The closets overflow, the floors gather piles and certain articles are borrowed and traded like hard currency within circles of friends. But where do college students get their heaps of clothes — and which retailers represent students’ favorite shopping experiences?
WWD did an informal spot-check of college students across the country and learned of a common college conundrum: how to stand out without spending a fortune.
Students cited J. Crew and Gap as virtual pillars of the college student wardrobe, reliable for providing basics at a reasonable price.
“I get all my bathing suits, khakis and plain sweaters at J. Crew. And I worked there over Christmas,” says Elizabeth Gutterson, a sophomore at Trinity College in Hartford.
As Gutterson demonstrates, J. Crew, Gap and Victoria’s Secret are where students spend most of their money, yet students also say relying only on those places leaves them at risk of becoming a campus clone.
So, along with the specialty powerhouses, students are visiting boutiques, department stores, thrift and vintage shops and some smaller chains, looking for items with flair.
“I’m always looking for something unique,” says Emily Howe, a senior at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
Indeed, “unique” seemed to be one of the highest compliments that students could pay a store. Which is perhaps why Anthropolgie’s stock is so high among the college populace. They may have aspired to Abercrombie when they were in high school, but now the 52-unit older sister of Urban Outfitters is the chain getting the “A.”
Students interviewed praise it for providing flair and a viscerally satisfying shopping experience. “Urban” also evokes fondness, but the real yen is for Anthropologie.
“I wish there was an Anthropologie on campus, but there never will be,” mourns Krystal Skwar, a senior at the University of Delaware in Newark.
H&M is an up-and-comer, with positive feedback coming even from students who had not actually shopped there yet. The scuttlebutt flying through campuses is that, despite the disposable prices, the clothes actually hold up — a major positive for students who are keenly aware that when fabric is thin, cuffs stretch after one wash and seams pucker.
Hope also springs anew for the department stores. Students who don’t mind foraging for deals praise department stores for their range of lines and never-ending sales.
“Department store — good time,” quips Skwar, whose favorite recent purchase was an olive trenchcoat from Macy’s. “It’s Jones New York or something. I spent $89 and it was marked down,” she says.
Students’ hits and disses:
“H&M. I love it. But we don’t have it in San Francisco. If we did, I would totally shop there.”— Deborah Williams,University of San Francisco, ‘05
“Abercrombie…is so teeny-bopper. It’s too logo-oriented.”— Elizabeth Stanek,University of Virginia, ‘04
“I like to shop at Lucky Brand. I buy most of my jeans there. Although it’s more expensive, their product lasts a long time and looks nice.”— Rachel Safran, GeorgeWashington University, Washington, ‘04
“I love T.J. Maxx. You can find some fashionable stuff there that people have overlooked.”— Emily Howe, BowdoinCollege, Brunswick, Maine, ‘04
“I don’t like stuff from Contempo Casuals or Wet Seal — that stuff doesn’t last long. It’s cheap clothes, but it’s also cheaply made.”— Williams, University of San Francisco
“I hit the Nordstrom a lot in West Hartford [Conn.]. We don’t have one in Boston, but if we did, I would go there more than Filene’s.”— Elizabeth Gutterson, Trinity College, Hartford, ‘06
“I’d never be caught dead in Eddie Bauer…frumpy.” — Krystal Skwar,University of Delaware, ‘04
“I like Arden B, which tends to be more expensive, but it’s also trendier, more unique. If I want to get some casual stuff, I go to J. Crew.” — Kristin Sinni, ColgateUniversity, Hamilton, N.Y., ‘05