Time and again, Charleston residents are named to best-looking lists, including the past several Travel + Leisure rosters of cities where readers say they find “America’s Most Attractive People.” Aw, shucks. Seems like with all this local beauty, we should have great wardrobes, too. Enter the designers, boutiques, and fashion followers. Maybe it’s because of the city’s historic sensibilities for design, art, and society; the success of Charleston Fashion Week; new interests in sewing and making; or simply because people are likely to be noticed on Charleston streets while walking to dinner or theaters or shops. Whatever the reason, what you wear is important here. Locally based designers say they are inspired by the colors and textures of the city itself. Some work in historic houses or storefronts on King Street, and their creative zest fits right in with the designing and making that’s happened all over Charleston for centuries. Here are a few standouts.
It feels special to shop at this above-ground store located upstairs from King Street. Designer Katherine Mullins McDonald began her business with custom prints and preppy designs in ready-to-wear tops and skirts; now she’s earned a following for her wedding gowns and party dresses in silk, satin, and cotton seersucker.
If you ever see milliner Leigh Magar around Charleston, you’ll be sure to notice her style—hat askew, belt-less dresses, hand-dyed colors. A South Carolina art gallery hosted a major show of her latest collection this year, including her new line of hand-dyed cotton frocks under the label Madame Magar.
Featuring an anchor, antlers, and skull, Troubadour has one crazy logo. But the clothing designs to be seen at the Meeting Street showroom are lovely and elegant. Inspired by “the South, the City, the Sea,” the detail-rich line is created by FIT grad Lindsay Carter, who helped develop Madewell at J.Crew.
Introduced at pop-up shops and trunk shows downtown, this new line is a project of longtime resident Susan Hull Walker, who combines interests in travel, fiber arts, rich colors, and the creativity of female artisans. She finds traditionally made textiles in far-flung countries, and refines the shapes and designs in Charleston.
Reminding shoppers of West coast vintage stores, the simultaneously retro and innovative vibe of designer/founder Jamie Lin Snider adds something different to Charleston’s fashion scene. Displaying bones, bicycles, and racks of newly styled collections, this shop is urban, edgy, and smartly situated close to the College of Charleston on upper King Street.