Beauty Moves:

Sephora Heads North

Cintra Wilson Goes Shopping:

Exclusive Vintage Vault Edition

The Shophound On The Road:

A Discovery Expedition To L.L.Bean

A couple of weeks ago, we got around to visiting Fjällräven, the Swedish expedition experts who have arrived in NoLita, which it got us to thinking about how it was basically a smaller, imported version of L.L.Bean, the venerable and beloved Maine outfitters.
As we found ourselves looking for a new pair of snow boots for what promises to be a stormy winter, our thoughts turned to the original New England institution itself. Since we happened to be out of town for the weekend and close to one of its few branch retail shops (There are now 13 outside the original Maine flagship, mostly located on the Northern part of the Eastern Seaboard), we decided that rather than order over the internet as most of their customers are likely to do these days, we would take advantage of the opportunity to buy them in person. As it happens, one of the first freestanding L.L.Bean stores opened a few years ago in Tysons Corner, Virginia, the suburban DC shopping mecca which, between its two immense malls, is home to just about any chain store you can name, including two (!) Macy's.
Beanboots_A Has L.L.Bean sacrificed its staunch Northeastern character to fit in at the mall? Thankfully, no. It is still paradoxically devoid of fashion yet bursting with style, and it may now be one of our very favorite stores.
Maybe it's nostalgia for our preppy youth, but there's something reassuring about that nearly century-old brand. Our new Bean Boots insulated with Thinsulate and Gore-Tex have promised to keep our feet dry and toasty throughout the snowstorms we are expecting in the next couple of months, which is a lot more than we could say about the clunky, old Timberlands we are discarding. It doesn't hurt that rugged, outdoorsy style has been undergoing a resurgence lately, but Bean has been making a variation of these boots for about 98 years. We are now hoping for a blizzard.
As for the rest of the store's apparel offerings, it's true, there is no shortage of Mom Jeans there, but high fashion and trends has never been what they are about. Bean's down jackets, an awfully respectable alternative to The North Face and Patagonia, start at a whopping $69. Pleasant surprises pop up all over the place. Bluchermocs_A The classic, handsewn Blucher Mocs which never go on sale on line were 35% off here (and remain at full price on the website). A stack of Scotch plaid shirts retailing for just under $30 each is made from a buttery soft brushed Portuguese flannel. They are more than a bargain when the hipster stores of Brooklyn have been pushing designer flannels for over $200. Not the same thing as Engineered Garments or the newly rejuvenated Woolrich and Pendleton? Well, of course not, but any stylish person knows the value of mixing in the high with the low, and if you have been having trouble pulling together this winter's pervasive lumberjack/longshoreman look within your budget (join the club), there are a lot of pleasingly affordable alternatives at L.L.Bean to pair with those pants you got at Odin a couple of months ago.
More After The Jump
Of course, there's more to this massive two level store than that. It's exterior is festooned with kayaks, and one enters into a sizable fishing and camping department. There is nobody less interested in camping than The Shophound, but we defy anyone not to find something useful amongst the racks of gadgets, whether it's a travel clock or an air mattress. L.L.Bean is really a small department store. A few steps to the side takes you to an extensive cycling department whose square footage would be the envy of any Manhattan cycle shop, and it comes with a service department right in the center.
Downstairs, past a rocky waterfall fountain we find a substantial section devoted to Bean's famous luggage including the signature canvas totes in a host of sizes and colors. There's a home section fairly overflowing with flannel sheets, and children's department.
Maybe we are suffering from fashion overload, but we couldn't help being charmed by the vast displays of sheer practicality and good, solid stuff. Would we be caught dead in absolutely everything? Certainly not (although we are hotly anticipating the imminent launch of the L.L.Bean Signature label which will be designed by Rogues Gallery founder Alex Carleton). The brand's pants remain hopelessly boxy, for instance, but the overall lack of pretension in the store is a refreshing tonic to anyone weary of New York boutique attitude, and looking for a little bit of affordable simplicity.
L.L.Bean 1961 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, Virginia and other locations
Today In Tundra Fashions: Fjällräven's Timely Arrival



I love LL Bean. Two must haves for winter: micro fleece tops for layering under coats and, need I say more, flannel sheets! And their customer service remains impeccable. I bought snow shoes there a few years ago, had trouble with one after a while, and they replaced them with a brand new pair, no questions asked. So refreshing.

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