Island Stylin'

Accessories for Every Sharp Dresser

By SANDRA WEYANT | Jul 26, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Whether you’re sunning at the beach or pool, hanging out on the boardwalk or heading out to the club, you’ll need some fashionable accessories to enhance your summer style. Sarah Cunningham, owner of A Lovely Universe in Beach Haven, knows a thing or two about the best trends for women of all ages.

From a very young age, Cunningham remembers always wanting to own a store. When she was 5 years old, she asked for a cash register toy for Christmas, and that’s how it all began. “I always had tiny side businesses, even in elementary school. I would sell things to my friends and make jewelry, and I continued that throughout high school and college. When Etsy first came out, I was one of the first people to jump on that and open up a store,” she said.

Cunningham attended college in Pennsylvania first and then transferred to art school in Savannah, Ga., and her experiences at both universities allowed her to gain knowledge about business and design, which led to the birth of ALU. In the beginning years, Cunningham ran her store out of her college dorm room, and with the whole online world of retail, she was unsure she would ever be able to open up a brick-and-mortar business. After graduating, she worked in the fashion industry, but always maintained her vintage store on the side. In 2013, she opened up A Lovely Universe in Brooklyn, but then decided to relocate the business to her homeland in New Jersey.

Before opening the physical store, Cunningham already had a name in mind for her special boutique. Based on the song “The Lovely Universe” from one of her favorite bands, Circulatory System, A Lovely Universe represents exactly the atmosphere Cunningham wanted to create for her customers: “a little world to step into and take a minute away from real life – an escape into a space filled with nice things.” “I wanted it to be a sensory experience, versus routine shopping in-store or online,” she said. In fact, Cunningham says her store on Long Beach Island, since it is a vacation location, gives off a more relaxed vibe, as most visitors are finished with work and looking to shop and converse with others. It’s more “thoughtful shopping” compared to the previous Brooklyn location.

If you are looking to add some new accessories to your collection, here are some of Cunningham’s recommendations on what’s trending for summer 2017.

What a Stud. Searching for the perfect everyday earrings? Keep it simple with studs in all different shapes and sizes. One of the most popular jewelry brands A Lovely Universe carries is Kris Nations, known for its simplistic designs with a “sense of humor” to them. Cunningham’s best-selling pair is New Jersey-shaped studs. “Customers love to show their pride for their home state. The other part that people love about this brand is that the earrings are packaged in a little glass tube with a cork, and they are ready to go. Whether you’re giving it as a gift or not, it just feels more special by how it is packaged,” Cunningham said.

Ring It On. “It’s all about rings this year. Simple gold bands, some with little stones, are a hit,” Cunningham said. You can wear one on every finger or stack them to create a bolder look.

Cuff Love. Cuff bracelets are the easiest style to put on by yourself. You can simply slip your wrist in and out without having to worry about breaking a clasp. Cuffs can be thin or thick, metal or material, ornate or simple – the sky’s the limit. Feel free to wear a couple at a time.

Make a Statement. Even though minimalist jewelry trends are on the rise, on the other side of the token, statement earrings are popular and “selling like crazy” at ALU. “They’re trendy and a little kooky with crazy colors, kind of fiesta-inspired, but so perfect for summer,” Cunningham said. If you wear statement earrings, try to pair them with a simple necklace or nothing else. One eye-catching accessory is enough to add some finishing touches to your style. You don’t want to overdo it.

Bead It. Semi-precious stones and beaded bracelets and necklaces are natural and unique and can be dressed up or down. Cunningham is a fan of jewelry company eff.Y.bee (a creative acronym that stands for “Follow Your Bliss”), formed by a University of Delaware graduate who also started her business from inside of a college dorm room. These earthy, gemstone bracelets were popular several years ago, but they have made a serious comeback.

Take a Moment to Reflect. Mirrored sunglasses are this year’s “it” style, especially for younger shoppers. The more colorful, the better. Don’t be afraid to rock a bright orange or blue lens – it doesn’t have to match your outfit.

The Tortoise and the Flair. Because ALU’s customers range in age from 18 to 70, the more classic, timeless sunglasses really hit the mark for everyone. “Tortoise shell is definitely what my customers are gravitating toward. They are familiar and work well with every outfit,” Cunningham said. So, it’s safe to say these are definitely not slow-sellers.

What’s Hot Right Meow? Cat-eye sunglasses! This iconic look from the 1950s, featuring rounded frames that flare out toward the temples, never goes out of style and fits a broad spectrum of face shapes. “Every year, so far, it is the top pick at my store,” Cunningham said. These retro shades are simply purrfect – get your paws on them.

Even though Cunningham has top-of-the-line accessories for all fashion tastes, the clothes are the “big stars” of A Lovely Universe. Designed for the beach lifestyle, she has a lot of “throw and go” pieces that can be worn over bathing suits or out and about.

“Every woman can find something to incorporate into her own look, no matter her style,” Cunningham said. “I’m always looking at magazines, Instagram accounts and blogs for clothing inspiration. I also like to peruse fashion pictures from the past, like the ’50s or ’60s, and see what women were wearing then. I also study what real people are wearing, and I pick pretty but functional items. So, it’s merging fashion with reality, but also putting my own spin on it.”

Cunningham and her mother also recently partnered to start a candle and home line called The Sunday Home Co., which includes linen sprays and different candle scents. To make the shopping experience more enjoyable, Cunningham always has candles lit in the store. She hopes to add more fragrant items to the line, such as soaps. Her goal for the future is to expand to a larger space to cater to her assortment of products and to enrich the shopping atmosphere. Visit A Lovely Universe in Beach Haven or shop online at and discover unique clothes, accessories and gifts for everyone.

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