It is, as the saying goes, better to give than to receive. For one, giving is a generous gesture, a sign that you appreciate the person you’re giving a gift to and want to get them something they really need, or something they want but wouldn’t buy themselves.
And for another, receiving—depending on who does the giving—may well mean getting stuck with something you don’t want, don’t need, and can’t do anything with other than hope to pass it on to some other sucker the following year.
You don’t want that to happen to your giftees. That’s why we made this guide.
Curated by Abra Belke, who writes as “Belle” for her Capitol Hill Style blog, our new holiday gift guide presents options for lavish giving (Cristal champagne) and frugal giving (bake-your-own treats for the office) alike. We’ve got suggestions for parties with a gift grab bag, gifts for your boss, gifts for kids, gifts for men, gifts for women, gifts for your out-of-town friends and relatives who still thrill at the thought of riding Metro when they come to visit.
One thing everything has in common: These are all gifts you’ll have to buy here in the District or in nearby suburbs. Commerce may be inexorably moving to the cloud, but half the fun of holiday shopping is getting out to the businesses in your neighborhood or your city and mingling with your fellow givers.
So go out, give, and be merry—and if you happen to receive something this month that isn’t to your liking, tell the giver to pick up our 2013 guide.—Mike Madden
By Abra Belke, aka “Belle” of Capitol Hill StylE
Gifts for Co-Workers
Finding gifts for co-workers and office “white elephant” parties can be very difficult. You want to show a certain amount of appreciation and admiration for your colleagues—but not too much. And you don’t want to overstep any bounds or overspend. Here’s how to avoid the company party pitfalls.
Baked Goods: If you can’t afford to buy a gift for each co-worker, but you don’t want to be seen as playing favorites, bringing food for everyone to enjoy is a safe alternative. (Just be sure you know about any allergies or special dietary restrictions ahead of time.)
If baking isn’t your thing, Georgetown Cupcake (3301 M St. NW) has holiday assortments featuring flavors like gingerbread, chocolate peppermint, and eggnog ($29 a dozen). Dangerously Delicious Pies (1339 H St. NE) also offers an assortment of sweet pies for your office-mates to devour ($30). And Trohv (232 Carroll St. NW) and Urban Outfitters (737 7th St. NW) sells delectable wares from Droga like Chookies, Chocolate Caramels, and Put Your Money on Honey chocolates ($19).
Games: Classic games like a Rubik’s Cube, Phase 10, or Shut the Box will work for any gift grab bag where you don’t know who will get what you give. Visit Labyrinth (645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) to find games new and old.
Stationery/Office Supplies: Regardless of what business you’re in, everyone needs thank you cards. For a classic option, try Crane’s stationery from Copenhaver (1301 Connecticut Ave. NW) or Brewood Engravers (1701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW). For something less staid, try M29 Lifestyle (2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW), which stocks local designer bellajenna, or Groovy DC (323 7th St. SE).
For office gifts with a little whimsy, visit the Paper Source (3019 M St. NW). Try their Yummy Yummy Scented Highlighters ($4.99) or a pencil sharpener shaped like a vintage camera ($13.95).
Coffee Mugs: This holiday season, West Elm (3333 M St. NW) is selling charity coffee mugs in festive designs. Half the proceeds from the $10 purchase price benefit charities like Heifer International, amfAR, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and Teach for America. Pair the mug with a container of drinking chocolate from Cocova (1904 18th St. NW). You can also buy gift cards to Teaism (400 8th St. NW) so the recipient can choose their own brew.
Gift Cards: If you want to make sure your “white elephant” gift is appreciated, give a gift card. Try a local coffeehouse like Peregrine Espresso or Chinatown Coffee Co. Or stop by any of your favorite retailers or local restaurant to pick up a gift certificate.
Gifts for the Boss
If you’re going to buy a gift for your boss, include your co-workers: Pool your money, and buy something nice from everyone. That way no one feels left out—and more importantly, you don’t look like a brown-noser.
