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Charleston & ME

Ultimate Guide: What to Wear in Charleston SC | 2024 from a Local

Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina, where history weaves through cobblestone streets, and the scent of jasmine lingers in the air. As a local, I'm thrilled to share with you the essential style tips on what to wear while wandering through our city's charming districts and enjoying its renowned warm hospitality. Charleston's weather and cultural vibrance call for a wardrobe that's both comfortable and chic, reflective of the city's coastal charm and rich heritage. Whether you're strolling down Rainbow Row or setting sail in the harbor, let this guide help you pack your bags with the perfect attire for every occasion you'll encounter in the Holy City.


TABLE OF CONTENTS


a selection of long flowy maxi dresses to wear in Charleston
Dresses to wear in Charleston from Charleston's own: Beau & Ro

Examples from local Charleston boutique: Beau & Ro 


What is the Charleston Style?

Understanding Charleston's fashion sense requires delving into the rich history and vibrant culture of this charming city. Known for its southern elegance and timeless style, Charleston seamlessly blends classic and contemporary fashion elements. From the refined charm of pastel-colored sundresses and seersucker suits to the bohemian chic of flowy maxi dresses and wide-brimmed hats, Charleston's fashion scene offers a captivating mix of sophistication and creativity. With a nod to tradition and a flair for individual expression, Charlestonians effortlessly showcase their unique sense of style, making it a city that truly embraces fashion as a form of self-expression and art.



Charleston's Mild Climate and Seasons

Summer in Charleston: The climate in Charleston during the summer is typically hot and humid, making it a perfect destination for those who enjoy heat and sunshine. Average temperatures range from the mid 80s to the low 90s (Fahrenheit), providing the perfect conditions for outdoor activities like beach-going, water sports, and exploring the city's historic architecture. However, do anticipate the occasional summer thunderstorm, a common occurrence in the South, which brings a refreshing break from the heat and adds a unique charm to the city's summer ambiance. Another caveat to those high temperatures is the high humidity that comes with mid to late summer which turns to the air soupy and increases the "feels like" temperature, making it quite unbearable at times. Don't forget your sunscreen and hat, and remember to stay hydrated during your summer adventures in Charleston.


Fall in Charleston brings a welcome change from the summer heat. As the season transitions, the temperatures typically fluctuate between high 60s and low 80s (Fahrenheit). Note: the highs stay in the upper 70s and 80s through early to mid-October. This period is characterized by a refreshing coolness in the morning air offering the perfect conditions to wander through the historic heart of the city or enjoy an early picnic in one of the many beautiful parks. The late morning through afternoon hours, however, can remain balmy and hot, so bring layers. Although rainfall occurs, it's less frequent compared to the summer months, making it an ideal time for outdoor exploration. The warmer climate means Charleston does not see the gorgeous foliage of vibrant oranges, yellows, and reds as you might expect in Autumn. You will see some folaige change, especially from the giant crepe myrtles, but not extensive "fall colors."

Winter in Charleston offers a mild and relatively warm climate compared to many other U.S. cities. Temperatures usually hover around the low 50s to mid 60s (Fahrenheit), during the day, making it a comfortable time for those who prefer cooler conditions. Although mornings can dip into the 30s and 40s, snowfall is extremely rare. With a moderate chill in the air, the city remains vibrant and lively, with winter festivals and holiday decorations adding a festive charm. Layered clothing is recommended along with a light jacket or light sweater. The winter season in Charleston provides an excellent opportunity to explore the city's rich history and culture without the throngs of summer tourists or heat.


Spring in Charleston is a season of vibrant renewal, where the city awakens from its brief winter slumber and blossoms to life. Temperatures typically range from the mid-60s to the high 70s (Fahrenheit), offering a delightful blend of cool breezes and warm sun. The city's abundant flora, from Azaleas to Magnolias and Jasmine to Gardenias, burst into a riot of colors and fragrances, transforming Charleston into a floral paradise. The weather is generally dry, but a light rain jacket may come in handy for the occasional spring showers this time of the year. It's the perfect time to enjoy outdoor activities, such as strolling through the city’s historic gardens or exploring its picturesque waterfront. With the city in full bloom and fewer tourists than summer, spring provides a serene and beautiful setting for your Charleston adventure.


