Blazers of Glory: An Exploration of the Fall Favorite

Trends and Tips No Comments »

Michelle Tan

By Alexandra Delaney

It’s that time of year when you don’t want to admit the cold winter is here, but you can’t deny the chill in the air is making it increasingly difficult to text on your phone or fumble through your purse to find your CTA card. We’d all rather walk blissfully through the orange-and-yellow fall foliage than think about digging through our winter closets. (In my case: a plastic storage bin I shoved all of my sweaters into and hid in an attempt to delay winter’s arrival. Think: if I’m not prepared for it, it just can’t be here yet.)

Instead of fighting an inevitable force of nature–winter will be here; there’s no dodging that in Chicago—there is a fun way to embrace the changing seasons. Cold weather doesn’t have to mean dull. There are new twists on blazers that will have you welcoming cool weather with arms wide open, even if it’s just to put your jacket on.

Fall is the season for layers, and blazers are the perfect addition to any outfit. Varying in weight, color and textures, they can achieve multiple looks for any scene. Chicago stylist and fashion expert Amy Salinger believes blazers are a timeless purchase:

“Blazers are a great buy because they are a foundation piece in your wardrobe. If you buy a simple style, you can make it last for years because it will always be stylish. Don’t be scared to spend more money on great blazers because they are a cost-per-wear item. You wear them a lot making them worth the cost.”

Wardrobe and prop stylist Courtney Rust agrees that the key to blazers is that sometimes it’s worth paying a little more. Rust has styled commercials for Audi, Esquire, Nike and Rolling Stone to name a few, and knows the completeness of professional quality. She cautions that cheap fabric doesn’t hang as well on the body and that a good blazer will never go out of style, making it worth the splurge. Read the rest of this entry »

What to Wear to the R. Kelly Concert

Chicago Boutiques, Trends and Tips 1 Comment »

By Alexandra Delaney

The unanswered question returns: What’s R&B without the R? Only this time around, the answer is more vague than before. What does the “R” stand for? R. Kelly—the Chicago-based crooner who posed the question to reassert his dominance as the king of modern soul music? (For the record, R. Kelly defends the title with three Grammy Awards, six number-one albums, six Billboard Music Awards and six American Music Awards, to name a few). Rhythm? The songs off his eleventh studio album “Write Me Back” sure have a melodic measure to them that incites listeners to two-step. Real? Despite the modern craze to auto-tune articulation and add studio-synthesized voices to hip-hop tracks, R. Kelly aims to celebrate R&B, crediting its singing as a traditional, talented art form. Retro? With influences such as Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Barry White, Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass, the tracks on R. Kelly’s eleventh studio album “Write Me Back” harness that smooth grooves and funk inspiration of the Motown-era musicians. Read the rest of this entry »

In Defense of the Romper: Romancing the summer garment of the future

Trends and Tips No Comments »

Dear Creatures chambray romper from Penelope's boutique

By Monica Westin

“Rompers are for hipsters and babies and the babies of hipsters, ” claims my friend Jenn, a marketer for Whole Foods whose husband is the front man of a Pitchfork-adored band. “I have no problem with them, but rompers simply aren’t appropriate for anyone over the age of eight,” fumes my most fashionable and liberal friend Risa, who favors menswear and a sweater knitted with a handgun pattern. It’s a sentiment shared by both fashion insiders and outsiders. The romper, a summery one-piece women’s garment combining a short-sleeved or sleeveless top with shorts, has gotten a lot of ridicule since it emerged as a trend in Brooklyn around 2006 or 2007 (depending on who you talk to) and fully mainstreamed across the country last summer. Major fashion critics have called rompers regressive, tacky, ridiculous.

