7 So-Awesome Work Outfits From D.C.'s Chicest Gallery Girls

UPDATE: Need some inspiration when it comes to dressing for work? Count on seven of D.C.'s chicest gallery girls to step it up a notch. This story was originally published on January 30, 2013.
There are certain professions that not only allow, but almost necessitate major creative license in the wardrobe department. Topping that list of enviable gigs? Gallerists. Gallery girls. Gallerinas. Whatever the official (or unofficial) title, we're referring to the style-savvy art pros who make a living inside our favorite galleries — and manage to look as inspiring as the eye candy hanging on the walls.
Advertisement
To find out what it's like to be immersed in the arts from 9 to 5 (and all the fashion experimentation that goes with it), we caught up with seven of the coolest art aficionados in D.C. Whether you're looking for tips on how to dress for a less-traditional office or just want to mix prints like a (old) master, you'll want to know what these boundary-pushers have to say. Now, who's feeling creative?
Enoc Perez, Watergate, Washington, D.C., June 2012, 2012 (detail). Oil and acrylic on synthetic canvas, two paintings. Courtesy of the artist and Acquavella Galleries, New York and Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1 of 21
Rachel Cothran, Corcoran Gallery of Art

How did you land this job?
"Craigslist, and then knowing someone who knew someone, and, of course, having a background in PR, events, writing, and social media. And bribery and blackmail. Kidding!"

What's your favorite part of working in an art gallery?
"I love working with people who value creativity and creative ways of thinking, and I enjoy working with the curators and artists to develop ways to translate their intentions to the public."

What would people be surprised to know about the Corcoran?
"People might be surprised to know that the Corcoran is not just a museum, but also a college that is Washington's only accredited four-year college of art and design. You can take continuing education classes in photography, interior design, and jewelry...to name a few. Since they're part of the academic curriculum, they're top-notch classes with amazing professors."

How do you dress for a job in a creative environment? Are there any guidelines you use?
"I feel very lucky to work in an environment that gives me complete freedom to wear what I like. I try to look professional, polished, and creative, so that I represent the Corcoran and its ideals. For openings or press previews, I often like to channel the era, colors, or ideas behind the work with my outfits."

Urban Outfitters sweater, BCBG skirt, heels scored at a clothing swap, Thai bracelet gifted by a friend.


Enoc Perez, Watergate, Washington, D.C., June 2012, 2012 (detail). Oil and acrylic on synthetic canvas, two paintings. Courtesy of the artist and Acquavella Galleries, New York and Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
2 of 21
Do you have a style icon you look to for sartorial inspiration?
"Dita von Teese! She's totally alluring, but she takes care in how she dresses and presents herself because it pleases her. That sort of self-possession and awareness is inspiring...plus, anyone who knows me well knows that I have a weakness for vintage and vintage-inspired looks."

What's one thing we'd never see you wearing?
"A toe ring, scrunchie, or anklet."

What gets the most rotation in your work wardrobe? What piece should every working girl own?
"I have no real rotation, though I do wear a fair amount of black. High-waisted, often A-line skirts with volume are great — or a slim pencil skirt. I don't do well without extremes. I think women who work in office environments should have a pair of black patent pumps in a heel height that is comfortable to them."

Thrifted silver earrings.
3 of 21
What's the top item on your shopping list right now? Any spring trends you're looking forward to?
"I want a perfect white/cream tuxedo jacket with slightly pearly silk-satin lapels and a slim, slightly angled breast pocket, with nice, high-cut armholes and slim sleeves in a pretty fabric that doesn't wrinkle. For like $50. Is that too much to ask? I'm also on the hunt for a really great structured work bag with room for toting shoes.

For spring, black-and-white graphic looks and all-white separates cut in simple, structured shapes. I can't wait to see The Great Gatsby, so '20s feminine glamour is also on my mind. I'm also really digging small cropped shirts and bra-tops with high-waisted skirts and pants — a riff on '50s and '60s styling that suits my figure well."

