Gift-giving is a skill. It requires knowledge of the gift recipient, knowledge of the retail landscape, and a sensitivity to protocol. It is a skill, alas, possessed by precious few individuals, as evidenced by the stack of boxy sweaters made of mysterious fibers in the back of my closet, all gifted with love but little sense by various well-meaning relatives. Even the president sucks at it—in 2009, then–Prime Minister Gordon Brown presented Barack Obama with a pen and pen holder made from the wood of a British ship used to fight slavery, which, among other gifts, was valued at $16,000. Obama gave Brown a set of DVDs.
To combat poor gift-giving, our nation has turned to a more practical but perhaps more demoralizing solution: gift cards. While everyone loves a subsidized evening at Chili’s, the giving and receiving of a miniature credit card smacks of an impersonal corporatism that’s at odds with the reasons we give gifts in the first place. The gift card has its role to play in gift-giving, but there’s little joy in seeing a pile of small envelopes underneath a tree.
That’s why we asked local retail queen Kelly Collis, who writes weekly about shopping for Washington City Paper under her moniker CityShopGirl and co-hosts the Tommy Morning Show on 94.7 FM, to develop this guide. Collis scoured the region, from an Alexandria silversmith shop to the kooky home goods store in your own backyard, and selected more than 50 presents for everyone on your list this holiday season. The retailers featured here are locally owned and operated, with many of their products hailing from right here. Why send more of your money to Amazon and its drone army when you can pick up locally produced skin products or a D.C.-made needlepoint flask? Our list has something for everyone you need a present for, from your co-workers to your friends with kids to those special millennials in your life. Throw out your crummy, half-assed list of presents to pick up at the big box stores, and go buy D.C.
Gifts For Anyone
Alchimie Forever Men’s Skin Care Essentials
Alchimie Forever, a Swiss brand with U.S. headquarters in Georgetown, stocks plant-based, anti-aging skin products with a bit of scientific engineering. Ask for Ada, who will put together a special package to meet your man’s particular needs, whether it’s a purifying facial cleanser or a tightening eye contour gel.
$93, Alchimie Forever. 1010 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 530-3930
Lighters can be pretty, too!
$44-$84, Proper Topper. 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 842-3055
For the Midwestern transplant on your list. All states available in silver or gold plate.
$130-$390, Shoe Hive. 127 South Fairfax St. Alexandria. (703) 548-7105
Let The Lucky Knot, which also offers needlepoint Republican cufflinks and Reagan/Bush ’84 campaign T-shirts, preppify your gameday attire.
$50, The Lucky Knot. 101 King St. Alexandria. (703) 549-1797
Scoot through D.C. gridlock on this thing, and you’ll save the environment and your sanity.
$1,380, American Holiday. 1319 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 684-2790
Ear Muff Headphones
Protect your ears while you rock out on your walk to the Metro.
$30, Lou Lou. Multiple locations
Gifts For Co-workers
Brew Lip Balm
Local brand Skincando has found a way to add myrrh—the Wise Men-approved resin used by royalty for centuries to heal and beautify the skin—to its balm. Each tube is filled from small handspun batches, and it’s near-guaranteed to lend your lips a magical glow. The lip balm is available at a Georgetown pharmacy that has been in business for more than 100 years.
$12, Morgan’s Pharmacy. 3001 P St. NW. (202) 337-4100
Metro Coffee Mug
Drinking coffee from this mug is much better when you are not on the Metro. (Also less against the rules.) Plus, it will be a collectors item once the Silver Line is open.
$12, Home Rule. 1807 14th St. NW (202) 797-5544
Mini Zen Garden
For your frazzled colleagues who could use a little tranquility in their cubes.
$12, Pulp. 1803 14th St. NW (202) 462-7857
Deborah Lippmann Nail Best of Both Worlds Mini Set
Bling belongs on nails, too, and this can add a festive touch to a manicure. Available at Bluemercury (a company that got its start in D.C.) with eight locations around the DMV.
$19, Bluemercury. 1619 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 462-1300
Add color to laptops, walls, or anything that will take an adhesive with these decals. Tell Hilary, the D.C. native behind the business, hello from the District when you order.
$16, KideCals. KideCals.com
Pink Poodle Bookends
Femmy bookends for that pooch lover on your list.
$95, Decorium. 116 King St., Alexandria. (703) 739-4662
Gifts For Elitists
It’s been a long, slow decline in America for both handwriting instruction and independent arts and craft stores. Rage against the dying of the handwritten light with this calligraphy set, complete with interchangeable tips and ink cartridges, from one of the last local shops of its kind.
$13, Sullivan’s Toys & Art Supply. 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 362-1343
Cuff Links with Family Crest
Independent silversmith Lawrence Miller can craft any family crest on a pair of silver or gold cufflinks. Don’t have a family crest? At this price, you can afford to buy one.