But as arbiters of fashion on the ground keep wearing them, the fashion world has finally given up, given in, and bought in. Vogue recently reported on the Coachella 2010 look, highlighting the importance of the romper by including photos taken by blogger Hanneli of indie actresses and fashionistas wearing belted flowered rompers (along with exposed lingerie and camel-colored woven sandals, the other two big bicoastal summer trends). In 2009, after editors starting showing up to the magazine’s office in jumpsuits, Vogue overcame its skepticism that women would actually wear them. Senior Market Editor Meredith Melling Burke admits, “When I first saw them at the shows, I thought, ‘Oh, are we going there?’… but now I’m eating my words.” And designers, beginning with Gaultier and now Marc Jacobs and others (including it-boy Jason Wu in spring 2010), are catching on by including romper looks in their collections. Even more importantly, progressive, more mainstream women are starting to realize how functional and flattering the romper can be, even if to the mockery of their friends. Read the rest of this entry »

Making it Work: Solving the everyday fashion emergency

Trends and Tips No Comments »

Barbara Glass

By Nicole Briese

A few months back, I colored my leg with a Sharpie. On purpose.

Running late for an event as usual, I discovered a definite snag in my plans, specifically the snag that had appeared in my last clean pair of tights. My legs being shockingly white and the weather being uncomfortably cold, I did what any fashionista would do: I made it work. I busted out that black marker and never looked back.

When Tim Gunn coined his signature phrase in the “Project Runway” design room, he was no doubt intending to inspire the contestants to finish their creations in a timely manner. What he actually inspired, in my opinion, was a way of life.

While we’d all like to be polished and fabulous twenty-four-seven, the reality is that sometimes life steps in.  Things like lack of funds, heaping piles of laundry or the oh-so-cooperative Chicago weather leave us begging the question, what’s a style-conscious guy or girl to do?

The answer?  Make it work, of course!

As an individual who is always running late and views laundry as the bane of her existence, I have run into more than my fair share of days that I knew exactly what I wanted to wear, only to find it covered in wine stains or with a giant rip in the seam. While others might simply pick out something else, I am not above hand-washing the red wine stain out in the sink and blow-drying the now-soaked area before running out the door or vigorously rubbing deodorant stains out of my shirts with a towel. (It works!) Read the rest of this entry »

Eye of the Beholder: The personal pleasures of fabulous ugly things

Trends and Tips No Comments »
April Francis in her vintage pants

April Francis in her vintage pants

My father loves to tell the story of the time we went to the mall and I insisted on wearing a bright red bonnet—a part of a complete nightgown set, if truth be told. “But Nicole,” he said pleadingly. “Everyone will stare at you and say, ‘Look at that funny little girl in that little red bonnet!'”

“Oh no, daddy,” I said reassuringly. “They’ll say, “Look at the beautiful little girl in her pretty red bonnet!'”

While I certainly wouldn’t recommend stepping out in a red bonnet these days, I did have one thing right: I knew what I liked from a very early age. The bonnet was a fabulous choice because it made me feel beautiful. I still apply this rule on a daily basis. There are a few pieces I own—namely a pink fur satin-lined jacket with pleather pockets and a stunningly bright yellow spring trench—that make others cringe to see me in them. I not only wear them in public, but stand a little taller in them, proudly defying anyone who may glance over in shock or disgust. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your clothes if you feel great in them: That’s what fashion is all about. Read the rest of this entry »

Style Inventory: Liz Kores

News and Dish, Trends and Tips 1 Comment »
Pictured: Blue Dress: Calvin Klein, Grey Dress: Taylor, Black Skirt: Forever 21, Coin Purse: Vintage Jacket: Taylor, Yellow Pant: J.Crew, Jeans: Henry III Generation, Long Red Sweater: J.Crew, Green Sleeveless Top: J.Crew, Vintage Clutch, Red Beaded Dress: Collette Dinnigan, Ilse Jacobsen rain boots, “Amelia” necklace from erin gallagher, Mar-a-Lago bag from Lilly Pulitzer