Frequent Travelers: If your boss spends a lot of time on the road, a set of Bose Oe2i Noise Cancelling Headphones ($179) are a fantastic gift. (Bose Showcase Store: Tysons Corner Center)
Office and Tech Accessories: If your boss uses a tablet device, accessories make good gifts. Try an aluminum tablet pen ($19.99) from Brookstone (Fashion Center at Pentagon City) or a Y-Charge Dual USB Car Charger ($28) at Urban Outfitters (737 7th St. NW) for refueling their device on the go.
A nice fountain pen or a set of bookends makes a nice gift when you don’t want to buy something too personal. Try Fahrney’s Pens (1317 F St. NW) for classic, high-quality office gifts.
Local retailer Sterling & Burke (2824 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) also sells high-quality leather goods like J.W. Hulme and Swaine Adeney. They also sell Charing Cross leather calendars ($32), address books ($29) and notebooks ($72) for those bosses who kick it old school.
Gift Baskets: Baskets filled with stale crackers and rock hard salamis are so 1995. Today, you can buy baskets overflowing with gourmet treats at local retailers like Cork Market, (1805 14th St. NW), Cowgirl Creamery (919 F St. NW), and Seasonal Pantry (1314 ½ 19th St. NW).
Gifts for Him
Headphones/Radios: Is the man in your life a music lover? Then he shouldn’t be listening to his tunes on a cheap headset. Munitio Billets 9mm Earbuds ($69.99) provide crisp sound while cancelling out background noise. Beats by Dre Solo Headphones ($199.95) are on a lot of Christmas lists this year; just please don’t let him wear them around his neck like Justin Bieber. (Munitio: store.munitio.com, Beats by Dre are available at Radio Shack, Target, and Best Buy)
Thanks to our wireless devices, few people own radios anymore, but when you see the sleek and gorgeous Tivoli Model Three Am/FM Radio ($299), you’ll wonder why we ever abandoned them. The Tivoli Radio merges new technology and old by allowing you to plug your iPhone or Droid into the vintage looking device. (Tivoli products are sold at Room & Board: 1840 14th St. NW.)
Liquor: A great bottle of bourbon, Scotch or other whiskey will work. In D.C., the best place to go for an expansive collection of specialty bottles is ACE Beverage (3301 New Mexico Ave. NW), in Wesley Heights, near American University. This season, the staff at ACE has embraced a small-batch whisky from Bruichladdich called Port Charlotte 10 ($155). If that’s out of your price range, The Peat Project from Bruichladdich is also a great choice at $65.
They also offer a line called Fluid Dynamics that sells craft-quality, single-bottle cocktails like the Brandy Manhattan and Sazerac for the man who likes a cocktail but doesn’t enjoy making it himself. No matter what you’re in the market for, the staff at ACE can help you find the right bottle at the right price.
The Perfect Bag: Whether he’s searching for a weekend travel bag or a laptop bag, a quality tote makes a great gift. Filson bags are durable, stylish and functional. From the canvas and leather Briefcase Computer Bag ($275) to the Denim Medium Duffle ($298), Filson makes a bag for virtually every occasion. (Filson bags can be found at Federal: 2216 14th St. NW)
If you’re looking for a great bag at a lower price, try a vintage or consignment store like Dr. K’s Vintage (1534 U St. NW) or Amalgamated Classic Clothing & Dry Goods (1904 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria).
Athletic Accessories: For a man looking to lose weight in the new year, the Nike+ Fuelband ($149) will track calories burned both inside and outside the gym and send the information to his mobile device to help keep him motivated. If the gift recipient is a runner, look into a Vitaband ($20 plus $14.95 yearly fee). The device holds a computer chip that contains your ID, emergency contact information, and secure access to a debit card, so he never has to carry his wallet while he’s out for a jog. (CitySports DC, 1111 19th St. NW.)
Dress Shirts: With regular wear and frequent dry-cleaning, professional men can burn through dress shirts. Local shirtmaker Hugh & Crye (3210 O St. NW) sells well-made dress shirts in patterns both basic and bold, priced from $39 to $125. The shirts differ from most traditional dress shirts in that you choose the shirt style that best suits your build. This eliminates the baggy, male muffin top that some men suffer from and gives the wearer a sleek professional look.
