As a new resident in California, I am still trying to figure out the best places to shop for clothes with a broke college student budget. I moved to San Diego from Connecticut where the style ranges from Vineyard Vines and golf attire to Urban Outfitters and Zara. In other words, the style is expensive and very East Coast. Part of escaping the East Coast lifestyle was moving away from those fashion trends and towards the more bohemian, sustainable, California-like style.
I am not the type of person who enjoys shopping. I hate walking aimlessly around a store or mall, and always feel exhausted after looking through endless clothing racks or trying on what feels like hundreds of jeans that don’t fit right. When I heard about Westfield UTC, I assumed it would be the same dimly lit, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels smelling malls that I was accustomed to in Connecticut. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find it is unlike any other mall I have been to.. So, after living in San Diego for almost nine months, and visiting the mall whenever absolutely necessary, I have decided to put together a short guide to some of the best women’s clothing stores (I unfortunately cannot speak to recommendations for men’s clothing). I’m hoping that this guide will help the other college students who also feel exhausted by the mere idea of spending a day examining clothing just to decide you can’t afford anything.
#1 Clothing Shop by Price and Style – Cotton On
Cotton On, located on Level one in between Typo and American Eagle, and across from H&M, is my number one recommendation for affordable, cute clothing. I had never heard of it before moving to California, but I can guarantee it will not disappoint. I am someone who loves the Urban Outfitters’ look, but can by no means afford $169 jeans with a $66 tank-top. Cotton On is the perfect choice for people who love Urban Outfitters, but can’t spend too much money on clothing. They have sustainably made clothing that ranges from beachwear, to gymwear, to everyday outfits. I bought long jean shorts for $30 and they are denim that is both soft and comfortable. I also highly recommend their workout sets. They have the cutest biker shorts with matching tank tops that I wear inside and outside the gym, and almost always receive compliments. Almost everything in the store is under $50 and I always feel confident and stylish when I’m wearing something from Cotton On!
#1 Affordable Clothing Shop – H&M
If you are looking for extremely cheap but cute clothes, I am positive that H&M will have what you’re looking for. This weekend, I went shopping for a shirt for my boyfriend and stumbled into H&M. Before I knew it, I walked out with one $13 dress and two $8 tank-tops feeling guiltless for spending a whopping $30 dollars on three items. The quality is no Nordstroms, but for the cheap price and wide selection of clothing, if you’re looking for everyday outfits for under $30, H&M is definitely a top contender. I also ended up buying my boyfriend a black button down shirt for a formal event for $15, so they carry cheap men’s clothing as well. H&M is a great place to stop in that won’t leave you cringing at the price tags.
#1 Investment Piece Clothing – Aritzia
What’s an investment piece you may be wondering? Well, it’s an article of clothing that is probably overpriced, but of great quality that will definitely last a long time. Aritzia is home to many in-style investment pieces. The store is packed with gorgeous clothing that can fit the bohemian or classy style and offers a wide variety of plain tank-tops and skirts that pair well with anything. The quality of the clothing is another plus. The fabric chosen is high end and durable, which makes the clothing wearable for all occasions. The large downside to this store is the price. A tank top can range anywhere from $30 to $60 and a pair of jeans is almost always above a hundred. This is precisely why, with each buy, I have to tell myself I’m investing (even if technically the item depreciates in value), so I feel a little better about spending so much. If you’re looking to buy one, maybe two, pieces of expensive and high quality clothing, Aritzia will definitely have something for you, but for most of us, it’s a very special treat.
#1 Recommended Skip – Zara
Quick disclaimer: The one time I went to Zara I ended up fainting in the middle of the store from waiting in the line for so long. I went to the doctor to figure out if there were underlying problems and everything was fine, so I may be anecdotally biased. Regardless, this being an honest guide to the stores in UTC, I have to recommend that you skip the Zara store. I’m not sure if this is a common theme for all Zara stores, but the one in UTC is a trainwreck — at least when I was there. There are clothes everywhere and customers are forced to dig through piles, just to find a tank top that’s almost cheap, but not quite worth it. The music is too loud and there is always at least a 20-minute line for the registers. I don’t think this store should be on your “Quick Trip to the Mall” list.
So, I encourage you all to head to these stores at UTC — you won’t be sorry!