On a summer work trip to Washington DC, I set aside some time to drive out to historic Culpeper, VA. As rents in DC went up over time, many of the fabric stores had to close or relocate. One of these stores was Exquisite fabrics, which was now about 2 hrs from DC. This store had quite a few excellent local reviews, and stocked high-end couture fabric – which is rather rare find outside of the major metropolis fashion centers. They do have a website, but I decided it would be worth the trip to find out if they really had such gems.
At the time, I was staying in Tysons Corner (McLean, VA), which meant that I had a 1.5 to 2.0 hour drive ahead of me. Taking the shortest route, I would be on a rural 2-lane highway for most of the trip. Round trip, my driving estimate was about 4 hours, so I decided I would make a day of exploring Culpeper. On the downside, the heat index that day was in the high 90’s and absolutely miserable … which would limit the amount of outdoor exploring I was willing to do …
After a fairly miserable drive, I found myself exiting the highway and almost out of gas. The surrounding area was questionable, and I began to wonder if I had made a mistake! I refueled (noting the much higher octane gas in the area vs CA), and continued to E Davis St. There, I was met with a surprise: A quaint historical quarter with boutique shops, antique shops, and artisan stores and restaurants! Plenty to explore!
My first stop was to Exquisite Fabrics (of course!). The shop has a very non-descript entrance near some offices, opposite of the restaurants and boutique shops. The window display shows a teaser of designer silk draped on a dress form, and beautiful rhinestone buttons.
The inside of the shop is narrow and deep. After entering, you will notice a notions wall on the far left, and a counter with buttons and findings on the right. The cut table is a small countertop near the buttons.
Nearer to the front of the store are the more affordable fabrics (cottons, polyesters, novelty), but that wasn’t what I was looking for! I wanted the rare couture gems! I started to head to the back, and opposite of the cut table I noticed a huge pile of 100% silk prints. Oh. my. gosh …what an amazing selection! Everytime I looked, I found something new! Nearer to the back of the store were the bottom weights, brocades and velvets.
The most precious finds I didn’t notice until I put a selection on the cut table … they are hanging behind and to the right of the table. The shop owner proudly talked of the providence of each. Most of these were in the $90/yd to $200/yd range. One of the prints (Dolce & Gabbana) that I was most drawn to (a loud black and white striped pineapple print) was $125/yd. I still can’t get that one out of my mind 🙂
The shop owner continued to pull out his most precious fabrics for me, one of which was a beautiful camouflage silk. He stated it was a roll end, and that he would let it go at a discount! He also gave me a photo of the original runway piece (Michael Kors) that the fabric was associated with (truly the sweetest man ever!). Other such gems included Gianni Versace, YSL, vintage and misc Asian imports. Also on the cut table were a selection of Bob Mackie silk scarves.
He spent some time pulling out his favorite buttons to photograph … the selection was equally impressive!
In the end, I wound up picking a YSL red and white silk with amazing depth and texture, a Calvin Klein black jacquard dress weight, a gunmetal and black stretch brocade, a striped raw silk and the camo Michael Kors silk. But that pineapple silk … still obsessing!
Since I made the long trip out to Culpeper, I decided to lunch there and explore the boutique shops. There were so many artisan pieces on display that it was hard to select which photographs to share. Of note was a shop called The Cameleer. This shop is a gift shop with many unique and beautiful pieces, including one of the most amazing dimensional quilts I’ve ever seen, gorgeous steampunk styled jewelry and recycled metalcraft knick-knacks (I left with a few gifts). Near the The Cameleer was an upcycled furniture store, which had some very clever pieces (I didn’t buy anything here), and a tasty fish market restaurant with an attached jams/jellies/condiments shop. I decided this would be my lunch before heading back to DC.
Seafood etouffee & a watermelon margarita please!