Most travelers visiting Chicago instinctually stay within the perimeters of the “Downtown” area. They probably think it’s easier to plan, safer to explore or possibly, that it’s the most bustling part of town, when, truthfully, the only activities to do there consist of museums or shopping on the “Mag Mile” a.k.a.- Overpriced City.
If you’re ready to leave the group tours and boring mall shops behind, plan on staying in Wicker Park, the city’s most eclectic neighborhood. Wicker Park is bursting with art galleries, boutiques, and some of the best new bars and restaurants in the city. Located smack dab in the middle of the city and just a 15 minute cab or train ride from downtown it’s the perfect neighborhood getaway.
You don’t have to look very long for a place to stay because the best bang for your buck in the hood is unquestionably, The Wicker Park Inn. Walking down the residential street you would never even know that the quaint bed and breakfast existed. The historical little cottage turned inn is camouflaged among a bevy of look-a-likes along the secluded, tree-lined street.
The robins egg blue door, topped with a fresh, floral wreath, lets you know you’re at the right place. Little touches, like the stone patio out front and the lush green garden along the side of the house, make the inn feel like a true urban retreat. The innkeepers are a friendly bunch that includes David from the Real World New Orleans cast. If you’re lucky, he might even dust off his keyboard and sing you a few bars.
Though the best part of this cozy B & B has to be the rooms, which are all modeled after different romantic cities around the world like Tuscany and Cape Cod. A tasty continental breakfast, complete with strong coffee and a light nosh is served every morning to get you on your feet. Once you’re ready to explore, the trendiest shopping district is just blocks away.
A few blocks from the inn lies Bonnie and Clyde’s, the newest boutique to open on the Wicker Park scene. Located on the booming block of Division Street, the morbidly whimsical window display, that uses skeletons for mannequins, lets you know what you’re about to get yourself into. Inside you are greeted by a bright orange wall with unevenly placed popsurrealist artwork and a dividing line made from two light tables displaying unique pieces like handpainted toaster purses and graphic print mini dresses.
On one side of the store is men’s wear, comprised of almost all black garb and on the other side women’s wear, which is also mostly black but this time with splashes of color, texture and pattern. Although the boutique features lines by Angela Johnson, 10 Feet, and Horyoshi III, the main event seems to be Cosa Nostra, Jeffrey Sabelia of Project Runway’s clothing line, which customers have gone crazy for.
Toward the back of this Euro-style boutique are two antique wooden display cases occupied by interesting, little adornments like, lucky number rings and tooth shaped cufflinks (that made me wish I owned a French cuffed shirt). The finishing touch is an amazing, vintage chaise lounge aptly placed in front of a gigantic, flat screen TV that is sure to keep you there for a hot minute, even if the clothes don’t.
Though most of Wicker Park’s inhabitants, being artists and students, can’t afford designer duds, they can afford the D.I.Y alternatives that Renegade Handmade, just a block away from Bonnie and Clyde’s, has to offer. The boutique, much like the yearly Renegade Craft Fair it sprung from, specializes in handmade crafts from local designers and well kept vintage garments.
Don’t let the shabby chic façade fool you, the inside is 100% chic. Modern woodwork and enough natural light to keep a greenhouse happy are pleasant surprises. The only thing that’s old about this place is clothes and even those are in immaculate condition. It comes as no surprise that the shop is constantly buzzing with customers.
Visitors of the charming shop can buy anything from humorous stationary to Eco friendly wood rings, as well as get some inspiration for projects of their own. Renegade Handmade not only has something for everyone at a great price but also lends a hand in supporting the growing D.IY trend that makes Wicker Park such a great community.
When it’s time to recharge after a hard day of shopping, head over to The Ruby Room where relaxation is taken to a new level. The Ruby Room’s sign lets people know before entering that it is a “spa for the spirit”. Which means, Check the Botox at the door, this spa only uses holistic treatments to keep their clients looking and feeling fresh.
