clock menu more-arrow no yes

The 38 Essential Stores and Shopping Experiences, Fall 2012

View as Map

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

It's that time of the year again for our Fall update of The Racked 38. From Chalk in Evanston to Florodora in the Financial District, and all the shops in-between--Ikram to Akira--this is your essential list of all the "need-to-know" stores all over the city. We've tried to span a range of neighborhoods, price points and aesthetics. As always, if you feel we've missed your favorite, please let us know about it in the comments section.

For this round of the Racked 38, We're changing it up ever so slightly with Branca who has just closed her Pearson storefront after a fun sale and set up shop in her North State Street atelier, and started to bulk up her West Loop warehouse. Second, we have to admit our sadness for Chicago staple for many years, Mark Shale will be coming off the list in the next update of The Racked 38. They're on the list this time around because the liquidation is good, and after winning the Racked Award for Biggest Shitshow, we'd like to extend the brightness of the spotlight until the curtain closes. For other switch-ups, dark mainstay, Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout is no longer. As the next step in the evolution of the store, they've added Gallery Aesthete to the roster on Oak. And finally, R.I.P. to the building on Oak which used to house Sofia. Gladly, Sofia found new ground close by on Walton, relinquishing its post on Oak to the slew of new stores coming into the Esquire Theater.


· All Previous Racked 38 maps [Racked] Read More

1. AKIRA

Copy Link
662 W. Diversey Pkwy.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 327-1700
Visit Website
This home grown hero of a company is known for its wild runway shows and trend-driven merchandise. Having celebrated their 10th year anniversary they're looking toward their biggest year yet. The brand now operates shops on North Ave, in the Loop, Andersonville, Gold Coast, Lakeview, the suburbs and soon enough, Hyde Park

2. Apartment Number 9

Copy Link
1804 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 395-2999
Listen up men - this store is an amazing contemporary stockist of versatile brands. Mostly run by relaxed women, you can find Apartment Number 9 just past the viaduct in Bucktown. Check out a true representation of midwestern style at its pinnacle.

3. Art Effect

Copy Link
934 W. Armitage
Chicago, IL
Art Effect in the most boutique-y stretch in Lincoln Park has made sure the wardrobes of Chicago's trendiest women have been coming up roses for over 27 years - and they've still got it. Shop an entire Lincoln Park lifestyle from maxi dresses and cardigans to pendants and bangles, sunglasses, gifts and home accessories.

4. Branca Inc

Copy Link
1325 N State
Chicago, IL 60610
Since we uncovered the long term plan in the works for Roman-born, Chicago-based interior designer Alessandra Branca, we've been seeing her shop's aesthetic gradually shift to a more consumer driven product offering. The summer months were filled with the start of these changes, closing her Person Street shop and moving everything into her North State Street Atelier, while keeping a West Loop warehouse. Branca's Pearson Street shop sells not only her own line of european collaborations but ultra high-end furniture, wall paper treatments, tabletop wares, but art works and vintage items she's collected on her global travels.

5. Blake

Copy Link
212 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 202-0047
Blake is super duper high end, somewhat exclusive, and really easy to miss. Across the street from a Wal-Mart, this store only creates a window display once per year for the holidays and the other 11 months the windows are un-merchandised with a white wall blocking a view of what is happening inside the store. Head here if you need something for a very special occasion - but beware the lines they carry are world class and you'll probably want everything.

6. City Blue Apparel and Denim

Copy Link
1444 N Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 664-2222
Visit Website
For nearly one year, CityBlue Apparel & Denim has been undergoing a transformation of their first shop in Old Town and an expansion effort on The North Shore. We've come to know CityBlue for stocking some of the hottest cuts in denim we've seen and as of late, have gone way more editorial and elevated the offerings of the shop. Look for local labels respectfully placed throughout the store and shop for higher labels as well as casual pieces.

7. Florodora

Copy Link
330 S Dearborn St
Chicago, Illinois 60604
If there were a shop known for consistency in one of the coolest buildings in Chicago, this, ladies & gentlemen, is it. Celebrating 5 years this year, owner Michael Blossom and his team of scandalous ladies responsible for bringing The Loop some of the most comfortable, wearable, and accessible lines of clothing around. Next door, is Florodora Shoes which in turn completes the outfit with a unique vintage vibe. The store is known for their Friday trunk shows, and semi annual Scandal Sale.

8. Judy Maxwell

Copy Link
A newcomer to the scene, this one-stop shop for all-things cool and kitsch is a celebrity-owned & operated playground focused on selling items to make grownups (and children) happy. From crayons shaped like jewels and breakable plates to life-size movie star cutouts, designer furniture and neon rubber boom boxes to 10-gallon soup pots - the randomness of product offerings is charming, surprising and playful set in a care-free store environment.

