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The 10 Best Dressed Small Cities in America

These towns might not be big in size, but they’ve got fashion to spare and are dressed to impress.

Randy Nelson

Content Manager

116 articles, 53 comments

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New York, Paris, Los Angeles—when it comes to fashion, some cities are just synonymous with haute couture. They’re also usually bustling metropolises where designers and major brands have set up shop, selling their wares to millions of discerning customers. But there’s nothing that says smaller cities can’t look like a million bucks even if they have less than 100,000 residents.

With the latest season of “Project Runway” in full swing, the Movoto Real Estate bloggers decided that it was time to return once again to the topic of fashion by figuring out which small cities take dressing well the most seriously.

After we followed our usual pattern and made sure all our seams lined up, we determined that Santa Monica, CA is the best dressed small city in America. Joining this beachside Southern California city in the top 10 are:

1. Santa Monica, CA
2. Boca Raton, FL
3. Newport Beach, CA
4. Westminster, CA
5. San Mateo, CA
6. Santa Barbara, CA
7. Albany, NY
8. Evanston, IL
9. Mission Viejo, CA
10. Miami Beach, FL

So, how did we measure which cities were a cut above the rest? Well, it wasn’t with a tape and chalk. Read on to hear about our methodology and more.

How We Did It

Source: Flickr user Kris Krug

Source: Flickr user Kris Krug

When we make our Big Deal Lists, we first have to find a way to measure just how well a city represents a particular topic, be it fashion, nerds, or preppies (and beyond). To do this, we come up with criteria that we feel best reflect these traits of a city. In the case of small cities and how fashionable they are, we chose the following five:

  • High-end fashion stores per capita
  • High-end shoe stores per capita
  • High-end jewelry stores per capita
  • Tailors per capita
  • Dry cleaners per capita

Once we had our criteria, we created a list of 153 small cities with populations between 99,999 and 75,000 to research. We surveyed each city to determine how many of each type of store or service they have using Yelp, and in the case of clothes, shoes, and jewelry, we only counted the highest-priced results. The cities were ranked on a per capita basis for each criteria, with 1 being best and 153 being worst for fashion. Then, using the magic of Saturday Night Science, we averaged out the individual category results to come up with our Big Deal Score. The city with the lowest Big Deal Score was the winner.

Some notes: We only included businesses that are actually located within the city limits of the places we ranked. Also, just to reiterate, all of the results are on a per capita basis.

Now that you’ve seen the criteria we were working with, it’s time to break them all down, explaining why we chose them—like a contestant facing the judges on “Project Runway”—and which individual cities did the best in them.

Clothes Make the Man—and the Woman

Source: Flickr user relux

Source: Flickr user relux

Where else would we start when measuring how fashionable a city is than with clothing? In particular, we decided that just any old clothing stores weren’t going to cut it if a city’s going to be truly trendy, glamorous, and fashion forward. They needed to be expensive. So, we specifically looked up stores selling clothing from fashion’s top designers and brands.

Santa Monica strutted down the runway in this category with one high-end fashion store for every 1,043 residents. Newport Beach was second with one for every 1,360 residents, while Miami Beach was third with one for every 1,849 people.

Everyone’s Favorite Accessory: Shoes

Anyone who knows clothes knows that an outfit isn’t complete without shoes. In this case, it’s not just any shoes, but high-end footwear that make a city truly fashionable. Again, we tracked down the stores with the good stuff.

And again, Santa Monica walked away with a win, having one high-end shoe store for every 4,832 residents. Miami Beach was actually second in this category, with one for every 10,065 residents, and Newport Beach came in third with one for every 12,438.

The Has a Nice Ring (and Bracelet) to It

Source: Flickr user Pedro Kwezi

Source: Flickr user Pedro Kwezi

Third on our list of criteria was the other important high-end accessory: jewelry. After all, nothing completes a look like a knockout necklace, pair of earrings, or bracelet. The best of these are going to come from top jewelry makers, which means they’re going to set you back far more than the pieces you’ll find in your typical store in the mall.

Santa Monica was—surprise!—first again in this category, shining like a fine diamond above the rest with one high-end jewelry store for every 4,173 residents. Newport Beach finished a strong second with one for every 5,805 people, while Westminster was second with one for every 9,138 folks there.

Tailor Made for Looking Good

If you can’t have your clothes made especially for you—like any ultra-fashionista would—the next best thing is getting them altered by a pro so they fit you like a glove. Any really good-looking city is going to have more of these inseam artisans per capita, since their skills are in greater demand by all those well-dressed people.

The most tailors per capita can be found in Boca Raton, where there is one tailor for every 2,928 residents. Westminster was a close second with one for every 2,948, and Santa Barbara was third with one for every 3,320 residents.

Keeping Up Appearances

The final piece of the well-dressed pattern has to do with maintaining all these expensive clothes. You’re not going to wash them yourself, and you’re certainly not going to run them through machines at a laundromat. No, you’re going to get them professionally dry cleaned. With that in mind, we included the per capita number of dry cleaning shops each city has.

As with tailors, Boca Raton has the most, with one for every 1,273 residents. Santa Monica placed second in this category with one dry cleaner for every 1,370 people in the sunny L.A. suburb. Finally, Somerville, MA, which didn’t make our top 10, came in third with one for every 1,574 residents. Way to represent, Somerville!

Small Cities, Snappy Dressers

Like we said at the top of this post, you don’t have to live in a big city to have great style—and Santa Monica proves that, with 152 other small cities and sending them home like a defeated “Project Runway” contestant after Heidi’s auf wiedersehen. You can still dress well if you don’t live in one of our top spots for small city fashion, but it’s not going to be nearly as easy, even if you’ve got the money to burn.

Thumbnail Image Source: Flickr user Alessandro Baffa

(click to enlarge)

Best Dressed Small Cities Ranking

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posted on: September 25, 2013
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