'I Don't Think Fashion Should Be Expensive'

A woman walked into Violet Boutique on one of
her worst days—hours after she broke up with her boyfriend—and met owner Julie Egermayer. She confessed she wasn’t looking for clothes so much as confidence.

On one of her best days—five years later—that same woman said ‘I do.’ Julie had been there to style her from the first date, to the engagement photos, to the rehearsal dinner, and every event in between. 

‘Wake Up. Kick Ass. Be Kind. Repeat.’ Those are the big, purple neon words that glow on the wall at 3289 M St. It’s the motto Julie and her all-female staff live by, cultivating personal relationships with strangers-turned-regulars who find transformation hiding in the racks of the Georgetown boutique. 

The local business moved to M Street in 2016 after five years in an Adams Morgan space it soon outgrew. With the new zip code came new shoppers.

‘We knew we had the customer base of young professional women, but we hadn’t yet had the opportunity to expose our brand to Georgetown University,’ Julie says. ‘The students are so fun and fresh, and they’re often the ones who start trends.’

Much of Violet’s broad appeal comes from a price point that allows for experimentation. Almost everything in the store is under $100—solving a problem Julie had as a young professional who used to forgo coffee for a month just to pay for a new dress. After visiting her cousin’s boutique in Nebraska and returning with dresses for under $50, Julie felt inspired to leave a career in social work and open her own store.

‘I want to challenge our customers, and make the clothing affordable enough that you can embrace a new trend and try a fun look that’s very seasonal without spending $200,’ Julie says. ‘I don’t think fashion should be expensive. It shouldn’t be out of reach for the average, everyday woman to be able to go out and make herself feel more beautiful.’

In Georgetown, the ‘everyday’ woman is everyone from a Hoya to a high-powered attorney. 

‘The professionals who work in Georgetown do a phenomenal job with business clothing complemented by amazing, over-the-top accessories, or an incredible cape or coat,’ Julie says. ‘They’re very polished and fashion-forward.’

Fashion, however forward, is also fleeting. Julie’s buyer relies on long-time relationships with labels and goes straight to LA for first cuts of pieces as soon as they come out. New inventory is put on the floor daily, with only five or six of each piece available.

‘If you love something and get it, no one else is going to have that item,’ Julie says. ‘If you miss it, it’s gone—but you’ll find something else the next time you come in. That’s how I know we can stay ahead.’

A year into her new lease, Julie says Georgetown has forced her to step up her own game and operate at the level of a national store—something the business wasn’t ready to do until it found its footing in Adams Morgan.

‘Georgetown will always be the main retail destination in Washington, DC,’ Julie says. ‘It doesn’t get enough credit for being a hip shopping district, and it makes sense as a long-term bet. The change here is always more stable that the rest of the city, and there are great stores coming in and exciting labels, like & Other Stories. When we were looking at spaces and neighborhoods, this one really stood out.’

Now that Violet Boutique has elevated its game, Julie says it’s time for DC fashion to do the same. 

‘It’s difficult to dress here, especially in this weather, because there aren’t a lot of great, affordable stores for tailored suits and pencil skirts,’ she says. ‘There’s also a lack of offerings for plus-sized women. DC needs to address its fit before its style.’

What else is on her personal chopping block? Uggs, once and for all, and—the Nebraska in her talking—a city-wide ‘obsession with status labels.’

And yet there’s one label Julie’s happy to hold onto; her Georgetown address.

‘Every morning I pinch myself for having my business here. I feel like I’m dreaming.’

The neon sign reminds her otherwise.

Wake up.