It would be easy to adopt the “Charleston style.” You know: Seersucker. Lilly Pulitzer prints. Bow-ties. There’s nothing wrong with it — but you don’t want to arrive on the scene with khaki shorts or sundresses and call it a semester. You’ll soon find that creativity isn’t something we take lightly in Charleston, especially when it concerns our fashion sense. So spare yourself the rookie label and make a shopping trip to one of these locally owned boutiques. They’ll help you don the look that fits your unique style and your student budget, and you can probably find a few red-and-white-striped shirts out there, too.
As a student in Charleston, there will probably be more than a few mornings when you wake up 10 minutes before class in clothes from the night before. A word of advice: Invest in outfits you can easily dress down with a pair of sandals. House of Sage, a boutique that’s practically on College of Charleston’s campus, is stocked with trendy clothes for students’ lifestyles. The guys’ stuff is understated and simple (like most of the guys you’ll see around here), while the women’s clothes will suit a diva just as well as a flower child.
It’s never a bad idea to have a few outfits that show off your liberal arts side, especially if you’re taking philosophy courses. Mellow Mood has all the markings of a bohemian shop with its inventory of tie-dye, flowing tops, and long skirts. Owners Jay and Tanya Behrens often travel to India and Nepal to hand-pick their merchandise, and their hand-to-hand dealings keep their prices surprisingly low. Meanwhile, at Seeking Indigo, you’ll find vibrant dresses and hand-embroidered tunics that are a little more conservative but no less stylish. They also offer a range of affordable spa treatments, just in case all the shopping is making you tense.
The summer look is never entirely out of fashion in Charleston, but be wary of the fine line between beach-ready and beach bum. Las Olas on Upper King will help you make that distinction with their surfer-style collection for guys and girls. They’re a go-to for bathing suits and rash guards, but they also carry plenty of fashion lines that are fit for nights on the town. Salty Girls in Mt. Pleasant is another option for girls with a summer style and a slim budget. Their price point hovers around $40-$100, and you can usually find pieces on their sale rack that haven’t gone out of season yet.
There’s a lot to be said about the T-shirt-and-jeans look, and Artisan Tees on Spring Street has got you covered for the top half, at least. They’ve got T-shirts and tanks for men and women, screenprinted with birds, cats, and even a hipster tiger, and they’ll do custom designs if you want. Right down the road is Rogue Wave Surf Shop, where you’ll find even more one-of-a-kind clothing to fit that newfound surfer vibe you developed after an afternoon on Folly.
Vintage shopping is always a fun, affordable way to add some creative flair to your wardrobe. One place that will make you feel like you’re playing dress-up in your eccentric aunt and uncle’s closet is Exchange Factor, which has both downtown and North Charleston locations. It’s a great place to go if you’re in the mood to take on a new persona, like that of a cast member of Scooby-Doo or a groupie from the ’90s grunge scene. JLINSNIDER is a newer vintage shop that could turn even the plainest Jane into one of Warhol’s muses. They carry a wide-ranging selection of retro gear for guys and girls, some of which is designed by owner Jamie Lin Snider (and she sells her new originals too). Plus, this spot offers students with a college ID a 10 percent discount. Extra points go to those of you who don’t shy away from shoulder pads. Up the street is Butterfly Consignment for more traditional fashionistas, and Worn on James Island is for the consignment-minded men out there.