 

The Best Time of Year to Visit Charleston

Choosing the best time to visit Charleston boils down to personal preference, as each season paints a unique and mesmerizing portrait of the city. However, if you want to experience the city in its prime, consider visiting during the spring or fall.


Spring showers the city with a plethora of colors—blossoming flowers adorn the streets, and the weather is perfect for outdoor exploration. With average temperature ranges between 60°F (15°C) and 75°F (24°C), Charleston's renowned gardens are at their best during this time, making it the perfect season to walk the city and for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers. Expect larger crowds.


Winter in Charleston offers its own unique appeal. The city slows down and takes on a calm, serene atmosphere. You'll find less crowded streets, which gives you a chance to explore the city's historic landmarks, charming alleyways, and cobblestone streets at your own pace. Winter temperatures in Charleston are mild and pleasant, typically ranging from the high 40s to the mid 60s Fahrenheit (around 8-18 degrees Celsius). Despite the chill in the air, there's plenty of sunshine, and snow is a very rare sight. Pack warm light layers and enjoy a cozy stroll along The Battery taking in those waterfront views, or savor a hot cup of cocoa in one of the city's many quaint coffee cafes. Winter in Charleston is indeed a season of quiet charm and peaceful exploration.


 

What to Wear in Charleston SC | Packing List for Each Season

Long Max Dress Selection from Tuckernuck
Long Flowy Maxi Dresses are always in style in Charleston

Examples of What to Wear in Charleston from Tuckernuck. Long flowy dresses with flat sandals or sneakers are always in style. Layer with a jacket or sweater on cooler temps.



What to Wear and Pack for Winter in Charleston

Winter in Charleston brings a mild and pleasant climate, but it's still important to be prepared with the right wardrobe essentials. Layering is key, as temperatures can vary throughout the day. Here are some stylish winter wardrobe essentials to consider for the winter months:


  1. Cozy Sweaters: Opt for lighter knit sweaters or light cashmere sweaters in neutral tones or vibrant colors to add warmth and style to your outfits. Pair them with jeans or skirts for a versatile look.

  2. Light Jackets: As the temperatures fluctuate, having a lightweight jacket or cardigan is essential. Choose a stylish trench coat, cardigan or a classic denim jacket to complete your winter outfits. These pair nicely with Charleston dresses.

  3. Scarves and Hats: Add some flair to your winter look with scarves and hats. Choose soft and warm materials like wool or cashmere to keep you cozy on chilly days.

  4. Boots: Invest in a pair of stylish low-heeled or flat boots to keep your feet warm and dry. Ankle boots or knee-high boots in leather or suede can elevate any winter ensemble. (just remember to keep those heels low due to the uneven streets)

  5. Layering Pieces: To adapt to changing temperatures, stock up on layering pieces like long-sleeved tops and cardigans. These versatile items can be mixed and matched to create different outfits and help those dresses last through the year.

  6. Tights and Leggings: Pair your favorite Charleston dresses or skirts with tights or leggings to stay warm while still showcasing your personal style.

  7. Winter Accessories: Don't forget to accessorize! Add some sparkle with statement jewelry or opt for a stylish handbag to complete your winter look.


With these winter wardrobe essentials, you'll be ready to explore and enjoy the charm of Charleston while staying stylish and comfortable throughout the season.


Spring Wardrobe Essentials in Charleston: Dresses for Every Occasion

As the weather warms up in Charleston, it's time to update your wardrobe with spring essentials. Dresses are a must-have for the season, offering a versatile and stylish option for any occasion. Whether you're strolling along King Street or attending a garden party, here are a few dress styles that will keep you looking chic and comfortable.


  1. Floral Maxi Dress: Embrace the vibrant colors of spring with a flowy floral maxi dress. Perfect for beach outings or brunches in Charleston, this dress exudes effortless elegance.

  2. Pastel Sundress: Light pastel hues are a staple of spring fashion. Opt for a sundress in a soft shade like lilac or mint green. Pair it with a straw hat and sandals for a charming daytime look.

