John McCaslin

Rachel Cothran says she started the popular D.C. style and fashion blog Project Beltway "because I was tired of hearing that Washingtonians have no sense of style."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton included, although as the American University graduate points out, the would-be Democratic presidential nominee decided against appearing in the pages of Vogue recently for fear of appearing "too feminine," according to her campaign team.

All Miss Cothran has to say in response to that is the former first lady is "definitely not" ahead of the fashion pack in her trademark pantsuits, although she concedes Mrs. Clinton and other "professionally powerful women in Washington want to be judged first by their ideas and education, not by the style of suit they wear or their clothes in general."

So does style even exist in the nation's capital?

"Washington is the most interesting city to study fashion," the blogger explains during dinner at Marvin in the U Street corridor, arguably one of the more stylish sections of the city. "For one thing, Washington is a thinking town, so people are more concerned with being taken seriously for their accomplishments and ideas rather than for what label they're wearing.

"So in Washington's established and professional circles, it's never gonna be 'fashion for fashion's sake.' I love that and hate that about Washington all at once. This is what I meant when I said that I think there's something very cool about how 'unfashiony' Washington is."

Then we're 'unfashiony'?

"Washington is a complicated town," Miss Cothran says, "the kind of place you have to live in for a while to truly understand and appreciate. What I find particularly fascinating is how fashion choices are used strategically here — all the way from the White House down to the streets. It's all about message-sending.

"My biggest beef with Washington's fashion sense is that it's way too conservative. The thing about Washington is that people here are most concerned with looking appropriate and put-together — not interesting or unique. People actually strive to blend in, as opposed to stand out. This is what we need less of. Washington needs more courageous dressers."

Like us men, in other words?

"We need to get every man in this town a tailor — there are just too many baggy suits and ugly square-toed shoes. Guys, please lose the ugly Pilgrim shoes."

With attribution

Tim Goeglein, a senior aide to President Bush who resigned after repeatedly plagiarizing from numerous writers in a column he wrote, sent a farewell e-mail Friday that refers to Mr. Bush as "an extraordinary leader, and my time with him ... has been the honor of a lifetime."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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