Washington is the province of power ties and razor-straight parts, where shoulder pads are worn without '80s nostalgia or even irony, where "The Star-Spangled Banner" drowns out the latest rap anthem, where twentysomethings angle to hang out with politicos older than their grandfathers. It's a dignified city, perhaps, but "super-cool"? Not so much.
Unless, of course, you're rolling with Annie Lou Bayly, the editor of DailyCandy D.C., a new online publication that plumbs the hip undercurrents of this marble metropolis.
"D.C. is not what you think," the 29-year-old says. "There are so many people who are, you know, cool. And interesting and fun. They want to go out and be engaged in the city."
Bayly's own coolness is palpable. She is the kind of woman who throws croquet-and-champagne parties, who pairs the latest dark-wash James Jeans with a handmade cotton halter top. The woman works like an air-conditioning unit: Other stuff grows cooler in her presence. Such as cupcakes, which seem more pre-K birthday party than trendy midmorning treat until Bayly invites you to sample some at Love Cafe on U Street. Suddenly they couldn't seem more stylish if they had exclusive Italian logos stamped in their icing.
"These are the best cupcakes ever," she declares.
Yet Bayly decides to skip the baked goods this morning, opting instead for a bottle of sparkling artesian water.
"I can't handle cupcakes this early," she explains.
Maybe the only prenoon sweetness she can stand is her DailyCandy e-mail, which - since its mid-September launch - has gone out to an undisclosed numbers of subscribers in the metro area around 3 each morning. The message briefs readers on the fad du jour, whether it's gorgonzola-stuffed olives from a little-known Morse Street market or asymmetrical argyle sweaters hidden in an Arlington denim boutique.
With Bayly's blessing, anything can become cool, including the DMV: She recently plugged a funky little company whose employees will wait in the inspection lines for you.
"The idea is that DailyCandy is like your best friend whispering in your ear," Bayly said. So listen up.
The D.C. edition is the latest in the expansion of the free DailyCandy service, which began trend-spotting about five years ago in New York City, then Los Angeles and Chicago. Along with offering a generic nationwide version, it broadcasts city-specific tidbits about arts and entertainment (peel-off graffiti, anyone?), clothes (anti-cellulite sneakers), home decor (disposable bamboo cutlery), even hip patterns of speech ("glute glue" = thigh sweat).
This year, the thriving publication launched localized spin-offs in London, Dallas, Boston, San Francisco and, now, Washington.
The private company - which makes money by selling advertising space - doesn't discuss the size or composition of its subscriber base, said editor-at-large Dannielle Romano, but she said it targets "sophisticated urban women" and reaches more of them than most city magazines.
Branching out to the nation's capital was a no-brainer, she said. Not only is Washington the stomping ground of short-timers eager to learn more about their temporary home, but it's also "a city of insiders," Romano said.
"We want to give the same sort of scoops that people are used to getting about, you know, politics. But this is about fashion" - not to mention lamb-filled tea sandwiches, rock 'n' roll yoga, underwear inscribed with Latin proverbs, and other must-haves.
"D.C. has been on our radar for a long time," she said. "It was just a matter of finding Annie Lou."
It took them long enough. Except for four years away at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., Bayly has always lived in the city, growing up in Northwest Washington, the daughter of a district Superior Court judge and an artist. She said she started "investigating" the place as a small child, on unsupervised expeditions to the National Zoo.
At a tender age she began amassing the right connections, serving on committees for groups like the Jete Society of the Washington Ballet and interning at the Smithsonian, where she served as the director of oral history for the Archives of American Art before switching to her present job.
"I've always been in a position where I know things," she said. "Friends always say to me, 'Oh, you have to look at this amazing florist down this alley under this warehouse,' or, 'Check out this band my brother's in.'"
Her job now pays her to do what she's always done: wander the city in search of fun stuff. She then goes home to compose missives that are flirty yet wonk-friendly: "Like liberty and pursuit of happiness, wearing cashmere is every woman's inalienable right."
Two weeks into the venture, the editors at DailyCandy are feeling optimistic, and say that the publication will likely expand to include suburban Maryland, perhaps extending as far north as Baltimore - where, as luck would have it, Bayly's mother is from.
"I love Baltimore as though I was a resident," she said, and smiled.
Charm City feels cooler already.
To sign up for DailyCandy's daily e-mail, go online to DailyCandy.com.
DailyCandy's Guide To 'What's In' In ...
Alison Lukes. One of the capital's premier closet consultants, Lukes revises your wardrobe so you don't "accidentally pair a fur vest with a grommet belt or your metal-studded Mulberry with houndstooth shoes." Heaven forbid.
Hall Motor Home Rentals. Tricked-out coaches include amenities such as 60-inch drop-down projection screens, four-door refrigerators and multiple bathrooms.
Mandarina Duck Bags. They look ordinary enough, but DailyCandy claims that "the sleek totes" are inspired by "the plumage of Asian waterfowl, said to symbolize happiness and loyalty."
Tea-bag tanning. After crumpets and jam, why not wring out your tea bag and wipe it over "legs, arms, decolletage and any other parts of the body you'd like bronzed" for a sun-kissed but safe look. "Black leaf" varieties work well, DailyCandy advises.
Schwa, a new North Ashland Avenue bistro, dishes up stuff like quail egg ravioli and sable fish with summer veggies marinated in ice-wine vinegar for a (relatively) reasonable price.
The Bicycle Kitchen in Hollywood, where hipsters learn to fix bikes and to design their own.
Mobile Phone Art. Wooster Mobile is, apparently, "the world's first curated online gallery for downloadable phone art."
The Tropical Rainforest Room at Tru, a city spa. DailyCandy promotes its Jungle Love treatment. Includes: a coconut and kukui nut exfoliate, a fruit-based body mask, thumping drums and a shower in an "insanely realistic waterfall."