Where Do America’s Diehard Fashionistas Live? The Answer Might Just Surprise You

By    April 30, 2014

women shopping for clothes

Pop quizzes (at least the ones in school) aren’t usually much fun, but we think we’ve found an exception—especially if you like fashion. Beware: Coming up with the right answer is not as easy as it appears.

Ready? Here goes: Where do America’s most devoted female fashionistas live? New York, right? Or perhaps Los Angeles? If not one of those two places, it must be Chicago, home to the Magnificent Mile, or Washington, D.C., where so many designer-suit-sporting female politicians and lobbyists are.

Nope.

Miami? Boston? San Francisco?

None of the above.

Southern Belles and Whistles
In fact, America’s Fashionista Meccas—where residents spend the most on women’s clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, alterations and other fashion-related products and services—are not where you’d expect. They’re mostly in the South and the Midwest, with three of the top 15 spots in SpareFoot’s ranking going to metro areas in North Carolina.

Ashley Tarkington

Southern women “love bold colors,” stylist Ashley Tarkington says.

Had you studied for our quiz with professional stylist Ashley Tarkington, you might have scored better. Tarkington is part of the team that curates the wardrobes of the hosts of “Access Hollywood,” and she blogs about fashion at AshNFashn.com.

“In the South, they love bold colors, chevron prints, monograms and statement necklaces,” she said. “In bigger cities, they stick with basics that they’re comfortable with and don’t change it up as much.”

Although women in New York love cutting-edge looks, they also rely on fundamental pieces in basic black, she said. Californians often dress more casually and spend a lot of time in jeans. Meanwhile, women in the South love to dress up, particularly for big occasions. Just one example Tarkington cited: Instead of slipping into jeans for a college football game, Southern sorority women often put on dresses.

Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem, NC, leads our list of Fashionista Meccas.

America’s Top 15 Fashionista Meccas
To make sure you can pass a fashion quiz at some point, here is SpareFoot’s ranking of America’s Top 15 Fashionista Meccas.

  1. Winston-Salem, NC
  2. Charlotte, NC
  3. Grand Rapids, MI
  4. Greenville, SC
  5. Knoxville, TN
  6. Madison, WI
  7. Daytona Beach, FL
  8. Des Moines, IA
  9. Indianapolis, IN
  10. Austin, TX
  11. Raleigh, NC
  12. Spokane, WA
  13. Ogden, UT
  14. Worcester, MA
  15. Columbus, OH

Charlotte NC

Charlotte, NC, sits at No. 2 on our list.

How We Came Up With Our List
To determine the ranking, we started by looking at total spending on women’s fashion in the 100 most populated metro areas in the U.S. That means money spent on women’s clothes and shoes, dry cleaning, alterations, jewelry and watches. We even included expenditures on closet and storage products. After all, looking good means taking care of your purchases.

We summed up all of those figures and then adjusted for the fact that prices vary across the country (using data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). Everything, including clothes, tends to cost more in places like New York. Then we divided by the local population of women 16 and over (data courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau) to find the total spending per fashionista each year.

One behavior held steady across all 100 metro areas: the share of the fashion budget spent on each of the categories. About 60 percent of budgets went toward clothing; 24 percent toward dry cleaning, alterations, jewelry and watches; 15 percent toward shoes; and a little more than 1 percent toward closet and storage products.

Spending per fashionista in the 100 metro areas averaged a little more than $1,150. But in first-place Winston-Salem, NC, spending per fashionista topped $1,500.

Amanda Vaughn-Redmon

Amanda Vaughn-Redmon designs clothing in Winston-Salem, NC.

Designing Woman
Some of that may have to do with local culture. The area has a rich history as a textile manufacturing center and welcomes artistic diversity, fashion designer Amanda Vaughn-Redmon said. She designs and sews her Formation label at Winston-Salem’s Formation Design Studio.

Before starting her own fashion line, Vaughn-Redmon designed for Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia. She wasn’t sure what to expect when moving back home to North Carolina and striking out on her own, but the experience has shown her that the state’s fashion scene is on the rise.

Women in Winston-Salem like to dress well and buy stylish clothes, Vaughn-Redmon said. Online shopping and hip local boutiques, such as Gusto and Lucky Strike Vintage Boutique, make that easier than it’s ever been. The community also embraces its leading fashionistas.

“In North Carolina, there’s a big support system of local designers,” she said. “And supporting the local, artisan collections is very important to the people in this region. They appreciate that there are designers and creative people working in this industry here.”

Formation Studio

This is one of the pieces from Amanda Vaughn-Redmon’s design studio.

By the Numbers
In Winston-Salem, annual adjusted spending per fashionista totals $1,519. Population of women, 16 and over: 199,781.

Here’s how the rest of the top 15 fared.

Charlotte, NC
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,507
Population of women 16 and over: 705,091

Grand Rapids, MI
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,495
Population of women 16 and over: 304,199

Greenville, SC
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,469
Population of women 16 and over: 261,755

Knoxville TN

Knoxville, TN, ranks fifth on our list.

Knoxville, TN
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,383
Population of women 16 and over: 292,645

Madison, WI
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,379
Population of women 16 and over: 231,942

Daytona Beach, FL
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,298
Population of women 16 and over: 212,911

Des Moines, IA
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,296
Population of women 16 and over: 225,586

Indianapolis, IN
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,294
Total population of women 16 and over: 699,151

Austin TX

Austin, TX, comes in at No. 10 on our list.

Austin, TX
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,293
Population of women 16 and over: 665,500

Raleigh, NC
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,289
Population of women 16 and over: 448,137

Spokane, WA
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,287
Total population of women 16 and over: 191,479

Ogden, UT
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,278
Population of women 16 and over: 194,677

Worcester, MA
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,265
Population of women 16 and over: 325,564

Columbus, OH
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,262
Population of women 16 and over: 737,318

los ángeles

Los Angeles ranks last on our list of Fashionista Meccas.

Fashion Faux Pas?
So how did the seemingly more obvious (but incorrect) answers to our pop quiz fare in the rankings? Prepare to be surprised.

49. Washington, DC
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,141
Population of women 16 and over: 2,287,624

72. Boston, MA
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,096
Population of women 16 and over: 1,927,043

73. San Francisco, CA
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,095
Population of women 16 and over: 1,798,580

Chicago IL

Chicago lands at No. 82 on our list.

82. Chicago, IL
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $1,060
Population of women 16 and over: 3,811,256

92. Miami, FL
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $997
Population of women 16 and over: 2,352,661

96. New York, NY
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $963
Total population of women 16 and over: 7,943,974

100. Los Angeles, CA (yep, it was dead last)
Annual adjusted spending per fashionista: $923
Population of women 16 and over: 5,156,992

Data sources: U.S. Census Bureau for population data, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis for local prices and Geographic Research for spending data

  • uhno

    soooo, the amount you spend defines how fashionable you are?
    sureee

  • prw

    You take where the most is spent on clothes, adjust for regional costs, and divide by number of women living there. I agree that Southern women love their clothes. However, you don’t really acknowledge the fact that in more rural (read: Southern) places, malls are like meccas. They draw out the spending dollars of everyone within an hour driving time. So more than just the people living there are spending their dollars there (which is true everywhere, but especially true for cities surrounded by rural areas with no other access). How do you account for that?

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