Tickets: It can be difficult to shop for the proverbial “man who has everything,” but tickets to a concert, a game, or other local event can be tailored to suit anyone’s taste. Local venues include The 9:30 Club, Jiffy Lube Live/Nissan Pavillion, Arena Stage, Wooly Mammoth Theatre and DC Improv. Tickets are also a great gift for parents and grandparents who don’t need a present but would love a trip to the opera, a play, or some other special event.
Gifts for Her
Champagne: Piper of Sonoma makes a great under-$20 champagne, but for the holidays why not splurge a bit? The Roederer Estate produces the L’Ermitage Rose ($70), a satisfyingly complex pink champagne that’s a real crowd pleaser. If you really want to go all out, you can buy a bottle of Roederer’s best known champagne, Cristal.
For a fun, less expensive gift, try champagne splits instead. The smaller bottles can be enjoyed at any time without fear that failure to finish the bottle will lead to wasted wine, and they’re festive enough for the holidays. (Try Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, 300 Massachusetts Ave. NE; or Bacchus Wine Cellar, 1635 Wisconsin Ave. NW.)
Texting Gloves: Smartphone users can keep their hands warm and operate their devices with special gloves like the ones from Echo Design ($35 for knit, $78 for leather). Textured caps on the tip of the thumb and pointer finger make it possible to manipulate touch-screen devices while avoiding frostbite. (Echo Design gloves are sold at Lou Lou’s seven D.C.-area locations, including 950 F St. NW.)
Classes: If the woman you’re buying for already seems to have everything, think about giving her an activity instead of more stuff. The Trapeze School of New York has a D.C. location (4th Street at Tingey SE) where women (and men, too) can learn flying trapeze, the silks, and acrobatics.
Barre classes are the latest thing in fitness for women. Several local gyms offer starter packages for women who would like to give their inner-ballerina some excercise. Biker Barre D.C. (738 7th St. SE) offers spinning classes and barre fitness, and Lava Barre in Arlington (3260 Wilson Blvd.) offers private classes for $85 to get you started.
Makeup Palettes: Beauty mavens (especially those who travel frequently) love makeup palettes, because they let you carry several eye shadows, blushes, and lip colors in one sleek kit. Bluemercury sells palettes from top-tier beauty brands like Laura Mercier, Trish McEvoy and Bobbi Brown. (Blue Mercury has six D.C.-area locations including 1619 Connecticut Ave. NW.)
The Perfect Bag: Whether it’s a clutch for holiday parties or a functional work tote, women are always on the lookout for the perfect bag. Check out Lo & Sons (www.loandsons.com). Their durable nylon bags ($175-$295) are large enough to hold laptops or file folders, and they have more hidden pockets than you can count. If you’re giving a gift to a fashionable lady looking for a great leather handbag, look into the Rebecca Minkoff Mini-M.A.B ($495, major department stores), a classic satchel that will suit any taste. You can also find a wide selection of bags to suit all styles at Nana (3068 Mount Pleasant St. NW) or Violet (2439 18th St. NW).
Vintage Barware: A quick perusal of home blogs or Pinterest reveals that many women are setting up bars in their homes using bookshelves and bar carts. Decorating these bars with gorgeous trays, shakers, and glasses can become something of an obsession.
If you’re looking for vintage barware, Salt & Sundry at Union Market has a small but perfectly curated collection of glasses, pitchers, and the like. Miss Pixie’s at 1626 14th St. NW also features rare and chic vintage bar pieces. Also, in Alexandria, swing by The Hour (1015 King St.), a shop that stocks the most interesting and varied collection of vintage barware I have ever seen. If you have a woman on your list who is into interior design and decor, a vintage bar set could be an intoxicating gift.
Jewelry: This season, many designers have moved away from the statement jewelry so popular in recent years toward pieces that are softer and more delicate. Tiny charms on pendants and bracelets, thin rings, and small stud earrings fill the shelves. Charm (2910 M St. NW) carries simple pieces like the Gorjana Alphabet Necklace ($55) and Proper Topper (1350 Connecticut Ave. NW) sells the Ettika Pearl Necklace ($35), a thin gold chain with a South Sea pearl pendant.