  3. Polka Dot Wrap Dress: Channel your inner retro vibes with a polka dot wrap dress. This classic pattern adds a touch of sophistication to your spring wardrobe. Wear it with a statement clutch for a dinner date or a night out on the town.

  4. Shirt Dress: For a more casual and laid-back style, a shirt dress is perfect. Choose a lightweight fabric like linen or cotton in a playful print or solid color. Pair it with sneakers or sandals for a chic and effortless look.

  5. Off-Shoulder Dress: A popular trend for spring, this flirty and feminine style is ideal for garden parties or outdoor events. Pair it with low wedges or sandals and statement earrings to complete the look.

With these spring wardrobe essentials in Charleston, you'll be ready to embrace the season in style. Don't forget to accessorize with sunglasses, a wide-brim hat, and a colorful handbag to complete your outfit. Happy spring!


Summer Wardrobe Essentials to Pack

When it comes to summer wardrobe essentials in Charleston, it's important to choose outfits that are both stylish and comfortable to beat the hot and humid temperatures. Here are a few key items to consider:


  1. Lightweight Dresses: Opt for breezy, flowy dresses in breathable fabrics like cotton or linen. Maxi dresses, sundresses, and shirt dresses are all great options that allow for maximum airflow.

  2. Breathable Clothing: Choose tops made from lightweight materials such as cotton or linen. Look for loose-fitting styles like tank tops, camisoles, or off-the-shoulder blouses to stay cool in the Charleston heat.

  3. Shorts and Skirts: Beat the heat with shorts and skirts made from breathable fabrics. Opt for styles like linen shorts or flowy skirts to stay comfortable, yet stylish, while exploring the city.

  4. Beach Attire: A couple of stylish swimsuits coupled with a flowy beach coverup and a wide brimmed hat and sandals will fit the bill for your Charleston beach trip.

  5. Sun Protection: Don't forget to protect yourself from the sun's rays. A wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essential to shield yourself from the intense Charleston sun.

  6. Comfortable Footwear: When packing those pairs of shoes, choose footwear that keeps your feet comfortable and cool. Comfy sandals, flip-flops, or canvas sneakers are great options for walking around Charleston's cobblestone streets. Rain boots may even come in handy—it is hurricane season after all.

  7. Travel Deodorant and Cooling Towels: The summer heat and humidity is real. A small purse sized deodorant can come in handy and those cooling towels a life saver.

The key to surviving summer's hot and humid temperatures in Charleston is to prioritize comfort while still embracing a stylish summer wardrobe. Stay cool and enjoy the charms of this beautiful city!


For a Fall visit to Charleston, here are some Key Essentials to Pack:

Fall in Charleston offers a perfect blend of milder temperatures and picturesque scenery, making it an ideal time to update your wardrobe with some essential pieces. When it comes to fall fashion, Charleston embraces a mix of classic styles and vibrant colors that reflect the charm and beauty of this historic city.


  1. Lightweight Sweaters: Opt for cozy yet lightweight sweaters in colors like deep burgundy, olive green, or mustard yellow. These versatile pieces can be layered over shirts or worn alone, adding both warmth and style to your outfits.

  2. Charleston Dress: A Charleston dress is a must-have for any fall wardrobe in this city. Look for dresses with delicate floral prints or pastel shades that capture the essence of Charleston's Southern charm. Pair them with flat heeled ankle boots or ballet flats for a chic and feminine look.

  3. Denim Jackets: A denim jacket is a timeless piece that adds a touch of casual coolness to any outfit. Choose a medium wash denim jacket that can be easily paired with dresses for those breezy fall days.

  4. Wide-Leg Pants: Embrace the relaxed yet sophisticated style of Charleston by including wide-leg pants in your fall wardrobe. Opt for neutral shades like beige or camel and pair them with tucked-in blouses or cropped sweaters for a polished and effortless look.

  5. Ankle Boots: As the temperatures start to drop, ankle boots become a staple in every Charlestonite's fall wardrobe. Choose versatile styles in leather or suede, and opt for colors like brown or black that can be easily paired with any outfit. And, remember to keep the heel flat or low for navigating those cobblestone streets.

