Charleston Recap

Elizabeth Arden is a brand I have worked with in the past and a brand that I’ve always liked. The White Tea fragrance remains one of my favorites (and was what I wore on my first date with my boyfriend so it brings back the best feelings!) and the 8-Hour Cream is a holy grail.

I was looking forward to traveling down to Charleston with the Elizabeth Arden brand/team and a few other influencers. I go on brand trips all the time and they can be good and they can also be bad. I have had all kinds of experiences, but this trip was perfection. Every detail was well-executed and perfectly thought out. They hired an amazing photographer (if you’re getting married, hire Marni! I loved her!!) who emailed us photos within six hours, sent us to the airport with boxed lunches, etc. No stone was left unturned and I walked away with a greater appreciation for the brand. I thought I knew a lot about it going into the trip, but learned even more throughout the course of the trip.

The one theme of the trip, though, could easily be summed up as “inspiring women.” Elizabeth Arden herself, Judge Goodstein (who hosted us at her house one night), Dr. Dendy (a celebrity dermatologist who consultants for the brand), the entire PR team and brand representatives… I walked away with a huge sense of girl power. The crazy part was that I felt like so much of the inspiration was natural and just came out due to the people involved. There wasn’t an agenda or a script… it was totally authentic. And in today’s world, where even authenticity is manufactured, it felt special. I know I wasn’t the only person on the trip that walked away thinking, “Wow.”

The Spectator Hotel

I’ve been to Charleston quite a few times. I always love re-visiting a city that you “know” really well because the pressure of orienting yourself is gone. You can just be there and explore a little more without feeling like you have to hit a bunch of spots in a short amount of time. This was a particularly fun trip because everything seemed new. Other than walking down King Street, everything was totally new to me.

We stayed at the Spectator Hotel and I was blown away by it. The location is great as you’re close to all of the main spots in downtown Charleston, but it’s tucked away ever so slightly so it’s nice and quiet and, dare I say it, serene. The two downsides are that there isn’t a restaurant or gym on site. But who needs a restaurant when there are too many restaurants to count in Charleston? Plus, you can order coffee and a light continental breakfast before you hit the town. They also have a partnership with a gym down the street should you want to work out.

The best part is, hands down, the service. I’ve never experienced better service at a hotel!! As a guest, you have a butler who can help you with everything from steaming a dress to planning your itinerary.

Elizabeth Arden Skincare

Every time we went back to our rooms, there were more goodies and treats for us to try. Pajamas, riding boots, an embroidered vest, silk eye masks, etc. Not to mention all the Elizabeth Arden products to try and test out. It was insane and I’ve never felt more spoiled.

Elizabeth Arden Horse

The first official event of the trip was out in Summerville, SC, home of Sweet Tea! We drove out to Elizabeth Arden’s summer home for a cocktail party hosted by the current owner Judge Goodstein. The home was also owned at one point by Lilly Pulitzer’s mother. We got a tour of the property as well as the interior! The crowning jewel though is the red door, which you might recognize as the main symbol/logo of Elizabeth Arden!

Carly Heitlinger

Design Darling

I was so happy that two of my friends were also on the trip, Mackenzie & Ashley!

Elizabeth Arden Trip

We then made our way back to Charleston for dinner at Pawpaw. Can we talk about the gorgeous flower arrangements?! I wanted to take them all home with me, ha. I had the fried chicken (so flipping good).

The next morning, we made our way out to Middleton Place. It’s a gorgeous property… but it was also a rice plantation and has a dark history. I was apprehensive about going but went on the tour with an open mind. I have to say, I thought the tour was phenomenal. I was very curious how our guide would address slavery and the plantation’s past. Middleton Place clearly doesn’t try to sweep the issue under the rug or pretend like slavery didn’t happen. They don’t celebrate slavery, but they have incorporated the stories of the enslaved people into the tour and overall site. I had a couple of readers DM me about the plantation and I wanted to make sure I brought it up here. I didn’t think taking photos during the tour was appropriate, but I did want to say that I was impressed with how they handled/addressed it. You can get a sense of it on their website.