If the lady you’re shopping for prefers larger pieces, visit Redeem (1734 14th St. NW) or the Eastern Market Flea Market to find unique pieces with heft. And if you need fine jewelry made with gemstones and pearls, visit a locally owned shop to find truly unique pieces. I recommend D.C.-staples Tiny Jewel Box (1147 Connecticut Ave. NW) or Ann Hand (4885 MacArthur Blvd. NW).
Beauty Tools: Beyond potions and lotions, there are hundreds of tools on the market designed to help women care for their hair, nails, and skin. And some of these gizmos and gadgets are very expensive. My favorite beauty tool of all time is the Clarisonic, a sonic cleansing brush that helps exfoliate the skin. Prices for the device run between $119 for the Mia to $199 for the new Aria. Another splurge-worthy beauty item is the T3 Single Pass Straightening and Styling Iron ($160), which is the perfect gift for the woman who straightens her hair each day. These items and a wide selection of beauty tools are available at Sephora’s ten D.C. area locations, but the Chevy Chase store (5330-E Western Ave.) has the best selection.
Great gifts can be found for any price. Here are a few gifts and stocking stuffers that won’t break the bank.
Stocking Stuffers for Him
Socks: A terrible gift for a 7-year-old can be a great gift for a 27- or 37-year-old. If you’re looking for socks that go beyond basic, try J.Press (1801 L St. NW) or Lost Boys (1033 31st St. NW). Because when you’re wearing a staid business suit, socks offer the opportunity to have a little fun with your look.
Skincare: Even manly, macho men need to take care of their skin, because not everyone is going to age as well as George Clooney. Visit Nectar Skinbar (1633 Wisconsin Ave. NW) for the Billy Jealousy Value Travel Kit ($24), which contains everything from shave cream to body wash in TSA-friendly 2 oz. sizes.
If your man suffers from chapped lips (hide the mistletoe!), invest in a tube of Combat Ready Lip Balm ($5) from Skincando to heal and protect his kisser. (Skincando can be found at The Grooming Lounge (1745 L St. NW) and Salt & Sundry (1309 5th St. NE).
Flasks and Koozies: The flask is a classic gift, but there are some really fabulous and fun ones available this year. Trohv (232 Carroll St. NW) has a round flask engraved with the phrase “Put some hair on your chest” ($27), and Urban Outfitters (737 7th St. NW) has a collection of novelty flasks, all under $25.
If the man on your list would prefer a koozie to a flask, either because he’s still in college or thinks he is, check out South Moon Under (700 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington) The store’s Freaker knit koozies ($9.95) expand and contract to fit bottles, cans, and containers of any size, from mason jars to one-liter bottles. The best part? The koozies are made in the U.S.A.
Stocking Stuffers for Her
Boxes and Bags: Women love collecting baubles and trinkets, but we also love coming up with clever ways to store them. C. Wonder in Tysons Corner sells a lovely monogram jewelry box ($78) that comes in four brilliant lacquer finishes. They also sell a resin tile box ($35) that can be used to store almost anything.
Ladies who commute often carry their work shoes in their purse. While this may spare their feet the pain of walking to work in high heels, the dirt and germs on the soles of their shoes can transfer to their other belongings. Shoe bags, like the adorable “Life is Short, Buy Both Pairs” canvas bag ($12) from Simply Soles (3222 M St. NW and www.simplysoles.com) prevent the dirt from spreading.
If your gift recipient travels frequently or has a lot of beauty products, cloth storage bags are a great way to stay organized. West Elm (3333 Wisconsin Ave. NW) sells cosmetic bags and pouches in a variety of sizes of fabrics. The bags start at $9 for a small pouch and go up to $18 for a large bag.
Nail Polish: Whether she adores racy reds, pale pinks, or bold jewel tones, nail polish is a great gift for women of all ages, especially younger women. Deborah Lippman is selling the perfect winter burgundy, a shade called Radiant Merlot ($18), that will look great on anyone.