Where do you shop for work clothes in the DMV?
"Though I'm getting better about it, I have to force myself to spend money on work clothes as opposed to 'fun clothes.' Thankfully, my job allows for a lot of crossover. I love the hunt, and consignment shops are smart for work pieces, so I pop into places like The Mustard Seed when I'm in Bethesda or Current Boutique on 14th Street. Zara and J.Crew are also on the list, and while I haven't purchased anything yet, Massimo Dutti has some beautifully made, affordable pieces that I think I'd love."
Advertisement
4 of 21
Amanda Williams-Vasquez, Freer & Sackler Galleries

How did you land this job?
"As long as I can remember, it’s always been my dream to work at the Smithsonian. I landed the job in 2006 after a stint in international broadcasting and overseas work in Cairo and London. I came in via a pool of applicants for a curatorial assistant position. After [I didn't land] that particular position, I offered myself up as an intern two days a week...and two short months later, I was offered a permanent position in the Public Affairs & Marketing department, where I have been ever since."

What's your favorite part of working in an art gallery?
"Being amongst the nation’s most eminent collections and face-to-face with the world’s most authoritative scholars. However, my favorite aspect about my work is my involvement and leadership with the museum’s millennial programming efforts. Having developed the popular Asia After Dark after-hours series has really let my creative talents shine, and contributed to the growth of new audiences and a whole new way to experience Asian art."

Modern Vintage jacket, Religion top and Something Else pants from Redeem, MICHAEL Michael Kors boots.
5 of 21
How do you dress for a job in a creative environment? Are there any guidelines you use?
"People think because I work in an art gallery, I must make art; however, it’s the complete opposite, since I took the Asian art history degree route. I actually express my creativity through my style of clothing, which is an artistic fusion of bohemian chic and hippie influences. I think of fashion as a self-expressive art form.

I am decidedly fascinated by Asian and Islamic-inspired fashion prints. The creative temperament of the 20-plus countries I've visited have greatly influenced my style — one that reflects my love for Asian and Islamic art. And, by all means, working at an Asian art museum inspires me even more."

Do you have a style icon you look to for sartorial inspiration?
"My style icon since I was about five-years-old is Madonna — there were several Halloween and grocery shopping outings with my mother where I [dressed in] her Material Girl look, but what '80s girl didn’t? However, as I got older and engrossed myself in art history, Frida Kahlo influenced me, and, if you look at my closet now, you would definitely see her color palette reflected."

What's one thing we'd never see you wearing?
"Glitter platform stilettos — although I recently spotted some ruby-red ones ones that I adored."
6 of 21
What gets the most rotation in your work wardrobe? What piece should every working girl own?
"An Indian-style silk kaftan: It's fashionable in its fabrication, conservative in silhouette, relevant to my work environment, and easily dresses up with bangles and earrings."
The number one thing every working girl needs in her wardrobe is a fitted suit jacket, worn with a pair of black-sole pumps (or Christian Louboutin red sole pumps, if you can afford them), and a statement jewelry piece that sets you apart from the rest."

What's the top item on your shopping list right now? Any spring trends you're looking forward to?
"I have my eye on a Michele Signature Deco Diamond watch— however, I’m leaving this purchasing option up to my chef fiancé (hint!). And for spring trends, I’m in love with the new checkerboard prints from the Louis Vuitton spring '13 collection. I'm also looking forward to spring and summer because I heard the '60s, stripes, Asian-inspired prints, and checked patterns are going to be the stunning styles."

Where do you shop for work clothes in the DMV?
"I am a huge boutique fan, and when I can’t get to my favorite San Francisco boutique, Ambiance, or to Soho, I like shopping at Zara, Benetton, Mango, and the U Street corridor boutiques, such as Redeem. And any vintage shops or luxury retailers in between."
7 of 21
Sara Beth Walsh, National Gallery of Art

How did you land this job?
"The arts have always been my passion — I loved to draw and write as soon as I could hold a pencil, and I studied ballet very seriously for more than 20 years. I majored in art history at William & Mary, and by pure luck, I landed an internship in the press office at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond during my senior year. I was phenomenally mentored there and realized that museum PR was a perfect fit for me — I love that I help to spread the word about art to the public and hopefully make it more accessible. After working at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk for five years, I moved to D.C. to work in communications at the Corcoran. A few former colleagues recommended me for the publicist position at the National Gallery of Art, and I knew it was just too much of a dream position not to try for it. I have been lucky to serve the nation’s art museum for more than four years now, alongside so many inspiring colleagues."

