Fashion Forward in Alexandria

Fashion Forward in Alexandria

Nearly every little girl loves to play dress-up. Two Alexandria women dress themselves and people around the region in fashion that is usually found only on Seventh Avenue in New York or on fashion runways.

A la Lelia opened on King Street in May. “We opened in May but just had our grand opening last week,” said Lelia Partee, the shop’s owner. “There was so much to do to get ready, and I wanted everything to be just right. I wanted to create a welcoming atmosphere for my customers and have clothes that would appeal to a variety of people.”

The store is now bedecked in fall colors – oranges, reds, purples, greens and browns. “The shades are very vibrant,” Partee said, “and there is a shade for everyone’s complexion.”

A shade for everyone’s complexion and a look to suit most tastes. “Our customers range from 6 to 60,” Partee said. “We have clothes that are daring, and basic T’s. We also have children’s fashions.”

Partee carries fashions designed by such couturiers as Myth Ritual, Cynthia Rose, James Perse, Lila, Mia, Catherine Maladrino, Pamela Brown, JK Designs, Twinkle, Velvet and more. Partee describes the clothes as “fashion forward.” Fashion forward is often described by magazines as “clothes for every woman that are usually seen only in the highest society.” The textures are rich – cottons, cashmere and silk blend, wool and silk. Clothes are accented with color as well as with texture, through lace, ribbon, fur and more.

Partee carries a number of children’s labels as well, such as Juray Kids, Kyds, Queen Bee, Arno Bretti, Tashia and Petrozillia. She also is the only Alexandria store that carries clothes by local designer Cindy Conner, whose line is called In By Ten.

“Cindy’s cotillion dresses are very popular,” Partee said.

“I just want people to have fun when they come into the store,” she said. “We have large dressing rooms for trying on things and a great staff of fashion counselors to help.

“We also have a little cyber center for men and for children. You can watch television on the computer, check out the Internet or play a game while you wait,” she said.

The clothes are priced from moderate to high. Coats range from $400 to $600, skirts from $100 to $200. Dresses are typically in the $300 range. Partee makes about five trips a year to New York to buy new things.

“It’s a terrific shop,” said Cathy Moore, who went into A la Lelia while visiting Alexandria last weekend. “The clothes are very interesting and go from very casual to nearly black-tie. It’s expensive, but for a special occasion, I would definitely come back,” she said.

Her 12-year-old daughter, Sara, agreed. “The clothes are really different — not what you see everywhere. I like them,” she said.

A la Lelia is located at 917 King St. and is also on the Web at

WHILE PARTEE IS just opening her store, Maria O’Leary is changing directions. Nuevo Mundo has been located at 313 Cameron St. since 1966. Last March, O’Leary decided to mostly close the store and sell her clothing on the Internet.

“It’s very hard to be here six days a week, nine to 10 hours a day,” O’Leary said. “By going with the Internet, we can reach more customers and work from home.”

O’Leary is being helped by her three daughters and a friend. “We live in different parts of the country but can all be involved,” she said. “I have so many customers who have moved that it really makes sense for me to sell in this way.”

O’Leary says her clothes are “fashion forward contemporary.” One of her mainstays is a line of easy-care travel wear.

“We have a number of foreign-service customers who need clothes that can be folded, taken out of a suitcase and that are then ready to wear,” she said. “These are very affordable and are extremely popular.”

Fall colors abound in the store, as do the textures of soft cottons, velvets, silks and wools. Classic sheaths get a jazzy look with the addition of an interesting scarf or cape. Evening coats and casual jackets complement skirts and pants.

O’Leary also carries interesting artifacts. “We used to carry pre-Columbian artifacts, but they are not available on the open market,” she said. “Now we carry one-of-a-kind items from various parts of the world. It’s something that is a little different.”

The store will still carry some clothing. “We perhaps won’t have as broad a selection but are still going to be here and will be open in the morning,” O’Leary said. “Some of our customers prefer to touch the clothes before they make a selection, and that’s fine.”

Prices in the store range from affordable to extravagant. Every customer receives all the assistance she needs. “I wouldn’t say that I shop at Nuevo Mundo on a regular basis, but I go there when I want something that is a little different,” said Suzanne Carson. “I love to look at all of the interesting artifacts as well.”

Shop at the store from 10 a.m.-noon, or online at