$1,200-$2,600, Lawrence Miller. 121 South Royal St., Alexandria. (703) 548-0659
Vintage Croquet Set
When nothing as pedestrian as horseshoes or gauche as corn hole will suffice for backyard entertainment, turn to the sport of royals. Quirky Adams Morgan home decor shop Skynear & Company stocks gifts both new and vintage-inspired, like this 1950s croquet set.
$115, Skynear & Company. 2122 18th St. NW. (202) 797-7160
For the discerning cupcake fan who prefers baked goods to be accompanied by platinum and diamond eternity bands.
$80,000, Mervis. 1700 K St. NW. (202) 293-0600
Some lips deserve something more than ChapStick. Something like a $24 sparkling grapefruit lip scrub.
$24, Bellacara. Multiple locations
Gifts For Foodies
Dansk Revival Cookware
What is old is new again, apparently, and food blogger-turned-Salt & Sundry owner Amanda McClements has stocked this popular line of simple, vintage-style enamel cookware. The Dansk line comes in white and blue, and special note: Its lids double as trivets.
$78-$140, Salt & Sundry (in Union Market). 1309 5th St. NE. (202) 556-1866
This old-fashioned picnic basket has everything you need for a two-person getaway.
$130, Tabletop. 1608 20th St. NW. (202) 387-7117
At this cooking school, food lovers (and beginners) can choose from a range of educational sessions, including classes in pasta basics, Mexican street food, soup, and French cuisine.
Fees vary. CulinAerie. 1131 14th St. NW. (202) 587-5674
D.C. Cutting Board
Show your D.C. pride with this cutting board, which doubles as a platter to serve cheese (preferably made from local cows, natch).
$20, Home Rule. 1807 14th St. NW (202) 797-5544
Gifts For Booze-hounds
Brown sugar and real bourbon combine in this rich, ginger snap-scented fine body wash. Scrub down while you enjoy your shower beer.
$34, Karma Beauty Lounge. 1104 24th St. NW (202) 293-3333
Step back in time at Lawrence Miller, an Old Town silversmith so old-timey you expect to see Paul Revere behind the counter. Steeped in Hungarian metalworking tradition, the shop’s offerings include sterling silver hand-hammered mint julep cups for the ultimate Southern lady or gent.
$750, Lawrence Miller. 121 South Royal St., Alexandria. (703) 548-0659
Contrarian drinkers will revel in the irony of a needlepoint skull. Made by D.C.-based company Smathers and Branson.
$65, The Lucky Knot. 101 King St., Alexandria. (703) 549-1797
Bourbon Gift Set
Take the guesswork out of buying bourbon and head to this newly opened Union Market shop. They’ll package up a trio of selections for you.
$99, Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits. Union Market,1309 5th St. NE. (202) 548-2450
A discreet satchel to transport your cocktail fixings. Never leave home again without your rye.
$195, The Hour. 1015 King St., Alexandria. (703) 224-4687
Gifts for Friends With Kids
Good Night, Washington, D.C.
When the old lady whispers, “Hush,” and you snarl, “No, you hush,” you have officially read your kid Good Night, Moon one too many times. Take him or her on a tour of all the memorials instead with this bedtime read.
$10, Pulp. 1803 14th St. NW. (202) 462-7857
Let them know their child is one of a kind with these unique handmade dolls.
$225-$285, M29. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. (202) 295-2829
For good, old-fashioned family fun (or at least good, shabby-chic home decor), gift this vintage sled.
$125, Red Barn Mercantile. 1117 King St., Alexandria. (703) 838-0355
Peter Rabbit Tea Set
This heirloom-worthy Peter Rabbit china set is handmade in Germany. Complete with teaspoons.
$140, La Cuisine. 323 Cameron St., Alexandria. (703) 836-4435
Gifts For Home-bodies
Introduction to Knitting
Fibre Space in Old Town offers classes for the beginner or advanced knitting student, including crochet and spinning. You can also stock up on unique yarns that are hand-dyed and produced in the U.S.
$75, Fibre Space. 1219 King St., Alexandria. (703) 664-0344
PJ Salvage Comfy Socks
Super soft on the feet after a day of pounding the pavement.
$17, Bloomers. Multiple locations
Bring your garden into a meditative state with this little fellow.
$200, Abaca Imports. 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria. (703) 684-2901
Spinning Top Game
Checkers are for les incompétents. Try this far more chic French spinning-top game.
$189, Tradition De France. 1113 King St., Alexandria. (703) 836-5340
Gifts For Millennials
Beginner Ukulele Pack
Hey, kiddies, want to make the next quirky TV jingle? The ukulele is your ticket. Pick one up at this independent music shop, a rare gem in D.C.