9. Architectural Artifacts

Copy Link
4325 N Ravenswood
Chicago, IL
(773) 348-0622
Visit Website
This enormous warehouse is a fantastic source for anything and all things vintage with a strong emphasis on monstrous show-stopping architectural salvage like gothic pillars, castle doors and sometimes antique cars and jungle gyms from the 60s.

10. Cerato Boutique

Copy Link
3451 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 248-8604
Visit Website
A huge supporter of everything locally feminine, Cerato is the only shop you need to visit to see the majority of Chicago-based women's designers. Check online to see a calendar of Cerato's weekend events where you can meet or consult local designers and talk about their process.

11. Chalk Boutique

Copy Link
2611 Prairie
Evanston, IL 60201
A great North Shore resource for wearable designer pieces. The staff is extremely warm and humane for the caliber of clothing they stock. Constantly traveling, the owners find pieces from designers in Milan, Paris, New York and Los Angeles and Chicago.

12. Cynthia Rowley

Copy Link
810 W. Armitage Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 528-6160
Although our hometown hero has outgrown Chicago, we feel a special connection to this particular Cynthia Rowley shop. Located in the heart of Lincoln Park, it's been here forever (it seems) and attracts a pretty affluent yet diverse shopper.

13. Dose Market

Copy Link
435 E Illinois St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 321-1001
For nearly a year the Dosettes of Dose Market have been bringing a level of taste city dwellers aspire to achieve. The market focuses on selling lifestyle enhancement items that build the wardrobe, outfit the home, and stock pantry with locally produced and designed products.

14. Dovetail

Copy Link
1452 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 243-3100
Visit Website
Dovetail Vintage stocks high end used, vintage, and luxury - some of which is on consignment. The shop sells both mens and womens but focus a little bit more on feminine pieces.

15. Elements

Copy Link
741 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 642-6574
Visit Website
Once this lifestyle shop moved off Oak Street and onto Wells it began a process of redefigning it's self and now sells an even more varied lifestyle selection - everything from rock candy and espresso to Mandarina Duck, Phillips Frankel Diamonds, Italian dinnerware and boat coolers covered in alligator skin.

16. Gallery Aesthete

Copy Link
46 East Oak Street 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
From their unfortunate displacement from their space on Division, they opened Bonnie & Clyde's Secret Hideout in a hidden Gold Coast lair. Just this week, the reincarnation has gone to new heights at a space on Oak Street. The space offers names like Owens, McQueen, Siriano, Westwood and Herchcovitch.

17. George Greene

Copy Link
47 E Oak St
Chicago, IL 60611
We feel as though Oak Street is morphing into a mini menswear mecca with the addition of Suit Supply, Independence with Shrine, New York-based Jack Spade among others. In As the original anchor for menswear in the Gold Coast, George Green started it all from inspirations working with Ultimo and now carries some of the most sought after brands in the world. Look past the out-dated interior and information-only website right on to the Kiton, Chrome Hearts, Yohji Yamamoto, McQueen, Thom Browne and made-to measure Barbera suits. This store is the origin of the current menswear scene in Chicago.

18. Greer

Copy Link
1657 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 337-8000
One of Oprah's favorites and a neighborhood icon for years, Greer has become a go-to gifting boutique with an emphasis on luxury paper goods. Located in Old Town, this shop, through the product they sell instills a sense of honest luxury in any shopper who walks through the doors.

19. Haberdash

Copy Link
607 N State St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 624-8551
The modern gentleman's go-to shop for current and polished everyday menswear. A full-service boutique offering shoes, outerwear, denim, accessories, apothecary items, books. The brand is relishing in acclaim for their newly launched blog, redesigned website which features The Aficionado Shop and allows for a smooth transition to e-commerce when the brand is ready.

20. Ikram

Copy Link
15 E Huron St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 587-1000
World renowned fashion icon Ikram Goldman moved her 10-year old boutique from the Gold Coast to River North last year. Her new megaplex roster of international high and hidden designers takes place in the newly iconic Red Box. The Red Box is beautiful extension of the Ikram name encompassing the details and grandeur of the Ikram lifestyle.

21. Lissa

Copy Link
750 N Franklin Street Suite 104
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 563-9470
Recently having moved her boutique from Maxwell Street, Owner, Lissa Shipley continues her trajectory of finding unique, up-and-coming designers with a current architectural sensibility. Designers represented include Jarbo, Abagail Glaum-Lauthbury, Florian, Frei, Mandy Coon and Willow among others.

