Where do young, upper middle class women shop for clothes?
March 7, 2019 11:08 AM   Subscribe

This Ask is mostly for curiosity’s sake. I grew up extremely not upper middle class and have yet to crack this nut.

I grew up working class, wearing hand-me-downs, and started shopping primarily at Target and Goodwill in high school. College came around and I lived in a big city so I started shopping at H&M and the Urban Outiftters sale rack, plus the occasional thrift store.

I went to a “quirky” school where even richer girls dressed similar to me (slightly nicer and more up to date), but I noticed that at other schools, with more of a preprofessional student body, young women (particularly sorority women!) dressed... different. Nice and distinctly young, but a bit more like their moms than I was used to. Skinny jeans, but with nice shoes and tops and jackets. Not stodgy or super business casual but obviously “nice.” Maybe the Tory Birch set is what I’m thinking of.

I’ve been assuming they get their cues from one another plus their families. But where do they actually shop? Nordstrom... ? How do they pick out the “young” clothes from everything else? And is it all department stores and familiar brands online? Which brands?

Thanks for indulging my curiosity, AskMe.
posted by stoneandstar to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
For reference I’m mostly interested in the present to about 20 years ago.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:09 AM on March 7, 2019

Ann Taylor has a younger/cheaper store called the Loft that seems to fit your description, but most of my peers of the time were still heavy on the H&M side of things.
posted by advicepig at 11:16 AM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's a really peculiar tribal attribute, isn't it? In my neighborhood (suburb of Atlanta), the moms/teens/young women shop at local carefully curated boutiques plus shops at a certain outdoor mall. Example include Free People, Anthropologie, Kinnucan, Simply Southern, etc..
posted by heathrowga at 11:17 AM on March 7, 2019 [10 favorites]

JCrew. Everlane. Anthropolgie - but I do not recommend it. They're stupid expensive, quality is maybe 3 clicks above Forever 21 or H&M.
posted by space_cookie at 11:20 AM on March 7, 2019 [8 favorites]

During a strange episode of my life I was a sorority girl. There was a whole elaborate hierarchy of clothing involved.

Middle class= Loft, Forever 21, Charming Charlie, H&M
Upper middle class = Anthropologie, Lululemon (for those awful ubiquitous yoga pants), J Crew, Vineyard Vines, Nordstrom, various designers
When trying to be "alternative" = Urban Outfitters
posted by coffeeand at 11:26 AM on March 7, 2019 [18 favorites]

In the mid-to-late 90s, Abercrombie and Fitch was big.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:31 AM on March 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Banana Republic, Club Monaco, J Crew, Aritzia, maybe Zara, Vineyard Vines
posted by greta simone at 11:32 AM on March 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would include Madewell in addition to what coffeeand listed
posted by raccoon409 at 11:34 AM on March 7, 2019 [7 favorites]

For me, curated boutiques and Instagram are the places I’m likely to shop most. If I have to go somewhere in person for something in a pinch, madewell or free people.
posted by Marinara at 11:49 AM on March 7, 2019

Now: Zara, Madewell, Reformation, Sezane, Everlane, H&M.

20 years ago, this group shopped at Ann Taylor (and Loft), Talbots, J.Crew, Banana Republic, and you're spot on with Tory Burch, also Lilly Pulitzer and Vera Bradley (and of course Tiffany bracelets and necklaces with the dangling heart tag). Some of it was stuff they picked out, some of it was stuff their mom gave them or stuff they borrowed from an older sister.

source: I was in the 'nice' sorority at a midwestern liberal arts school 20 years ago and observed what my friends wore very closely
posted by stellaluna at 11:51 AM on March 7, 2019 [10 favorites]

Amour Vert, Kate Spade, and Boden for dressier/preppier items.