Pictured: Blue Dress: Calvin Klein, Grey Dress: Taylor, Black Skirt: Forever 21, Coin Purse: Vintage Jacket: Taylor, Yellow Pant: J.Crew, Jeans: Henry III Generation, Long Red Sweater: J.Crew, Green Sleeveless Top: J.Crew, Vintage Clutch, Red Beaded Dress: Collette Dinnigan, Ilse Jacobsen rain boots, “Amelia” necklace from erin gallagher, Mar-a-Lago bag from Lilly Pulitzer

Gregarious and polished, public relations entrepreneur Liz Kores’ personality is reflected in her closet of preppy silhouettes combined with spunky color palettes. Ever a pragmatist, Liz isn’t afraid to admit that comfort and the versatility of each piece in her closet do help define her personal style.

She proudly attests to having inherited her mother’s ability to “sniff out a sale.” And she often combines designer label with inexpensive items. “This isn’t something new with the economy,” she smiles as she reaches for a pair of Manolo Blahniks and pairs them with a skirt from Forever 21.

A perfect example of Liz’s aesthetic is the classic shirt-dress with creative volume by Nuj Novkahett she purchased at SHE Boutique. It’s preppy with a flippant flare and shape. Liz snipped the dress with a vintage belt and added tights and boots; in summer she’ll wear it with bare legs and ballet flats. Another noteworthy wardrobe addition is a gift from her younger sister. It’s a black vintage clutch with a fabric rose and signed on the inside in marker. But the coolest part is that the rose is from Liz’s childhood collection of hair bows that her sister found while visiting their parents and added to the clutch. (Interview and photos by Kari Skaflen) Read the rest of this entry »

Beauty Parley: Aura Care

Trends and Tips No Comments »

rr-essencesAny salon can give you a makeover, but The Ruby Room is upping the ante. They don’t want to just do your hair and put on your makeup—they want to make over your soul.

In introducing their own “Essence Collection, ” the style and wellness center has launched a full line of “aroma-infused flower and gem essences” designed to correspond the “seven energy centers of the body”—the chakras—and ultimately create a higher sense of wellbeing.

“We were working with the essences in the past, and we wanted to create our own,” says Ruby Room’s intuitive energy healer, Philip Clark. “We already knew the qualities of each chakra…we also understood essences and crystals,” he says. Using that knowledge to create scents and “energies,” Clark says the aroma-infused sprays work mainly by entering a person’s aura. Read the rest of this entry »

A Letter to American Apparel

Trends and Tips No Comments »

rnt38_charcoalSubject: Splitting Crotch Problem
Sent to:
Topic of feedback: Retail Store Customer Service
Type of feedback: Problem

My feedback: On Saturday, January 24, 2009, I purchased a pair of large, athletic grey, tri-blend leggings (with a medium, athletic grey, tri-blend track shirt), in Evanston, IL. This is ultimate comfort and utility house wear and cold weather undergarment. I am happy!

Seriously, I like to feel sexy at home, even though I am a man. The shirt is “Taxi”-era Tony Danza, or early Stallone. In it I feel fit and manly without a drop of sweat. With a knit cap the effect is marvelous. I could be chasing chickens. The shirt is, dare I say it, “Streetcar Named Desire” Marlon Brando. I like it and it is so soft. The drape of the 50/25/25 is outstanding. The leggings not so much hug my person as they cradle it, like a hammock. It is unseemly and alluring for me to stand by a window in them. The leggings are Superhero. They give me action figure legs. Gripping. Amazing. Fantastic. Incredible. My wife is worried and happy at the same time. It is like, Here I am.

However, the seam at the crotch has three holes, I noticed the day after purchase. I did wear the leggings, gloriously, the day I bought them and the next. Lounging, writing, sleeping, playing, cooking, reading, watching TV. I put on a Clone Storm Trooper belt and ran around with a Clone Storm Trooper blaster. Even my glasses look fantastic with the shirt and leggings. But the point is that I was sitting with my wife and she reached over into my lap (I was wearing the leggings) and ran her hand to my crotch. She pointed out the holes and I was very disappointed.