Remember, Charleston is all about embracing vibrant colors and timeless styles. Incorporate these fall wardrobe essentials into your packing list, and you'll be ready to explore the charm and beauty of Charleston in style. Also note, early mornings will see cooler temps much sooner, while daytime highs can stay in the 80s thru mid-October.


 

Attire for Different Occasions

Casual Clothing

When packing casual clothing for a trip to the stylish city of Charleston, it's important to consider the casual yet fashionable atmosphere. Charleston exudes a relaxed charm, making it the perfect place to showcase your effortless style. Opt for breathable fabrics like linen or cotton, as the city's warm climate calls for comfort. A versatile pair of jeans or wide leg pants paired with a lightweight blouse or a flowy sundress is ideal for exploring the historic streets or enjoying a leisurely stroll on the waterfront. Don't forget to pack a pair of comfortable yet chic shoes, such as loafers or stylish sneakers or flat sandals, to complete your casual Charleston look. Whether you're indulging in the local cuisine, visiting the vibrant markets, or simply taking in the city's rich history, your carefully curated casual outfits will ensure you blend in perfectly with the Charleston charm.


Dining Out

When it comes to dining out in Downtown Charleston, it's all about embracing the charming and sophisticated southern style. To make a statement and blend in with the vibrant atmosphere, consider packing a few key pieces. For women, a flowy sundress paired with low wedges or sandals can create a chic and effortless look. Men can opt for a crisp button-down shirt, khaki pants or shorts, and boat shoes for a polished yet relaxed appearance. Don't forget to accessorize with a stylish hat, sunglasses, and a lightweight jacket or shawl for those breezy evenings and chillier days (and cooler interiors). With these versatile outfits, you'll be ready to indulge in Charleston's culinary delights while looking fabulous.


Beach Getaway

When packing for a beach getaway in stylish Charleston, it's important to strike a balance between comfort and fashion. Opt for lightweight and breathable fabrics like linen or cotton to keep cool under the sun. Pack a couple of stylish swimsuits that showcase your personal style, whether it's a trendy one-piece or a mix-and-match bikini. Don't forget to bring a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun's rays. A flowy cover-up and a stylish beach tote are also essential for strolling along the sandy shores of Charleston. Lastly, complete your beachwear ensemble with a pair of comfortable sandals or fashionable espadrilles.


Special Occasions

When it comes to a special occasion in Charleston, the attire is all about embracing the city's southern charm and elegance. For formal events like weddings or galas, gentlemen can opt for tailored suits or tuxedos, while ladies can choose from a stylish cocktail dress or an elegant evening gown. For more casual yet sophisticated occasions, men can go for blazers paired with dress pants or khakis, while women can opt for flowy sundresses or chic separates. It's always a good idea to add a touch of southern flair to your outfit, such as a colorful bow tie or a statement piece of jewelry. Whatever the occasion, dressing to impress while capturing the timeless charm of Charleston is the key.

 

An Essential Charleston Packing Guide

When preparing for a trip to Charleston, there are a few packing essentials that you shouldn't forget. These items will ensure you have everything you need to make the most of your time in this beautiful city.

  1. Lightweight clothing: Charleston's warm and humid climate calls for breathable and comfortable, yet stylish, outfits. Think maxi and sun dresses and loose flowy pants. An unspoken city dress code is Charleston-chic even when casual.

  2. Sun protection: Don't forget to pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun's rays. Oh, and travel deodorant.

  3. Comfortable footwear: With its charming cobblestone streets, it's best to pack comfortable shoes for exploring the city. A perfect pick would be flat sandals in summer and low or no heeled boots or sporty sneakers in winter.

  4. Swimwear: Charleston is known for its beautiful beaches, so be sure to pack your favorite swimwear with a chic flowy coverup for a refreshing dip. (Along with your beach tote)

  5. Hair Accessories: Charleston can be extremely windy, so it is a good idea to add a hat, scarf, barrettes, or some type of hair accessory for those hair flyaways.