What's your favorite thing about working in an art gallery? What would people be surprised to know?
"My favorite thing is any time I get to spend in the galleries. I think people would be surprised at how easy it is to confine ourselves to our offices in front of our computers with deadlines and mountains of emails just like anyone else! But when I have a press tour or a photo shoot or any other reason to get me out into the galleries or to attend one of our countless programs, the art rejuvenates me and reminds me exactly why I am here."

J.Crew leopard sweater, ASOS skirt, vintage clutch from Old Lucketts Store, AK Anne Klein heels, vintage ring.
8 of 21
How do you dress for a job in a creative environment? Are there any guidelines you use?
"My goal is always to dress professionally while still expressing my individual style. While we often wear suits for press events, thankfully we are not confined to them every day. There is some room for personal expression, and I’d say there is more of a respect for that because it is a creative environment. But at any moment, I could find out that an important member of the media or other VIP has shown up and I need to greet them, so it is important to always be wearing something that is presentable and professional, but still reflects the dynamic environment. In general, I tend toward tailored, comfortable pieces, and if the clothes are simple, I will add an unusual accessory or a bright lip.

I dress every day for the mood I'm in, but the fact that I am going to work at an art museum always factors in, even if only subconsciously. Sometimes, my instinct is to keep my look clean and minimal, almost a blank palette, so as not to distract from all these masterpieces…but other times, I'm moved to dress in brighter colors, in which case I usually keep accessories very simple. I am also incredibly inspired by the fellow creatives with whom I work every day! I own several of Nina O'Neil's lovely creations for Ciao Nina, for example, and my officemate Anabeth Guthrie also has a very unique way of mixing fun vintage with classics and color that I admire."

Do you have a style icon you look to for sartorial inspiration?
"I find inspiration in so many women! The first was certainly my mother…I remember watching her applying her makeup when I was very young and dying for the day when I could transform myself, too. Carrie Bradshaw’s imaginative style on Sex and the City was hugely impactful in thinking about mixing things up and daring to break the 'rules.' Chloe Sevigny and Carine Roitfeld both have an edgy aesthetic I really admire. But then I am also in love with the romance and fairy-tale quality of Ulyana Sergeenko’s look. Lately, I have been trying to really tune into the French mentality of style — chic but unfussy, with a meticulously edited closet worn with confidence and panache."
Advertisement
9 of 21
What's one thing we'd never see you wearing?
"One key fashion rule: Never say never! But I admit I have never really understood open-toe boots…"

What gets the most rotation in your work wardrobe? What piece should every working girl own?
"My skinny black cropped pants are by far my most versatile canvas when it comes to my professional outfits. I dress them up or down, and go from bright accents to a classic, monotone look. I love them paired with a blazer for an updated take on the suit — every working girl should have some version of a suit in which she feels like she can conquer any meeting, event, or presentation!"

What's the top item on your shopping list right now? Any spring trends you're looking forward to?
"[Over] the last year or so, I have tried to stick more firmly to my own personal style and purge my closet of trendy items, but I think some of the graphic pieces and the ladylike looks this spring will mix nicely into my wardrobe. Outside of the office, I live in jeans and I love to dress them up with statement jewelry and fun clutches, so I’m always on the prowl for those. My shopping list this spring will include light, airy blouses, pointy-toed flats (especially the slightly chunkier heeled ones on the runways lately), bright pencil skirts, and I might keep an eye out for a contrast-frilled skirt à la this spring’s Balenciaga collection."

Where do you shop for work clothes in the DMV?
"My style is a mix of new and old. While I scout most of my vintage in Prescott, Arizona, when I visit my parents, in the D.C. area, I’ve gotten tons of amazing secondhand items from Butler & Claypool’s fantastic pop-up sales, Mercedes Bien, Pretty People, Smash Records, Current, and Secondi. I mix in classic and contemporary pieces from stores like J. Crew, Banana Republic, ASOS, and Zara."


Photographed in the National Gallery of Art.
10 of 21
Amanda Jiron-Murphy, Hamiltonian Gallery

How did you land this job?
"A combination of hard work and luck. I had been working at the Phillips Collection for almost five years and had some solid museum experience under my belt. In my spare time, I'd been curating shows, and was trying to find a way to make my passion my full-time job. When the former director told me she was stepping down from her position, I jumped at the opportunity — the job felt like the perfect match. So far, it has been!"