I bagged the leggings and brought them to work, with my receipt. I walked several blocks (14ºF) to exchange the leggings for a new pair, because of the defect. I took it to Walton Street, at 7pm on Monday, January 26. The manager said, “No.”

She asked, “Did you wear them?”

I said, “Yes, I did.”

“Well you can’t return them because you wore them. I can’t exchange anything that has been worn. Anything I exchange I have to be able to sell.”

“But you wouldn’t be able to sell these with holes in them anyways, if I hadn’t worn them.”

“I would exchange them for defect.”

“Can’t you exchange these for defect?”

“No, because you wore them. I’m sure the holes were there when you bought them, but you wore them and I can’t take them.”

“I understand, but that seems really unfair.”

“I’m sorry about that.”

I should mention that she held the leggings, that I had worn, and touched the holes on the crotch. She looks nothing like the girls in your advertisements. No one in the store did, except maybe for me. I am regularly asked for help in American Apparel. I wear all the American Apparel shirts! You should see me in the leggings with shirt and a knit cap and my glasses. You would want me for a slideshow, which I would consider but ultimately decline with some modesty. On looking at me in the slideshow people would think about how moderately hot I am, like sushi spicy sauce, and think to themselves, I could look like that, even though they cannot because, really, the leggings and T-shirt suit me spectacularly. I am fit and toned with a little fat to pinch, for that classic American Apparel crease at elastic. My skin is appropriately dark, some mystery of ethnicity, Mongolian tea with milk, with just the right oily tone for the amateur chic flash sheen. My hair is Prince Valiant porno and I can make a juvenile mustachio if this is kicks. But, thank you, no, I just couldn’t pose, even in the leggings and t-shirt. (Although I notice you keep the leggings online under “Women,” with a picture of a woman wearing them.)

I know the leggings are unisex, but by nature they should accommodate me without tearing at the seams. Am I not a man? That is not to say that I made the holes, I’m just saying that it is possible. Regardless, the leggings are defective and I would like a new pair.

Best regards,

Fred Sasaki

Take It Etsy: The rise of an indie marketplace

*Web-Only Boutiques, Trends and Tips No Comments »

Pierogi Picnic

By Beth Dugan, the premier online marketplace for buying and selling all things handmade, has exploded in popularity in the last few years. Since their launch in June 2005, more than 100,000 sellers from around the world have opened up Etsy shops. Etsy makes it easy to explore the Chicago sellers with a “Shop Local” feature, and there are hundreds of talented and entrepreneurial Chicagoans out there, making their crafts, photography and artwork available online.

The Chicago-based Etsy stores cover the gamut from vintage resellers to custom-tailored dressmakers and crafters and artists of every ilk in between. Many times, an Etsy shop is the best way to start selling handmade goods without the expense of a physical store, or the trouble of traveling to craft shows every weekend. For 24-year-old Chicagoan Allie Mundigler, who runs Elizabeth Wren Vintage, it filled a gap she had in her life. “I found myself with a bit of time between jobs and decided to combine my love of vintage items, especially clothing, and my prior fashion experiences.” Elizabeth Wren Vintage has a sister store run by Mundigler’s mother, Kathi, which sells handmade scarves, bags and jewelry.

Many times, Etsy is the first step for young designers to take when getting their retail legs under them, and exploring a wider audience. Chicago’s fashion scene is definitely burgeoning, but can still be daunting and cost-prohibitive to break into with a retail location. Designer Lydia Krupinski, who designs and sells her fun, colorful and eco-friendly creations at Pierogi Picinic (pictured) on Etsy says, “I opened my online indie eco-biz this past summer after being badgered by friends and family to take my designs to the masses. I decided to start things out on Etsy since it is the Mecca of handmade goods. People who shop and sell on Etsy are dedicated to supporting independent small businesses that are often run out of home-based studios, like my own.”