You can also give the gift of Chanel by purchasing one of the design house’s to-die-for Le Vernis nail polishes like Vamp or Black Satin ($26). (Deborah Lippman nail polishes are available at Celadon Salon & Spa: 1180 F St. NW, Chanel polishes can be purchased at Barney’s Co-Op: 3040 M St. NW)
Office Survival Kits. Small emergencies—a lost earring back, a broken fingernail, a stain on your shirt—can really ruin your day. Mini Emergency Kits from Pinch Provisions ($24 for kit and one refill) provide women with everything they need to survive a day at the office. Kits can be purchased at CUSP (3030 M St. NW).
Holiday Ornaments: Mementos like ornaments and holiday keepsakes make great gifts for mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. I adore the Dove Ornament ($24) from Jonathan Adler (1267 Wisconsin Ave. NW), but a White House Christmas ornament ($17.95) is a truly D.C. gift. (www.whitehousehistory.org)
Stocking Stuffers for Anyone
Funky Kitchen Accessories: Hill’s Kitchen (713 D St. SE) has a variety of kitchen gadgets like the Chef’n potato peeler that conforms to fit the palm of your hand ($5.95) or the Quirky Stem, which allows you to spray juice directly from any citrus fruit ($4.95). Down the street at Homebody (715 8th St. SE), you’ll find a set of fridge magnets made by Kikkerland that are shaped like the rear ends of safari animals ($15).
Ice Molds: While some guides will tell you whiskey stones make a great gift, many Scotch and bourbon aficionados don’t think they keep their drink cold enough. Instead, try a spherical ice mold—the large cubes melt slower and keep the drink colder longer. I recommend the Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds available at Sur la Table (5211 Wisconsin Ave. NW).
Phone Accessories: The Driinn Mobile Phone Holder ($6) balances between your battery charger and wall socket to provide convenient storage while your phone recharges. iPhone batteries frequently run low, so external backup batteries, like those made by Power Mate Plus ($40), ensure that you always have access to a charge. Driinn products are sold at Homebody (715 8th St. SE) and Power Mate Plus chargers for iPhone 3G/4/4S are sold at J.CREW (950 F St. NW).
Gifts for Children
If you don’t have kids, finding a great gift for young ones can be difficult. Shops like Labyrinth on Capitol Hill (645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) sell games, puzzles, and activities for children of all ages. The knowledgeable staff can help you zero in on the perfect game for a child’s interests and age.
Proper Topper (1350 Connecticut Ave. NW) has some wonderful options for cute outfits and adorable stuffed animals. Older children, especially boys, will love gifts from The Spy Museum, which offers items like the Spy Gear Lazer Trip Wire ($27) that can help them protect their belongings and private space from prying eyes.
For a gift that also gives Mom & Dad a break, buy some classes from Kidville in Bethesda, which offers special Superhero and Fairy Princess training camps—which also clear the kids out of the house.
Gifts for Out-of-Towners
Sure, living in D.C. makes many Washingtonians a little blasé about politics and government. But your friends and family elsewhere around the country probably aren’t. So why not bring a gift with a political theme along on a holiday trip out of town? Visit Politics & Prose (5015 Connecticut Ave. NW) to purchase a set of Political Poppers—plastic elephants and donkeys that shoot red and blue rubber balls up to 20 feet ($12).
Tourist traps like the AMERICA! store at Union Station have a host of politically-themed gifts, from Commander in Chief playing cards ($4.99) to John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln bobbleheads ($24.99).
Museums also provide a wide variety of kitschy gifts. The Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) has a great selection of books. The Spy Museum (800 F St. NW) sells everything from a safe disguised as a dictionary ($23) to a credit card lock-picking kit ($29.95). The store at The National Portrait Gallery (8th and F streets NW) offers a selection of wonderful art prints and gifts, and since it’s off the Mall, you can shop without being mobbed by hordes of tourists.
For locals who want a classy gift with a D.C. theme, Hill’s Kitchen (713 D St. SE) sells a wooden cheese board shaped like the borders of the District. And if you’re going to a holiday party, stop by New Columbia Distillers (1832 Fenwick St. NE), the first new distillery to open in D.C. in over a century, to pick up a bottle of their Green Hat Gin ($36) to bring along.