$150, Music on the Hill. 1453 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Second floor. (202) 733-3158
Instagram Personalized Stockings
Your selfie, bowl of ramen, and/or friend’s wedding photos, all on a personalized stocking. (Other options include a coin purse, pillow, and a tote bag.) The photos come from you, but the stocking is made in D.C.
$64, Stitchtagram. stitchtagram.com.
Owl Gloves and Earmuffs
Put a bird on it.
$28 each, Ski Center. 4300 Fordham Road NW. (202) 966-4474
Billy Kirk Mason Bag No. 166
Made in the U.S., this is the perfect getaway bag for the young man running away from adulthood.
$374, Mutiny. 1734 14th St. NW (202) 500-8680
A fine stocking stuffer that should remind you that you’re never too old to believe in Santa or superheroes.
$1 each, Miss Pixie’s. 1626 14th St. NW. (202) 232-8171
From the ashes of the A.V. Club’s crossword puzzles comes this yearlong crossword-puzzle subscription for the snarky intellect. (Also available: a $250 lifetime subscription.)
$15 a year, American Values Club Crossword. avxword.com
Way, way, more discreet than a camera phone, this wristwatch comes with a 1.3 megapixel cam.
$85, Spy Museum. 800 F St. NW. (202) 393-7798
Vintage Santa Music Statue
A retro Santa is the perfect addition to your friend’s front stoop. If a giant plump man in a red suit is a bit much, browse Miss Pixie’s for more subtle retro holiday items, from ornaments to artificial trees.
$150, Miss Pixie’s. 1626 14th St. NW. (202) 232-8171
Gifts For Nymphs
Straight from the pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, these beads strengthen the muscles of the vagina and pelvic floor, and they’re available from this modern-day version of a sex shop.
$62, Lotus Blooms. 1017 King St., Alexandria. (703) 535-8225
Making Whoopie Lotion
At makeup artist Erwin Gomez’s salon in Foggy Bottom, pick up this Whoopie Pie-scented lotion that smells and tastes almost like the real thing. Packaged in a pretty decorative gift box.
$14, Karma Beauty Lounge. 1104 24th St. NW. (202) 293-3333.
Sleeping Princess Shoes
For the shoe fetishist on your list, try these princess creations from shoe mecca Hu’s. Prince not included.
$995, Hu’s Shoes. 3005 M St. NW. (202) 342-0202
TakeOuts and Cleavage Cupcakes
At this local sleepwear shop—which has locations in Old Town Alexandria, Shirlington, and Georgetown—consider these Commando-brand boob-enhancers. They run a lot cheaper than real fakes.
$48 and $44, Bloomers. 3210 O St. NW. (202) 525-4852
Gifts For Stylistas and Stylistos
Dupont Circle treasure chest Proper Topper is the exclusive retailer of these D.C. map cufflinks. Perfect for the dapper smart-transit enthusiast in your life.
$120, Proper Topper. 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 842-3055
The Fashion Book
Style scripture for those who worship at the altar of fashion.
$60, Phillips Collection. 1600 21st St. NW (202) 387-2151
Lauren Merkin Star Clutch
A splattering of silver foil stars keep this lambskin clutch down to earth.
$250, Wink. 3109 M St. NW. (202) 338-9465
For the fashion plate who has everything, make an appointment for a personal scarf-shopping experience.
$165, Claire Florence. By appointment. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sophie Blake Jewelry Bangles
Jewelry designer Sophie Blake launches her line in Georgetown with these sweet cuffs, which mix Art Deco with ancient styles.
$220-$245, Charm. 2910 M St. NW. (202) 298-0420
Rebecca Taylor Sweater Coat
For the leggings-are-pants crowd: Now a sweater can count as a coat.
$425, Zoe. 130 South Union St., Alexandria. (571) 970-6324
Where to Regift
The fastest way to consign your upscale clothing if a receipt was not included with your gift. You get 50 percent of the sale price if your piece sells; no appointment needed.
This is the place to consign high-end china, crystal, and vintage silver. It also accepts upscale furniture, lighting, and decorative items. Proceeds from the Opportunity Shop help to support the programs of the D.C. chapter of the Christ Child Society.
1427 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 333-6635
Lawrence Miller & Co
A mainstay of Old Town Alexandria, they can melt down that silver candelabra you got as a gift and give you a fair market rate for the silver. Same service for gold.
121 South Royal St., Alexandria. (703) 548-0659
Dump unwanted electronics at this Web portal, which gives you an instant estimate of the value, provides a shipping label, and credits your PayPal account when the item is received at its warehouse. Gently used iPods, computers, and cameras welcome.
Correction: This story originally contained two reporting errors. It listed an incorrect price for the luna beads sold at Lotus Blooms. They are $62. The price of a portable liquor satchel at The Hour was also incorrect. It is $195.