This three-story beauty sanctuary is your one stop shop before painting the town red. Upstairs, dubbed “The Healing Sanctuary”, is where clients can go for treatments like Chakra cleansing, crystal massages and oxygen therapy to say the least. In an adjoining building lie a yoga studio and three floors of guest suites for overnight stays.
When the negative energy is cleared, you can head back downstairs to the salon for a cut, color and wax for the finishing touch. Before you leave, don’t forget to stop in the boutique for Bare Essentials and Aveda products, fun jewelry and Hobo accessories. Voila! Life can’t get any better than this.
Now that you’re cleansed and looking all sexy, it’s time to put on your new outfit and head out to one of the neighborhood’s many restaurants. You won’t find any chains in this hood; it’s all about indie restaurateurs in Wicker Park.
For a great glass of wine and an even better meal, Vintage Wine Bar is the place.
Their huge wine and Champaign selection is sure to knock you off your feet with an imported cheese flight that’s a perfect match. For dinner, you can go the small plate route or get one of their entrées. Highly recommended on that list is the flatbread margherita pizza. Seating options allow you to dine al fresco, for great people watching especially on Division Street where you’re likely to see someone interesting walk by. The other option is to sit inside for a loungy vibe where you’ll probably end up dancing, depending on how much wine you drink, of course. After dinner, the city is at your fingertips.
If you happen to be in town October 9th-14th your nights will be spent hob nobbing with fashion elite at Chicago’s annual Fashion Focus Chicago. That week is basically Chicago’s very own fashion week with several fashion shows featuring emerging designer and planned shopping trips to all of the best boutiques in the city.
If you can only make it to one of the shows, get your tickets for Gen Art’s 5th annual Fresh Faces in Fashion, which is sure to be a sold out event. Previous Fresh Faces shows have launched the careers of many designers including Zac Posen and Rebecca Taylor. The show is held at the Chase Promenade North in Millennium Park. Tickets for Fresh Faces run between $75–$125 per person and well worth it. If you really want to roll in true fashionista style then get the VIP ticket, which includes priority seating, a gift bag, and entrance to the after party at The James Hotel.
Once your stay is over in The Windy City you’ll realize that it’s not all cornfields an sweat suits after all, it’s more like, hot dogs, pizza, nasal accents, and if we’re lucky, you’ll include great shopping and a wonderful art scene to that list.
Fashion is Chicago is unlike anywhere else in the country. Being in the middle of it all allows us to to take from New York’s untouchable style, which is always five steps ahead and thrown in a little of L.A.’s no nonsense, jeans and t-shirt uniform and make our own creation of eclectic personal style.
Chicagoans may not be known for their fashion sense but it’s time for that misnomer to be wiped off of everyone’s mind. It may have taken us a while to figure it out but keep in mind we don’t have warm weather year round or just a couple of blizzards in the winter. The weather pattern is utter chaos with days that have rain, hail and snow all in one day. We have learned to take that con and turning it into a pro byt dressing fashionable yet functional…
The Chicago fashion scene is unlike anywhere else in the country. Being in the middle of it all, we tend to take the best aspects of New York’s five-steps-ahead style, and throw in a little of L.A.’s no nonsense jeans and t-shirt uniform, to make the Midwest’s own eclectic style creation.
It may have taken us a while to figure it out, but keep in mind, this is the midwest; we don’t have warm weather year round or a few blizzards in the winter. Our weather patterns are utterly chaotic. With days that go from rain to snow, we’ve learned to master the right mixture of fashion and function with the help of five must have essentials: stylish outerwear, comfortable shoes, good denim, the little black dress and of course, a great carry-all bag. Top 5 Must Haves in Chicago:
1. Outerwear, Outerwear & More Outerwear!
The secret, to looking good and staying comfortable in Chicago, is owning a wide array of stylish outerwear that will carry you through the seasons. The keyword in that sentence was stylish, and I say that he sad fad fact is that a lot of Midwesterners still succumb to wearing a “puffy coat” or even worse, a ski jacket as their winter coat. In theory, that would be perfect if we lived in Alaska and our jobs included riding sled dogs or canning whale fat, but the truth is, a North Face parka isn’t going to cut it.