And maybe this is a west coast thing, but many younger people with money seem to really embrace the "Athleisure" aesthetic...the last time I hung out in the Marina/Nob Hill area of San Francisco (where many of the oft-maligned tech-yuppies reside) I was wearing something along the lines of the brands already mentioned here, and I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb because it didn't appear I was going directly to the gym. All that to say that I would also add brands like REI, Northface, Marmot, DEFINITELY Lululemon, and whoever makes those weird light-weight puffy jackets that are so ubiquitous in the Bay that I have to wonder if they hand you one when you get off the plane.
posted by lovableiago at 12:04 PM on March 7, 2019 [8 favorites]

As mentioned this is also VERY regionally dependant. The Bean boots have gotten popular all over but those used to be a much more New England thing than it is now. Same with something like Lily Pulitzer, that’s going to be popular among a very specific crowd
posted by raccoon409 at 12:08 PM on March 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you want to see where they shop, you can find a lot of cues on WhoWhatWear or Instagram, but would need to start with a few brands: Reformation (expensive, but sustainable line of gorgeous dresses, etc), Shopbop, Kate Spade, Rag & Bone, Intermix.

Also, Rent the Runway has been booming, and the math works for some women who want to invest in and enjoy higher-end fashion.
posted by hampanda at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think you're talking about preppy fashion. It'll depend on the region of the country, but yeah, Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Vineyard Vines, Lilly Pulitzer, etc. There was also the Vera Bradley obsession of a few years ago. I also somewhat associate Anthropologie with this? There's a whole world of slightly more conservative but still youngish and not career focused clothes out there for the sorority/debutante/where-does-your-family-summer set.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 12:23 PM on March 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Talbots has been skewing a little younger these days. (Or I'm just old enough that it looks age-appropriate now.) The look you described in your OP sounds a lot like their catalog.
posted by capricorn at 12:33 PM on March 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ann Taylor Loft
posted by ChuraChura at 12:41 PM on March 7, 2019

The fresh out of college girls in my media office who dress well and obviously have some kind of clothing allowance to have low-paying jobs in Manhattan while looking great wear: Alice & Olivia, Tibi, Equipment, Everlane, Mango, Topshop, Uniqlo, Rebecca Minkoff, Reformation, Shoshanna, Aritizia. And so much Zara and so much Madewell and INCREDIBLE amounts of ASOS. And they're all doing Rent the Runway for work clothes.
posted by sestaaak at 12:45 PM on March 7, 2019 [22 favorites]

20 years ago it was 100% J. Crew and Anthropologie, plus your mom's jackets from Ann Taylor or in my case, because I was raised in Manhattan, department stores like Barney's which had Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen concessions. Formal dresses came from Berdorf's or boutiques on Madison Avenue.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:07 PM on March 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

My undergrad students do not shop in stores much and buy a lot of their clothes via instagram.
posted by k8t at 2:20 PM on March 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm in NYC, so depending on your "set" (whether it be lifestyle ie uptown sleek or specific neighborhoods like Park Slope yuppie), you could run the gamut from stores like Opening Ceremony to Intermix to Bloomingdales to Bird Brooklyn. It's currently very common to mix high and low items. Jewelry is also a class marker -- rings, bracelets, and necklaces from certain jewelers are very recognizable but not mass market luxury (a Pamela Love versus a Cartier).
posted by vacuumsealed at 3:26 PM on March 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Here in LA, in show biz, it’s Acne, Opening Ceremony, Fred Segal, Maxfield and online and Instagram. I don’t know any one young who goes to department stores.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:22 PM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I skew older than what most people consider 'young', but shop at many of the stores mentioned above - Sezane, ASOS, Reformation, Free People, Aritzia. To this list, I'd also add Spell and the Gypsy Collective, ASTR, Massimo Dutti, Isabel Marant, Pixie Market, Pretty Little Thing, Moon River, and COS. ASOS is kind of a one-stop go-to for many of these brands as they don't have brick-and-mortar stores in the US.
posted by Everydayville at 5:20 PM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

With a slight note that this will change a tiny bit if you're larger than a US size 12*: Anthropologie, Madewell, J. Crew. Boden, COS, Zara, Club Monaco, ASOS, Reformation. Nordstrom carries a bunch of those brands (Madewell, J. Crew, Boden, Reformation) which makes it an easy online one stop portal. Especially once you throw in shoes.

I still buy a fair amount of stuff at small boutiques, consignment and vintage/thrift stores, but I love clothes and I enjoy shopping, so . . .

*I am, so I'll add Universal Standard and Eloquii to the list
posted by thivaia at 6:57 PM on March 7, 2019

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