22. Lori's Shoes

Copy Link
824 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 281-5655
Visit Website
Lori's Shoes has been a Lincoln Park legend for years. In Lori's Armitage store she recently designed and launched her own capsule collection of heels, which will continue to grow and expand into other styles in larger quantities in future seasons. With thousands of styles of shoes to choose from, Lori's has a pair for any occasion, any event, any style. Brands include Jeffrey Campbell, Frye, Coconuts, OTBT, Corso Como, Sam Edelman and literally hundreds more.

23. Lu Lu's at the Belle Kay

Copy Link
3862 N. Lincoln
Chicago, Illinois 60613
(773) 404-5858
LuLu's at the Belle Kay is the secret weapon for socialites and those in the know with a fix for fashion. Known for their glitzy vintage jewelry pieces and contemporary designer show-stoppers this shop in in West Lakeview has been serving those in need of a little sparkle for years. Shop dresses, furs, hats, gowns and party dresses from the 1930's to present.

24. Luminaire

Copy Link
301 W. Superior St.
Chicago, IL
A legend destination for contemporary furniture, jewelry, bathroom fixtures and accessories for home and body. Design junkies don't walk in here and expect to spend anything less than buku bonkers bucks in a heartbeat. While you're here check out our tips on Foursquare.

25. Mark Shale

Copy Link
900 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL
For more than 80 years this Chicago-based family business has been a source for business and casual wear for Chicagoans. Recently mourning the passing of the founder, Shale Baskin, and the departure of Maria Pinto, the store is in a re-birth of sorts. The store has been collaborating with the community and broadening their selection of offerings to a more adventurous and young shopper. Since the last Racked 38, we've learned the store has filed bankruptcy and will close at the end of December. The store remains on the 38 list because of the ongoing liquidation and recently winning the Racked Award for Biggest Shitshow.

26. Morlen Sinoway

Copy Link
A longstanding purveyor of high design in artisanal home accessories, limited edition jewelry, custom furniture and other vintage and hard-to-find goods from across the globe. Owner, Morlen Sinoway has been broadening his reach by appearing at trend-driven markets and growing the Guerilla Truck Show which he started in 2005 as a true guerilla showing of art, objects and furniture.

27. Neapolitan

Copy Link
715 Elm Street
Winnetka, IL
Housing some of the world’s leading women’s luxury designers such as Christian Dior, Jason Wu, Alexander McQueen, Eres swim and Kimberly McDonald fine jewelry, among others, neapolitan collection is a shopper’s paradise.

28. P.45

Copy Link
1643 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 862-4523
One of the longest standing Bucktown boutiques to consistently buy stellar items for the Chicago woman. The vision is simple - true wearable designed pieces. Labels include Osklen, Bensoni, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Brochu Walker, Maison Martin Margiela among others.

29. Perchance

Copy Link
11 E Walton
Chicago, IL
The original Perchance Boutique location in the Southport Corridor is a multi-label mecca for high-end womenswear across all categories. With a newly opened second location in the Waldorf Astoria and Perchance Kids in Lincoln Park (webstore soon coming) all three Perchance locations have gained a large loyal following and are recognized as an expanding business in the world of retail.

30. Penelope's

Copy Link
1913 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 395-2351
Penelope's is a casual bitty munchkin on West Division in Wicker Park stocking men's and women's clothing equally featuring alternative trend driven brands. Quintessentially a Wicker Park go-to for years for its accessible price point, this shop's cool and relaxed sales staff and the friendly smushy-faced pugs. Brands include Cheap Monday, Wood Wood, Mink Pink, Ace & Jig, A.P.C. and Rachel Comey among others.

31. Primitive

Copy Link
130 N Jefferson St
Chicago, Illinois 60661
This 4-story 31,000 square foot loft is internationally recognized sourcing large scale and high end curiosities from Asia, Africa & South America and over 100 cultures. Find jewelry, wearables, furniture, textiles, objects, statues, instruments or inspiration.

32. Robin Richman

Copy Link
2108 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 278-6150
Robin Richman's aesthetic is beautifully dark and humanistic. The pieces owner, Robin brings into her shop are outstandingly crafted visually enticing pieces that beckon to be touched and worn in comfort. Extremely hard-to-find lines from around the world can be found here. Robin also operates an appointment-only atelier in New York.

33. Roslyn

Copy Link
2035 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 489-1311
Roslyn Boutique on Damen is one of the shops most supportive of local talent and well designed on-trend womenswear. From Elise Bergman and Alice + Olivia to Steven Alan and Abigail Heche this urban boutique is one of the most consistent of it's category in the city.

34. Rsvp gallery

Copy Link
1753 N Damen
Chicago, Illinois
Part luxury boutique selling Louis Vuitton collaborations and the like, part gallery of pop culture and music influenced design objects RSVP Gallery is a bright star in the over gentrified urban landscape of Bucktown. Offering merchandise such as Comme des Garcons PLAY and Boxed Water, many of the products double as art. Visit the highly-curated collection of books, accessories, clothing, and art works while walking by on a whim or as a planned sought after destination.