Every Chicagoan has to have at least three pieces of outerwear to combat the chaotic weather patterns: a fitted trench, a sweater coat or light jacket and obviously, a winter coat. Although all three are ‘must haves’ for the mid-western wardrobe, the winter coat is by far the most important. The winter coat is your best friend for five months out if the year, if we’re lucky, which is why it’s so important to have a piece that holds up, looks good AND keeps you warm.
I think I found the perfect solution this winter with a coat from the Canadian line, Soia & Kyo. The line combine fashion and function with their adorable line of wool coats in tasty colors like cherry and espresso, as well as retro plaid and houndstooth prints. The ultra feminine collection is garnished with kitschy over-sized collars and mod-inspired buttons. This is a line that is sure to keep you warm and looking hot all winter long.
2. Comfortable Shoes
One of the greatest aspects of Chicago living is the fact that residents are not confined to driving a car, unless they actually need to be. This is because Chicago has some of the best public transportation, bike friendly streets and walkable sidewalks, which are all great…if you aren’t interested in wearing stilettos.
If you have lived in Chicago long enough, you come to realize that the majority of Chicagoan’s are not really concerned with what a particular item looks like, it’s all about the comfort factor, which is why the number two must have is a comfortable pair of shoes.
Chicago gals live for flats unless they are cabbing it all day or going out at night; so when they do find that “perfect pair” that will let them walk from Lincoln Park to Logan Square, without a blister, they are sold.
A great look for fall is the flat boot in a fun color or material especially if you want to stand out in the sea of basic black. A pair that caught my eye this season are Scorah Patullo’s super shiny, black leather boots with a ½ inch white heel. They seem versatile enough to wear all season, because they are black with the white heel that adds an interesting touch that the UK based label is best known for.
3. Denim for Every Occasion
No matter what you do or where you live, everyone should have at least one pair of jeans that fit their ass like a glove. You know, that one go-to pair that makes you look like and feel like a million bucks and probably cost just under that.
Though this rule changes a bit for casual Chicagoans who need to multiply that rule times three: one for work, one for play and one for evening. Having three pairs or well fitting jeans turns otherwise easygoing looks up a notch on the style meter.
A great trend to pick up on this fall is the ultra high rise, from skinny to wide; you can’t go wrong with the figure-flattering silhouette this cut creates.On my radar is a sexy pair of dark denim Dittos trousers with gold military buttons and a rounded yoke that’s bound to make these your next pair of go-to jeans.
4. A Little Black Dress:
As cliché as it sounds, the ultimate must have for every woman’s wardrobe is the little black dress, though for some women that rule is no longer held in the same high regard. Those are ladies in red and the divas in gold we see at parties with the personality to match.
No matter how far stylish Chicago gals go with taking fashion risks there will always be that midwestern spirit inside reminding them of the old adage, “If it aint broke don’t fix it”, which is why the LBD is a must have in the windy city.
5. Carry-All Bag
With all the walking and weather upheaval you’re bound to encounter living in Chicago, it would probably be in your best interest to carry the necessary weather battling tools, like your trusty umbrella and a lightweight jacket. Obviously you’ll need a place to stow all these things along with the real necessities, i.e.: Cell phone wallet and iPod, so where better to stow it all than a carry all bag.
Choose anything from a oversized hobo to a big, structured tote to carry your many belongings, the bigger the better. This season’s hottest it bags come in bold hues like cherry red and lemon yellow to the more subdued gray and moss green. High on my list is Loeffler Randall’s white leather flight bag with classic braided handles and a detachable shoulder strap in case you you need to throw something heavier in, like a laptop.