September is an ideal month to spend time at the beach. It’s less humid and hot. There are fewer crowds, and parking is more accessible. You can sun, surf—and shop. But don’t think you’re limited to marked-down shorts, bathing suits and sandals. Like the inland stores, beach boutiques have been offering fall fashions since mid-summer.
“We’re a clothing store that happens to be at the beach,” says Trey Kraus, owner of Carltons (31 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7990). “We’re influenced by the beach, but in fall, we look like any other great specialty store on the East Coast. The beauty is that we’re tax-free. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, and you might find something here that you can’t find in other towns.”
If you’re looking for fashions from well-known chains, hit the outlets that line Del. 1. Tanger Outlets (36470 Seaside Outlet Drive, Rehoboth, 226-9223) includes Brooks Brothers Factory Store, the Nine West Outlet, Michael Kors, the Ann Taylor Factory Store, Abercrombie & Fitch and Liz Claiborne New York.
For more distinctive items, head into the towns sprinkled along the coast. Definitely expect the unexpected at Josephine’s Daughter (113 Union Square, Milton, 329-9475). “Everything I have is one-of-a-kind,” says owner Deb Wilkins Shiffer. “It really is very eclectic. The store never looks the same twice, from one week to the next.”
Josephine’s Daughter offers accessories, including handmade jewelry, handbags and interesting hats. “We can’t keep them in stock,” Shiffer says of the chapeaux. You may spot a clothing item, such as a tapestry jacket made by local artist Carolyn Godfrey. Some items are new. Others are vintage. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” Shiffer says.
Clothing is a family affair in Lewes, where Josh Barr recently opened Shorebreak (115 Savannah Road, Lewes, 645-8488) in a renovated building not far from The Beach Jetty (123 Second St., Lewes, 645-4606), the women’s boutique owned by his mother, Maryanne Barr. Shorebreak is strictly men’s clothing and accessories, which is an anomaly in Lewes—if not the entire beach area.
“I always had the idea, and because my mom has had a business downtown, I was familiar with what’s involved in having a business in this location,” Barr says. “When this space became available, I decided to give it a shot.”
Barr focuses on outdoor clothing and sports clothes. Lines include Columbia, Life is Good, Southern Tide and Sanuk sandals and shoes. There are more khakis and cargos than jeans.
Page 2: A Shopaholic’s Retreat, continues…
Over at Twila Farrell (122 Second St., Lewes, 645-7007), lightweight coats hang on the racks. “We don’t do any heavy wools anymore,” says Sandy Farrell. “It just doesn’t get that cold here until January or February.” The store features light, flirty swing coats and washable fleece. While dresses are trendy, the store leans toward easier-to-fit separates. Lines include Niche, Janska, Barbara Lesser Fibers, Nomadic Trader and Maryalyce Ferree. Shoes lines include Naot from Israel and Piccolino from Barcelona.
Deanna’s (113 Second St., Lewes, 644-1112) is the place for Dansko shoes, which suit any season. The store also carries women’s apparel, accessories and gifts. Versatility is on tap at Aquamarine on Market (205 Second St., Lewes, 644-4550), a women’s apparel shop that sells sweater dresses that can be worn forward or backward, giving you more bang for the buck. Owner Maureen Botti says fall also celebrates the return of plaid. “Believe it or not, especially with coats and jackets,” she says. Swing coats are popular this year. And leggings “aren’t going anywhere. I’m not sure if everybody is happy with that.”
Aquamarine’s lines include Velvet by Graham & Spencer, known for T-shirts, Tommy Bahama and Trina Turk. The selection has a wide appeal. “My daughter shops here, and she is 12, and our oldest customer is 93,” Botti says. “We have it all over the board.”
Shopping for children is easy at The Lilypad (149 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4464), whose brands include Baby Lulu, Banana Cabana, Sweet Potatoes, Wee Ones and Zutano. College-age men and women flock to airy, chic South Moon Under (120 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3806). Designers cover the gamut, from BCBG to Juicy Couture to Marc by Marc Jacobs. You’ll find Frye boots, an oldie that’s positively cool again.
For both men and women’s fashions, visit Carltons, a landmark since 1960. Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Jhane Barnes, Andrew Marc, Vineyard Vines—the inventory is classy and classic. The guys will appreciate Thomas Dean shirts. “They’re wonderful, either worn alone, under a sports coat or with a suit,” Kraus says.
Psycho Bunny walks a little left of center. The line’s logo, a bunny head with crossbones, represents “British humor,” Kraus says. He’s noticed that manufacturers are using fewer expensive materials, such as cashmere, undoubtedly due to the economy. Instead they’re turning to “affordable luxury”—fine wool and high-quality cotton, which has the extra benefit of being machine-washable. Cashmere, however, is still a good value, Kraus says, if it’s the top-shelf kind that won’t form pulls.
Page 3: A Shopaholic’s Retreat, continues…
“The real question: Is this a value?” he says. “That doesn’t necessarily mean lower prices, but is it worth the money the customer is putting out?” The answer is yes, if the designer paid attention to details. “Check under the collar, the cuff. There are tiny surprises,” he says. There might be a different color, pattern or detail that separates the item from mass-produced versions.
Kraus says colors this year lean toward the conservative side. Think hunter green, burgundy and navy. Alyssa Titus is also seeing more subdued colors, including heather and brown. Titus is the owner of Azura (139 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-9650). “We’re very funky and contemporary,” Titus says. Lines include Scrapbook, Cop Copine—a French line—and Funky People. Titus says many of her fall fashions cost $60 and under this year. Ruffles and leggings are still big, she says. In fact, there are even jean leggings. “They’re selling,” she says of the combo.
Rose Garden (240 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-9988 and 101 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-5288) carries Eileen Fisher, Elliott Lauren and Three Dot at both the locations. Owner Andrea Forte says that though conservative colors are in, there are splashes of color and animal prints. “They make a statement.” As for outerwear, she’s offering houndstooth coats, plaid coats and a military coat with ruffles. Leggings and booties are a trendy combo, says Forte, who carries both.
Donna Brockstedt, owner of Cleo’s (247B Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6840) also carries leggings, which she says suit today’s oversized sweaters. She suggests pairing the leggings with ballet slippers or pumps. “We carry some great suede pumps or cute little ankle boots,” she says. Featured lines include Stuart Weitzman and Vince. Dresses are worn over tights, but dresses are not as favored in fall as in summer, she says.
When shopping at a beach boutique like Cleo’s, think carefully before you pass on something you really like. The stores don’t have a lot of room for inventory, and they can’t buy tons of sweaters in multiple sizes. Supplies are limited. “If you see something you like but want to think about it, come back as soon as you can,” Brockstedt says. Otherwise, you could be left out in the cold.