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King Street shopping area, Charleston.King Street shopping area, Charleston.
Hunting for Hidden Treasures in Charleston

By Rachel Khona

“What do you think of this?” I asked holding up a bright emerald 80’s vintage jumpsuit for my mom to examine.

“Oh gosh I used to have something just like that!” she exclaimed her hands clapping together. My mother was quite the clotheshorse in her younger years. And my natural predilection for shopping was only inflamed by my mother’s closet filled with high heels in every shade of the rainbow, silk dresses, tailored blazers, embellished purses, and pantsuits.

“Well unfortunately you tossed all your good vintage clothes, so now I have to buy them all over again. Thanks for nothing mom,” I remarked. I was half-joking but half-serious. I really couldn’t believe she got rid of such a fabulous wardrobe.

Meanwhile the bright green jumpsuit was calling to me. But I'll get back to that.

My mom and I were together in Charleston for what was our first annual mother daughter trip. Charleston is known for many things; beautiful cobblestone streets, Southern charm, large-pillared homes, genteel accents, plantations, mint juleps, and a lively bustling population.

It’s a beautiful city and one in which the average tourist could find plenty to do; explore Gullah culture, visit Fort Sumter, or take a ghost tour. If you’re a foodie, Charleston will make you feel like entered nirvana. So good is the food that if you ask a local where to eat, they will often reply “anywhere.”

And while the two of us have been known to lick a dinner plate clean, I was slightly more excited about stuffing my shopping bags and not my face. Charleston is also home to a number of vintage stores, high end boutiques, and offbeat thrift shops. Eager to discover this little known side of Charleston I called up ol’ momsie. Mom and I have several things in common; a love of fashion, an obsession with discovering new food, and the ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, at anytime about anything. red-dressThe elusive red dress at the Library Archives of Fashion.

Stop Interrupting!

So verbose is my mother that once on family vacation I had to tell her to stop interrupting the tour guide with her own stories. But excessive chattiness aside, I knew we would have a good time as long as I didn’t try to convince her to slam shots or go bike riding and she didn’t try to persuade me to go to any sort of flower show. Though mom’s shopping was now relegated to the “mom clothes”, I knew she would enjoy coming along for the ride.

We began our exploration on King Street the main artery of the city and heart of the shopping district. First stop was Sam’s Closet which is located on a side street off King. The small boutique store housed a slew of clothes that would be perfect for a Kardashian or a weekend in Miami.

In a good way. I spotted fitted bright yellow skirts, ombre pink pants, and python print espadrilles. It’s not every day that one encounters ombre pants, so I decided to grab them.

Satisfied with my first purchase we headed over to V2V a bright airy store bursting with clothing in every shade of the rainbow. Jewel toned magentas, cobalt blues, canary yellows, and bright pinks dotted the store along with some more corals and subdued beiges. As per usual I made a beeline for the sales display. I spotted a chain and feather necklace marked down 70% making it a mere $12.

Score! I wasn’t a big fan of the feathers but with the help of my jewelry designer friend I knew I could remove them in a snap. Back in the sale rack, I stumbled onto a beautiful beige diaphanous v-neck Ark & Co top with a sequined sewn in tank for only $30. I slipped into the dressing room to try it on, but mom wasn’t so impressed.

“That blouse is much too big,” she commented.”What size is that?”

“It’s a medium but I thought we could sew it?”

We examined the seams and fabric, but alas it seemed like a lost cause. Sadly I hung it back up on the rack, hoping there would be more gems in store for me elsewhere. Moseying onward on our mission, we continued until we arrived at Library Archives of Fashion.

Library Archives of Fashion

We climbed the stairs ending up in what looked like a small apartment that had been refurbished to look like a store. The owner Lauren Lail welcomed us in giving us the brief lowdown on what was on sale before sitting back down at her desk.

I was immediately drawn to a red spaghetti strap gown that recalled something Heather Locklear or Linda Evans might have worn in Dynasty. For $120 it wasn't a bad deal for a gown, but unfortunately I didn't have much in the way of social invites that required me to wear formal attire. I pawed through the basket full of leather flap envelope purses and gold-framed clutches but couldn’t find anything I fancied enough to buy.

Sam's Closet, Charleston SC.Sam's Closet, Charleston SC.After refueling at Kudu Coffee and Craft Bar, we walked over to JLINSIDER. Upon stepping inside the store, I immediately felt as though I had been transported somewhere else. New York or LA perhaps or even Austin or Nashville. The decidedly rocker hipster-like store was a marked difference from all the others. The colors were not bright and florals were not the main motif.

The salesgirl happily welcomed me in. And not in that generic, "welcome to our store" kind of way that I was used to in New York. Like many other Charlestonians her sentiments were genuine.

“Welcome! Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“Nah, just browsing,” I replied. “Cute store. It’s so different from the rest of Charleston.”

"Well the owner gets most of the merchandise from shopping trips in New York and L.A. There's some pretty awesome stuff here." she explained of the well-curated selection. I gravitate towards a mauve colored long sleeve blouson dress; it was the kind of dress that screamed 80s working girl.

"I love that dress!" she exclaimed noticing my selection.

"I think it's going to be too big," I said holding it against my frame.

"But you have boobs! You should be able to fill it out," she remarked.

She certainly was a convincing sales person. I agreed to try it on. I stepped into the giant dressing room. Alas I was right, it didn't fit. In fact it was about 2 sizes too big. Disappointed I put in back on the rack. So far I had a necklace and some colorful jeans. V2V, another clothing store on King Street, Charleston.V2V, another clothing store on King Street, Charleston.Not bad, but I sensed there was still something amazing out there that I just hadn’t found yet. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.

Alice and Daisy

Our last stop on our magical mystery shopping tour was Alice & Daisy. Located away from King Street on the other end of town, it was a bit of a trek but one that I hoped would be worth it.

The quaint boutique was featured a small well-chosen stock housing vintage 70s frocks and blouses in bright colors and floral prints. It's here that I found the aforementioned emerald green jumpsuit in all of its fabulosity.

"I think I'll shorten it," I said examining my reflection in the mirror. It was gorgeous as a full length jumpsuit but on someone 5'1 such as myself it looked more like a clown suit.

"Your sewing skills are not that good," my mom very succinctly pointed out. She always had a way with words. The salesgirl giggled behind us.

"My sewing skills are perfectly adequate," I responded brushing off my mom's negativity. "She just wants me to ask her to sew it," I said to the salesgirl.

"I think it looks awesome!" the salesgirl said. "It's so 80's glam. I'm seriously loving it."

I still wasn’t 100% sure until I looked at the price tag. “$10!” I shouted my eyes bugging out of my head. “I’ll take it!”

A cute short suit in a Charleston store called V2V.Though I might not gone as crazy as I wanted to, there’s no doubt our trip to Charleston was a success. In fact, I began to ponder where mom and I would go next. Searching for Mexican-inspired home goods in Texas? Digging through flea markets in Nashville? Or just kicking it at a spa?

Ultimately it didn’t matter. Sure I got my $10 jumpsuit, but the best part was definitely hanging out with mom.

Rachel Khona is a blogger, style writer and traveler who lives in New York City.  Visit her website

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