Handmade creations, shopping locally and even businesses that use environmentally sustainable and “green” practices are also an important part of Etsy’s culture. Krupinski is not alone as an eco-friendly seller, and the idea of shopping locally is picking up steam. She explains, “The most important aspect of my business is to promote a truly sustainable lifestyle by providing people with fun and urban fashions that are created, packaged and shipped using 100-percent recycled materials.”

Etsy is also a great way to connect to Chicago visual artists without having to deal with gallery prices or attitude. Laura Berger is one such artist, and she is selling her work at her own Etsy store, Laura George. Berger opened her store on a whim, but found many benefits. “It’s an enormous network of like-minded sellers and shoppers, so that fosters a sense of community. Supporting and promoting independent artists is obviously the biggest pro,” says Berger. Krupinski gushes, “What I love most about Etsy is that it brings together unique individuals from around the world to support a common cause. Etsy users form a unique and tight-knit online community that is changing the way people shop.”

Etsy’s search engine makes it easy to find sellers in Chicago, artists who work in a particular medium, items of a particular color or palette, or those centered on a specific subject—including a large number of t-shirts, jewelry, knit goods, posters and even purses that are focused on our new president. Most of the artists and sellers are willing to work with customers on custom orders, rush shipping or other things that are more difficult to arrange when dealing with larger  retailers.

Chicago is teeming with talented, imaginative and energetic artists and creative people. Etsy has become a place to shift through them in a friendly, organized and user-friendly way and find exactly what you are looking for. The next time you need a fuzzy yellow sweater to go with that pencil skirt, or are looking for just the perfect thing to hang over the new sofa you picked up, check out the Chicago artists featured on Etsy and see if you can keep those dollars local and the Chicago artists supported while finding exactly what you are looking for.

Open for Business: Blazewear makes the hottest clothes

News and Dish, Trends and Tips No Comments »

blazewear-jacketA box of turtles and a hardcover book. That’s what I seek for my father and pretty much all he wants. I drop in at Margie’s Candies and Women & Children First Bookstore, select my gifts and I’m done. Not the Sterns. Last winter, they ordered a pair of carbon-based heated gloves from Blazewear, a British company established in 2005. They had them shipped to their father. He liked them; he really liked them.

Soon father Joel said to son Jeff, “Let’s import these gloves.” Joel Stern approached Blazewear, and worked out a sole distributorship for the U.S. and Canada. He partnered with Jeff, who had worked in mortgage lending, and Jeff’s friend Paul Chernawsky, who had a legal background and set up shop here in Chicago.

“Jeff and I are both very entrepreneurial in spirit,” Chernawsky says. “We put the business model in place in October, and we started getting orders through word of mouth right away.” Jeff and Paul manage Blazewear USA’s marketing, order fulfillment and shipping. Joel interacts with Blazewear’s British office. Their straightforward CTA billboard ads read, “Cold?” against a blue background, followed by “” on an orange background.
Blazewear’s heated clothes have rechargeable battery packs tucked away in the lining. Their waterproof, fleece-lined Taslan Nylon jacket is specially priced at $169.99. “It’s a very reasonable price for a jacket, let alone a heated jacket,” Chernawsky says. “The jacket has five different heat settings. The heat will last for seven consecutive hours with three as the setting.” That should be long enough for me to go to a Bears game, shovel my driveway and chase my dog Marley around in the snow.

Oh wait, I don’t have a dog. But I do ski. Jeff Stern says the heated gators, socks and insoles that skiers favor “are so popular we sold out of them for this season.” Heated gloves are still in stock though; they are $61.99 for basic black, and $73.99 for deluxe black and grey. The gloves require a separate battery pack that costs $79.99, and includes two slim-line batteries and a dual charger.

blazewear-deluxeglovesBlazewear works equally well for construction workers, snowmobilers and crossing guards, and is finding a niche, Chernawsky says. “At a time when the economy is tough, our product is selling. There isn’t really anything on the market that can keep you warm like this.” (Sarah Klose)

Blazewear,, 1-(800)999-2121