do they arise from Miuccia Prada’s belief that ugly is more interesting than beauty? These go on our feet, for heaven’s sake, which need as much help as they can get in the beauty department.

Vogue had the sandals all over their June issue: like these from Sam Edelman.


Look how large and ungainly the model’s feet look in this photo – and I’m sure she is at least 5’9”. Imagine them on a diminutive person, like myself, but one who also has large feet. I’d look like an “L”.

No thank you.


Top Image – Old Navy, next two images: InStyle Magazine. Bottom image: Vogue

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The Perfect Prospect

Our white linen Prospect Blouse for Spring/Summer 2014 as worn by Ann

The Julia Farr Collection white linen Prospect Blouse for Spring/Summer 2014 as worn by Ann with J. Crew capris, Vineyard Vines Belt, Delman Sandals and her grandmother’s coral necklace

Dear Ann,

I love this rooftop photo of you — effortlessly chic in our Prospect linen blouse!  Hands down,  it is my favorite-most-worn piece of our Spring/Summer 2014 Julia Farr Collection.  Seriously, you can wear it everywhere with everything.  Not only is it chic, timeless, classic, indispensable, understated-yet-elegant, completely essential, and sure, enlightened if you completely get the purity of its essence, but it looks great on. The linen has a little weight to it which makes it hold its shape and not fall apart when the temperature rises. It’s fitted so works both tucked in and out with capri pants, jeans, pencil skirts, full skirts and shorts.  I think it’s the perfect top over a bathing suit, too.  I’m a huge fan of the Prospect and believe every woman should have one as an anchor to her summer wardrobe. Here’s how we are wearing it this Summer 2014:

The Prospect with J. Crew seahorse print shorts on a humid day in Charleston, SC

The Prospect with J. Crew seahorse print shorts on a humid day in Charleston, SC

My daughter, Ceci, wearing the Prospect with her white Joe's Jeans at home in Washington, DC

My daughter, Ceci, wearing the Prospect with her white Joe’s Jeans at home in Washington, DC

The Prospect thrown over my Helen Jon bikini and J. Crew shorts heading to an afternoon paddle boarding

The Prospect thrown over my Helen Jon bikini and J. Crew shorts heading to an afternoon paddle boarding in Rehoboth Beach

We carry it at our flagship Julia Farr boutique in DC and it’s made its way around the spring trunk show circuit.  It’s packed in my bag heading to Rehoboth Beach for the 4th of July and isn’t going in your carry-on for Italy very soon?

XS-L, $168 at Julia Farr. Inquire by phone 202-364-3277.




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And the winner is….

Our top seller for Spring: The Occidental Dress

Our top seller for Spring 2014: The Occidental Dress


Hope you had a great birthday yesterday! Tell me, which Julia Farr Collection dress did you wear to your birthday dinner?? I’m guessing you went with the Indigo Lafayette in silk matka (sold only in boutique) or the Occidental in navy and white graphic print…because those were the top two most popular designs for Spring ’14!  We made several beautiful pieces for this season, but by far, those two designs flew out of the boutique day after day for all the special occasions that springtime brings: Mother’s Day, graduations of all kinds, weddings and all sorts of receptions.  They both are great polished, professional looks that can transition from office to dinner.

The women who bought them remarked on a few things that made the dresses irresistible for them:  the design was becoming to their figures and fit was perfect, the fabric was signature, rich and interesting, and the versatility factor was very high.  There was one day where I was wearing the Indigo Lafayette and THREE women were in my showroom wearing the same sheath dress having minor alterations with my seamstress.  Here it is:

The Lafayette Dress in Indigo has been a huge hit

The Lafayette Dress in Indigo has been a huge hit

You know from our Spring trunk shows how fun, gratifying and affirming it is to have so many women love our dresses and wear them to the most special days in their lives.  And it is really fantastic to scroll through Facebook to see the happy photos of the women being the very best models for the Julia Farr Collection that we could ask for.

So Ann, and all our readers, if you have a photo wearing Spring ’14, please send to me and I’ll share on our next post.

And with the summer solstice tomorrow, we leave Spring behind…



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Behind the Scenes – Fall 2014 Photo Shoot

On March 13, the Julia Farr Collection had our first “official” photo shoot for our Fall 2014 line. We have shot photos of our designs before this – using several great photographers – but this marked the day that we went on location, used real models, had a stylist and an accomplished commercial photographer. I worked diligently to prepare everything in advance so the shoot would proceed as smoothly as possible. We knew we were going to shoot 10 “looks”.   Sounds easy, right. Boom, bam, bang – 10 looks, 10 shot, done in about an hour, right?.

Yeah, there is a lot more to it.

Here is a behind the scenes look at how we got all those beautiful photos you can now see on our website.

We started with location – we shot on site at Carriage Club in Kansas City. We knew we wanted  a place that conveyed our elegant and enlightened aesthetic, and the decor of Carriage Club fit the bill – classic clean lines, subtle accents of color and design on the walls and, best of all, really good light.

photo 2 (3)

Colby Lysne – getting the shot

Lighting is important – like, really important- as I learned from our photographer, Colby Lysne.  We were able to use a lot of natural light, which helped us to move more quickly through the shoot than if we would have had to re-light every time we moved locations within the club.

Before all the “talent” arrived, I had all of the “looks” laid out, along with accessories. photo 3 (1)

We decided to use two models, so we could shoot one while the other was changing. photo 1 (3)

Our two fabulous models, Alicia Cabrera and Kelly Shumway-MacDonald, were lovely and so professional. Julia and I knew that we wanted models that were representative of our current roster of clients – women who live lives of complexity and responsibility, with a healthy dose of fun. Both Kelly and Alicia are moms, and each of them has their own entrepreneurial projects, in addition to modeling. We think the fullness of their spirit comes through in the photos, enhancing our designs even more! But, it’s also always nice to have a stylist, like Heidi Seager-Bowles, who made the models shine with stunning hair and make-up.

photo 1 (2)   photo 4

We shot photos over a period of about four hours – we moved fast. Colby would stop every once in a while to view the photos on his ipad, to be sure we were going in the right direction as far as how we wanted the clothing to look. photo 2 (2)

What you can’t see from the still photos is the amount of movement that went into every photo. Both the models and Colby were constantly in motion, so not only do the models look more natural, the clothing does as well – you can see how it moves on a real woman’s body. Toward the end of the shoot, we relaxed a bit.  When we were shooting close-up on our tops, high heels were kicked aside. photo 2 (6)

Kelly, barefoot, modeling our Corcoran Top…

photo 2 (5)

…and in our Sequoia Top

And alternatives were used…

photo 4 (1)

Alicia, in our Kalorama Dress and her own Sperrys

I learned that it takes a lot of hard work to convey elegance and glamour. But, as you saw from our website,, it was all worth it and our photos are spectacular.

Many, many thanks to everyone who worked with us that day and made it such a wonderful experience:

photo (3)


Left to right: Photographer, Colby Lysne, Jack of All Trades, Ann, Stylist, Heidi Seager – Bowles, Models, Alicia Cabrera and KellyShumway-MacDonald, Colby’s Assistant ,Calvin McGuire

We are already planning for Spring 2015!


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