What's your favorite part of working in an art gallery? What would people be surprised to know?
"I LOVE working with a team of creative people. Both the Hamiltonian artists and my colleagues Angela Goerner and Nathan Wallace are wildly creative and challenge me to think differently on a daily basis. One of the biggest surprises for me when I got the job is that I'd have to learn to drive an enormous Dodge cargo van to do art and supply pickups — it's one of those anonymous white vans with no windows. I call it the 'creeper mobile.' It's an unwieldy thing that's almost impossible to park — hardly the epitome of glamour."

How do you dress for a job in a creative environment? Are there any guidelines you use?
"Casual but interesting. I try to wear something that I truly like every day, even if it's just one unique item like a cool ring, bracelet, or scarf. Above all, I'm enjoying not having to dress conservatively. If it looks too corporate, it's gotta go!"

Nakayama alpaca cape, All Saints dress, Elisa Shere necklace and earrings, Joie boots.
11 of 21
Do you have a style icon you look to for sartorial inspiration?
"Kate Moss, Kate Moss, Kate Moss! Also Garance Dore, the Gainsbourg sisters (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon), and any of the actresses in French New Wave cinema, like Anna Karina in Band of Outsiders, Jean Seberg in Breathless, or Brigitte Bardot in Contempt. The French are just so damn good at stylish insouciance! Art-world wise, I think Maggie Michael, Linn Myers, Victoria Fu, and Camilo Alvarez always look great…also Karyn Miller from Flashpoint, Emma Fisher from The Fridge, and my dear friend Jenna Kowalke-Jones, an art preparator at Artisphere — she got me this bracelet. Oh, and the guards (or MAs, as they're called) at my old job at the Phillips Collection were incredible sartorial inspirations! Believe me, those guys know how to put together an ensemble. Gosh, I could go on and on. I look for (and find) fashion inspiration absolutely everywhere."

What's one thing we'd never see you wearing?
"Sweatpants in public. I once ran into a well-known D.C. gallery fixture at the grocery store — she was in her sweats, and when she saw me, she made a swift U-turn with her shopping cart. You never know who you might run into, so leave the sweats at home!"

Vintage bracelet from Halcyon in Richmond.
12 of 21
What gets the most rotation in your work wardrobe? What piece should every working girl own?
"My J.Crew pixie pants and a sweater dress, motorcycle jacket, and ankle boots [from All Saints]! As pragmatic as it sounds, I think every working lady should have a snappy blazer that is cut to the nines — and no, it needn't look too corporate."

What's the top item on your shopping list right now?
"An Equipment blouse."

Where do you shop for work clothes in the DMV?
"I always find something awesome at Treasury. I also love All Saints for edgy pieces. H&M, Zara, and J.Crew are my standbys for basics. Buffalo Exchange on 14th Street is great for cheap, funky finds. Since I work on U Street, I salivate at the windows of Muleh and Redeem on a regular basis, but they're for special occasions and inspiration only. I bought myself a gorgeous coral-colored Vivienne Westwood Fond dress at Muleh for my first opening when I got this job — that goes down as one of the defining sartorial moments of my professional life to date."
13 of 21
Nina O'Neil, National Gallery of Art

How did you land this job?
"The museum community in D.C. is tight-knit. Going to college and graduate school in the city, you can’t help but meet people, who introduce you to people, who might know of the perfect opportunity you hadn’t hear of yet. Preparedness, professionalism, and kindness go a long way."

What's your favorite part of working in an art gallery? What would people be surprised to know?
"I love working in a place that people are always so excited to visit. The NGA has an amazing permanent collection. There are very few work environments where you can enjoy works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, and Claude Monet on your lunch break. It is a beautiful, inspiring environment during the day, though there is something magical about walking through after hours. The opportunity to be alone with a work of art is really a beautiful thing.

Vintage Averado Bessi dress, Idra leather jacket, Juicy Couture earrings, Ciao Nina headpiece of her own design, Kate Spade heels.
Advertisement
14 of 21
How do you dress for a job in a creative environment? Are there any guidelines you use?
"The exhibitions certainly inspire my style. When the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition was up, I wanted to wear polka dots every day. My recipe for a good outfit is to always wear two patterns (or textures) and a solid. I also put as much thought into my hair accessories as my shoes — they complete an outfit."