Horse Outfit

We then made our way down to the Middleton Place Equestrian Center for horseback riding. We were allllll decked out for it. It took quite a bit of time to get everyone on their respective horses and then, well, the skies opened up. It was a torrential downpour and I hopped right off the horse to take cover. We all changed shirts (haha) and then had a great lunch from Jim ‘n Nick’s BBQ.


(Had to include that one so that you don’t think that everything was picture perfect ha!)

Horseback Riding

After freshening up and showering back at the hotel, it was time for dinner. We had dockside drinks and took in the sunset before dinner at Nico’s.

Horseback Riding Ashley Brooke Designs   Elizabeth Arden Desert Rose

We had lipsticks in our hotel bathrooms and I immediately fell in love with “Desert Rose.” It’s a pretty nude perfect for everyday wear during fall.

Nico Charleston

It was such a fun night and we shared so many laughs at the table. I had tears rolling down my face at one point. I think we were all kind of thinking that we wished the trip was longer! Sometimes after a press trip, I am ready to go back home. But I was honestly having a great time and didn’t want it to end!!

Everyone had different flight times the next day so that was really the last bit of everyone being together. The remaining group met for breakfast at Millers where we couldn’t not use the photobooth 😉

huge thank you to Elizabeth Arden for inviting me on the trip. It was so well done and, as I’ve said, every detail was so perfect.

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Brianna Rooney

Fantastic way of addressing Middleton Place. I skipped it when I was in town but really appreciate you addressing this.

On a side note, so jealous of all these goodies and those flowers really are stunning, saving for future inspo!


The best way to learn from history…is to embrace it. I think that choosing to skip learning about slavery is naive and ignorant. I wish you would’ve shared more about visiting the plantation. We should never pretend like history didn’t happen, or else how would we learn to change our ways?

Sascha Rayner

HI Carly,

I love the outfit you wore for the horseriding, where did you get your boots, pants and vest from?

Thank you!! Gorgeous pictures you look amazing 🙂


Loved this recap—what a wonderful dream of a trip it sounds like! And I echo what a couple others said about appreciating your awareness and sensitivity around your visit to Middleton. The reality (that it often seems most people are either unaware or willfully ignorant of) is that the entire city was built on enslaved labor, and so it’s not like visiting a plantation property is the only time it can be brought up—yet clearly that’s when people will “call you out” for not addressing it. Anyway, not to hijack the comments section to make it about this, but I thank you for recognising where you were, and making a point of mentioning that. I hope you enjoyed the visit—Middleton has such beautiful grounds, in addition to a fascinating history. Next time you’re in Charleston consider checking out Drayton Hall if you haven’t been—and I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you to download the new, *just* launched Hustoric Charleston Foundation app! It features a much “fuller” history of the city and *all* of its residents over the past few centuries. I think you’d really enjoy it.


Sounds like a great trip! However, it would’ve been nice to hear a little bit more about the Elizabeth Arden products you were able to try out. What was your favorite product?


I wanted to wait until I’ve tried them out for a longer period of time! But don’t worry, it’s coming!!


This was a great post about Charleston but for a press trip, there’s only one line about Elizabeth Arden? Wasn’t the whole point to advertise their products?


I have more posts coming… I think it’s important to test new products for more than a few days 😉


What a fun trip! It’s so great to hear it was as wonderful of an experience as it looks. Looking forward to your product recap post! But in the meantime, would you share outfit details of from the last few pictures? So cute!!

Stephanie Kling

I love the skirt and shirt combo in the last few photos! Where is the sweater from? Looks like you had a blast!


Thank you for acknowledging the dark history of the plantation you visited in the post. Though I’m disappointed that Elizabeth Arden would deem such a place an inappropriate stop on a tour about inspiring women, I am glad that you didn’t gloss over the fact that you did go and that it isn’t a place that should be glorified. I’ve read your blog for years and have always appreciated your honesty and candor, and continue to appreciate it with this post.