35. Sarca

Copy Link
710 N Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 255-0900
Visit Website
Fallon, Manish Arora, House of Harlow, Viktor & Rolf are some of our favorites from this highly touted showcase of labels. Sister boutique to Sarca, one door down is luxe children's boutique, Odile. The owners and buyers for these two shops have some of the most impeccable taste in womenswear coming from the coasts as well as europe - not to mention the cutest shop dogs in River North.

36. Sir & Madame

Copy Link
938 N. Damen
Chicago, IL 60622
Sir & Madame has won acclaim for their 1920s functionality-meets-urban dandy sensibility on national blogs and high profile publications. Their refreshing take on street wear is a force to be reckoned with in the transformation of West Town/ Ukrainian Village aesthetic.

37. Sofia

Copy Link
100 East Walton
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 640-0878
Visit Website
In Sofia's tenure on Oak they've gone through many stages of evolution and have grown to sell a substantial variety of international contemporary clothing, accessories for body and home. Now, after their move to Walton, Located in the heart of the Gold Coast, the boutique has decided focus on higher end women's and custom and collaborative projects. Sofia Vintage

38. Syd Jerome

Copy Link
2 N LaSalle St
Chicago, IL 60602
Syd Jerome has been a mainstay in the Loop for years outfitting bankers and execs in well formed classic midwestern business and country club attire. Service is spot-on even without an established relationship with a sales associate.

1. AKIRA

662 W. Diversey Pkwy., Chicago, IL 60614
This home grown hero of a company is known for its wild runway shows and trend-driven merchandise. Having celebrated their 10th year anniversary they're looking toward their biggest year yet. The brand now operates shops on North Ave, in the Loop, Andersonville, Gold Coast, Lakeview, the suburbs and soon enough, Hyde Park
662 W. Diversey Pkwy.
Chicago, IL 60614

2. Apartment Number 9

1804 North Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647
Listen up men - this store is an amazing contemporary stockist of versatile brands. Mostly run by relaxed women, you can find Apartment Number 9 just past the viaduct in Bucktown. Check out a true representation of midwestern style at its pinnacle.
1804 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647

3. Art Effect

934 W. Armitage, Chicago, IL
Art Effect in the most boutique-y stretch in Lincoln Park has made sure the wardrobes of Chicago's trendiest women have been coming up roses for over 27 years - and they've still got it. Shop an entire Lincoln Park lifestyle from maxi dresses and cardigans to pendants and bangles, sunglasses, gifts and home accessories.
934 W. Armitage
Chicago, IL

4. Branca Inc

1325 N State, Chicago, IL 60610
Since we uncovered the long term plan in the works for Roman-born, Chicago-based interior designer Alessandra Branca, we've been seeing her shop's aesthetic gradually shift to a more consumer driven product offering. The summer months were filled with the start of these changes, closing her Person Street shop and moving everything into her North State Street Atelier, while keeping a West Loop warehouse. Branca's Pearson Street shop sells not only her own line of european collaborations but ultra high-end furniture, wall paper treatments, tabletop wares, but art works and vintage items she's collected on her global travels.
1325 N State
Chicago, IL 60610

5. Blake

212 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60654
Blake is super duper high end, somewhat exclusive, and really easy to miss. Across the street from a Wal-Mart, this store only creates a window display once per year for the holidays and the other 11 months the windows are un-merchandised with a white wall blocking a view of what is happening inside the store. Head here if you need something for a very special occasion - but beware the lines they carry are world class and you'll probably want everything.
212 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60654

6. City Blue Apparel and Denim

1444 N Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60610
For nearly one year, CityBlue Apparel & Denim has been undergoing a transformation of their first shop in Old Town and an expansion effort on The North Shore. We've come to know CityBlue for stocking some of the hottest cuts in denim we've seen and as of late, have gone way more editorial and elevated the offerings of the shop. Look for local labels respectfully placed throughout the store and shop for higher labels as well as casual pieces.
1444 N Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60610

7. Florodora

330 S Dearborn St, Chicago, Illinois 60604
If there were a shop known for consistency in one of the coolest buildings in Chicago, this, ladies & gentlemen, is it. Celebrating 5 years this year, owner Michael Blossom and his team of scandalous ladies responsible for bringing The Loop some of the most comfortable, wearable, and accessible lines of clothing around. Next door, is Florodora Shoes which in turn completes the outfit with a unique vintage vibe. The store is known for their Friday trunk shows, and semi annual Scandal Sale.
330 S Dearborn St
Chicago, Illinois 60604