Do you have a style icon you look to for sartorial inspiration?
"My grandmother told me that you should only wear clothes that are flattering on you. I take that to heart, and I love Michelle William’s ability to appropriately morph her style for every event, but always flatter her shape."

What's one thing we'd never see you wearing?
"All black. I don’t feel like myself if I’m not wearing color."

Marc Jacobs watch, bracelets from her father, grandmother, and Proper Topper.
15 of 21
What gets the most rotation in your work wardrobe? What piece should every working girl own?
"If you find something that works, get it in every color. I have a great pair of tomato-red wool trousers from J.Crew that always get compliments, so I bought every color I could get my hands on."

What's the top item on your shopping list right now? Any spring trends you're looking forward to?
"Being 5”1’, the annual hunt for a pair of sky-high sandals I can walk in begins while there is still snow on the ground."

Where do you shop for work clothes in the DMV?
"I wear a lot of vintage, but sometimes those loved pieces can look a little dated. I like to shop at what I affectionately call the trifecta of plastic: Zara, Forever 21, and H&M. You can find inexpensive, trendy pieces to mix in, without feeling like it’s an investment."

Artwork: Multiverse, 2008, by Leo Villareal in the National Gallery of Art.
16 of 21
Marissa Payne, Geoffrey Diner Gallery

How did you land this job?
"Very randomly. I was working as a freelance writer and wanted to pick up a more steady side income, so I decided to go for a part-time job and answered an ad. I got the job because my personality clicked with the owners and I speak Russian, which was attractive to them, as we have a pretty international client base."

What's your favorite part of working in an art gallery? What would people be surprised to know?
"I suppose the most obvious answer is the art. It's a pretty big thrill to be able to get within a nose-length of paintings by artists like Nicolas de Stael and Andy Warhol and not have someone yell at you, like when you're at a museum. It's also pretty great that our office chairs are original Eames. My butt's been spoiled...As for surprises, I guess it's that most of our time isn't spent drinking champagne and staring at the art, but corresponding with clients or auction houses, arranging shipments (we maintain art warehouses in both D.C. and New York), and doing a lot of research. There's a lot more analytics that go into art dealing than one might think."

How do you dress for a job in a creative environment? Are there any guidelines you use?
"The biggest plus about working in a creative environment is that you can pretty much wear whatever you want. My basic goal is to not look like a schlub next to all the great art, so I try to dress fashionably, but not so overtly trendy that it looks like I'm trying to compete with the art. Clearly, an original George Nakashima table will always be greater than whatever I'm wearing to work. Plus, if I'm around a client, my goal is to get them to comment on the art, not my outfit."

French Connection sweater, BLK DNM jeans, Schutz boots.
17 of 21
Do you have a style icon you look to for sartorial inspiration?
"I think my style icon is the world, if that makes sense. I'm a people-watcher, which I hope is less creepy than it sounds...I feel like I'm always passively taking in whatever's around me, and if I see something cool, whether it's on someone across the street or some sort of pattern on a building or wherever, a mental bell goes off and I'll make a note about it."

What's one thing we'd never see you wearing?
"Underwear. Just kidding. The real answer is a probably a shapeless, boring pantsuit."

What gets the most rotation in your work wardrobe? What piece should every working girl own?
"Unless we're exhibiting at an art fair, where I basically wear non-stop black, I have to say that high-waisted jeans, both skinny and straight-leg, get the most rotation in my work wardrobe. They work for every season, and look good with just about every length and style of top, from oversized sweaters to cropped tanks.

As far as the item every girl should have in her work wardrobe, I think a well-tailored black blazer is a must-have. It goes with pretty much everything and makes even the most casual outfit seem professional — even a pair of high-waisted skinny jeans and a crop top."
18 of 21
What's the top item on your shopping list right now? Any spring trends you're looking forward to?
"Right now, I'm on the hunt for a pair of shoes that will pair well with my wedding dress, which isn't really a wedding dress. (I explain what that means on my current blog, The Anti Wedding.) As far as spring trends go, I'm already a fan of the pointy-toed flat. Being comfortable and sleek at the same time sounds just about right."