  6. Light Sweater or Long Sleeve Shirt: for a cool night or morning, depending on season, best to have an extra layer (even comes in handy inside a cooler restaurant.)

  7. Bug repellent: To ward off any pesky mosquitoes, it's a good idea to pack some bug repellent.

  8. Rain gear: Charleston experiences occasional showers, so having a lightweight rain jacket can come in handy.

  9. Charger and adapters: Don't forget your phone charger and any necessary adapters to keep your devices powered up.

  10. Camera: Capture the beauty of Charleston with a camera to immortalize your memories.

What NOT to Pack for a Trip to Charleston:

While packing for Charleston, there are a few items you might consider leaving behind.

  • Heavy clothing: With its warm climate, you'll rarely need bulky sweaters or heavy coats.

  • Expensive jewelry: It's best to leave your valuable items at home to avoid potential loss or theft.

  • High Heels or uncomfortable shoes: Given the city's cobblestone streets and expanse of walking, it's advisable to avoid high heel shoes that could potentially cause discomfort or tripping hazards.

  • Umbrellas: Although the city experiences occasional showers, they're often short-lived, and most establishments provide shelter (and most hotels offer umbrellas, checks ahead).

  • Large beach towels: They take up a lot of space in your bag and many hotels provide them for their guests (check ahead to be sure).

  • Hair Straighteners/Curling Irons: The humidity in Charleston can make it a fight to keep your hair perfectly styled.

  • Yoga pants and Cut offs: Charleston is a very fashionable city and you'll want to dress the part.

Remember, Charleston is a city that blends Southern charm with a relaxed coastal vibe, so comfort and practicality should be your main focus while packing.


By including these essentials in your packing list, you'll be well-prepared for a wonderful visit to Charleston.

 

Where to Shop in Charleston | Top Ladies Boutiques in Charleston

  1. Hampden Clothing: 314 King Street, Hampden Clothing offers a carefully curated selection of high-end designer pieces. From elegant dresses to chic accessories, this boutique is a must-visit for fashion enthusiasts.

  2. Beckett Boutique: 409 King St, Beckett Boutique showcases a mix of contemporary and bohemian styles. Here, you can find trendy clothing, jewelry, and accessories that perfectly capture the laid-back yet sophisticated Charleston vibe.

  3. Beau & Ro: 171 King St, If you're in search of unique and stylish bags and accessories in addition to Charleston-styled dresses, don't miss out on Beau & Ro. This boutique embodies the city's vibrant spirit with its collection that perfectly marries style and functionality.

  4. Croghan's Jewel Box: 308 King St, This iconic jewelry store, over 100 years serving Charleston and beyond, offers a stunning selection of fine jewelry, including heirloom pieces and unique Charleston designs.

  5. Madison Matthews: 178 King St, This charming boutique is a treasure trove for those who love a vibrant mix of Southern flair and contemporary fashion. With its selection of high-quality clothing and accessories, Madison Matthews is a must-visit for anyone looking to capture the authentic, laid-back style of Charleston.

These boutiques offer an array of stylish choices, making them the perfect spots to shop during your visit to Charleston.


Men’s Clothing Stores in Charleston:

A few men's clothiers favored by locals include Ben Silver, Berlin’s, Billy Reid, Grady Ervin, Ike Behar, and M. Dumas and Sons.

 

What to Wear in Charleston SC

In conclusion, embracing Charleston's style is a delightful experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the charm and elegance of this vibrant city. From its historic architecture to its captivating art and fashion scene, Charleston offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity. Whether it's strolling through the cobblestone streets or indulging in the local cuisine, embracing Charleston's style is an invitation to savor the rich cultural heritage and embrace the timeless allure of this enchanting destination. The bottom line is Charleston can be hot and humid and is a city to be walked and relished. Dress with comfortable style, light breathable layers. And flowy dresses are always acceptable.


Now that you know what to wear in Charleston SC,

What will you pack for Charleston?


 

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I'm Monica Edwards

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I'm a writer, photographer, explorer and 20+ year former magazine owner. I'm obsessed with adventure, interest and intrigue. And, a curator of Charleston's best.

You're likely to find me exploring Charleston, living large and helping others to do the same.

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