Where do you shop for work clothes in the DMV?
"I'm really digging my friend Lori Noto's new pop-up vintage venture, Notoriously Vintage. I'm also a big fan of Pretty People Vintage in Old Town Alexandria, and this little consignment shop called On the Purple Couch in Silver Spring, where I once got a sweet vintage gold cropped St. John sweater. For new stuff, I'm a big fan of Muleh's sale rack, as well as the shops around U Street, like Ginger Root Design and this little shop called Passport right by Bohemian Caverns that has well-priced sweaters and things from Europe that you can't find anywhere else."
Advertisement
19 of 21
Emma Fisher, The Fridge

How did you land this job?
"I started working in the arts industry about five years ago at CulturalDC. They took a chance on me. I’m grateful for it; I had great teachers there. In late 2011, I worked with Merin Guthrie on an art installation with dismembered mannequins wearing out-there styles to push the conversation on conservative fashion choices in D.C. The Fridge gallery director Alex Goldstein saw it and knew of my work with CulturalDC; when he started a search for a new assistant gallery director, he scooped me up for the job."

What's your favorite part of working in an art gallery?
"My favorite thing about The Fridge is learning about our primary focus — graffiti and street art. Relative to other art forms, graffiti and street art are in such a young stage right now, some people don’t even accept that it's art. The possibilities of where the artists can take this form are endless right now. There isn’t the same struggle to do what hasn’t been done like with other artists...there’s no need for an existential Duchamp moment, no 'Ceci n'est pas une pipe.' I’m always learning here. Everyone at The Fridge, all the artists and friends, have taken me under their wing. If you approach someone with humility and curiosity, they’ll help you.

What would people be surprised to know?
"I often hear, 'You have a fun job.' This is a business — I’m knee-deep in spreadsheets, I’m implementing accounting systems. I’m not living a bohemian lifestyle. I’m fielding 100 emails, bringing in cash, making connections."

Sweet Rain blazer, Bill Blass shirt, I.N.C. Concepts pants, Nine West high tops.
20 of 21
How do you dress for a job in a creative environment? Are there any guidelines you use?
"I have no limits. I could walk in with a hat made out of Barbie dolls. In fact, I just asked my mom to send me some of my old Barbie dolls. I need that — the ability to creatively express myself on such a basic level. I play dress-up; I pick out costumes depending on my mood. If you come into the gallery and I look like a gallerina, it’s because I woke up that morning and decided to play that role. I know everyone doesn’t have as much creative freedom — my advice would be to push to the limit. When you start doing outlandish things, people will stare at first, and then they’ll let it go. When I first moved to D.C., I had a very conservative job, so I decided to push gender boundaries. My hair was very short, and I played with masculine-cut clothes with feminine shoes. I’m about Eddie Izzard."

Do you have a style icon you look to for sartorial inspiration?
"My grandmother is my style icon. If she were still with us, I would get her on Advanced Style. She had a pair of earrings to match every outfit. She loved dresses that had pom-poms hanging off of the seam. She had bejeweled cat-eye magnifying glasses with a small handle and tassel that she used to read the phone book; I keep those in my jewelry box. When she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, she began to safety-pin notes to her clothing, listing the date she wore the garment and to what occasion."

What's one thing we'd never see you wearing?
"Once upon a time, I said I’d never wear skinny jeans, and then I decided to never say never again."
21 of 21
What gets the most rotation in your work wardrobe? What piece should every working girl own?
"I’m always in black, brown, or blue cigarette jeans. They’re my go-to because they’re simple to build off of. Every working woman should have an item of clothing that feels like a valuable and true expression of self."

What's the top item on your shopping list right now? Any spring trends you're looking forward to?
"I need to replace the cigarette jeans that I’ve worn down to threads. Literally. I busted the back seam out of a pair — I’m thankful l was at home. I decided to stop following trends after I realized their implications: fanaticism leading to higher pressure on sweatshop laborers and fodder for fashion magazines that tell women what they should and shouldn’t be and do."

Where do you shop for work clothes in the DMV?
"These days, I only shop at Value Village and Unique Thrift unless I’m pressed for something specific."
Advertisement