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The 38 Essential Shopping Experiences in Chicago, Winter 2013

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It's that time again to update the Racked 38, Chicago's list of the most pivotal shopping experiences and essential stores. There are tons of options from high to low, from the North Side to the South Side—it would be impossible to give all Chicago's great stores spotlight they deserve, but using this guide for exploration, you're off to a great start. Now without any further ado, wether you're just visiting, or a seasoned windy citizen, may we present to you, the Winter 2013 Racked 38.

Sadly, last quarter was Mark Shale's final appearance in the Racked 38 as they crashed and burned after a horrific year of artistic departure, death, messy bankruptcy and liquidation. Also, given the influx of terrific menswear options around the city spanning the spectrum of the Bonobos Guideshop, Suitsupply, Maison de laCour, J. Cheikh, and Dovetail's addition of menswear, we've decided to remove Syd Jerome, because frankly, now we've got better options. In their absences, we've added P.O.S.H. as one of the pivotal home and accessory shopping experiences in Chicago and Luxury Garage Sale for really upping the ante in Old Town.

Other changes for this edition of The Racked 38 are a brand new layout. Rather than listing the stores in alphabetical order, we've followed a logical pattern of grouping by neighborhood. We start with neapolitan collection celebrating 9 years in Winnetka and work our way south through Ravenswood and Lakeview down through the Gold Coast and River North, then over into West Town, Wicker Park and finish in Bucktown with Robin Richman. We've updated many of the listings including Gallery Aesthete, Dovetail, and Blake, who recently doubled in size and will be the exclusive Saint Laurent stockest in Chicago until the brand's boutique returns with Brioni later this year.

Did we miss a shop you love and deserves to be on the map? We update the list quarterly, and we're always looking for reader input. Let us know via the tipline or in the comments below. As always, if you love what you see, feel free to 'like' and tweet your big hearts out.


Want to know where else to shop? Check out our sister sites National, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York.
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Neapolitan

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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.

Chalk Boutique

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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.

Architectural Artifacts

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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.

Lu Lu's at the Belle Kay

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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.

Cerato Boutique

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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.
This home grown hero which is now up to 17 locations including the newest in Hyde Park. The brand is known for its wildly-themed seasonal runway shows, promotion through lifestyle events and trend-driven merchandise. Having celebrated their 10th year anniversary in 2012, they're looking toward their biggest year yet. The brand now operates shops on North Ave, in the Loop, Andersonville, Gold Coast, Hyde Park Lakeview, Lincoln Park, the suburbs, and Indiana.

Art Effect

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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.

Lori's Shoes

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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.

Cynthia Rowley

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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.
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.

Luxury Garage Sale

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Last fall the pop-up concept that brought luxury consignment and overstock to normal, every day shoppers opened a brick and mortar, the experts agree--this is the best locally owned shop to open in 2012. Stocking a wide array of sizes from plus to petit with a great selection of shoes, handbags and accessories, this is Chicago's answer to finding Celine bags, Chanel jackets and Margiela boots at unheard-of prices.

City Blue Apparel and Denim

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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.

Branca Inc

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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.

Judy Maxwell

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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 at home. 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.

George Greene

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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.

Perchance

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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, all three Perchance locations have gained a large loyal following and are recognized as an expanding business in the world of retail.

Gallery Aesthete

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The most recent reincarnation of the Wicker Park-gone-Secret-lair-hideout for Comme des Garcons Homme Plus and Damir Doma has gone to new heights at a penthouse space on Oak Street. The clean, artfully minimal environment showcases a very curated collection of art works, conceptual magazines as well as avant-garde menswear offerings from names like Owens, Demeulemeester, Julius and InAisce.
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
Blake's exclusive selection of product, and new addition which doubled the boutique's footprint is housed in the entire floor of the historic Chicago Avenue Post Office at Wells. Because of a very minimal window display, and no other markings on the exterior of the building, the boutique, which has been a top-rated destination for those who wish to drop coin is really, really easy to miss. Located across the street from a new Wal-Mart Market, Blake will be the exclusive Chicago stockist of Saint Laurent and a few other (as of now) unmentionable brands in 2013. Head here if you need something for a very special occasion.
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.

Elements

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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.

Luminaire

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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.
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.
World renowned fashion icon Ikram Goldman moved her 10-year old boutique from the Gold Coast to River North in 2011. Her megaplex roster of internationally recognized high-end and new hidden designers takes place in an iconic Red Box. The Red Box is beautiful extension of the Ikram name encompassing the details and grandeur of the Ikram lifestyle.

P.O.S.H.

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“At some point in your life, you want something that feels authentic — something that speaks to you.” This was the mantra that drives P.O.S.H. to find some of the most unique entertaining accessories known over the world. Sourced locally and internationally through estate sales and French flea markets, through local and internationally recognized vendors of contemporary goods, P.O.S.H. assembles it all to create a look and a shopping atmosphere that is world-class--and they've been working this magic now for fifteen years.

Haberdash

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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 in two storefronts in the same building; EDC and (the original name) Haberdash. 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.

Dose Market

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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.

Florodora

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If there were a shop known for consistency in one of the coolest buildings in Chicago, this, ladies & gentlemen, is it. Celebrating 6 years in 2013, owner Michael Blossom and his team of scandalous ladies are responsible for bringing The Loop some of the most comfortable and wearable 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.

Primitive

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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.

Morlen Sinoway

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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.

Dovetail

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Owner, Julie Ghatan takes this West Town treasure to the next level. What started as a mix of modern vintage items near 5 years ago has recently relaunched mens and integrated contemporary accessories as well as apothecary items like bamboo cell phone cases and sage smudge sticks.

Sir & Madame

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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.

Penelope's

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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.
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.

Apartment No 9

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Fresh off an Oak Street pop-up featuring Seize sur Vingt, this Bucktown-based destination shop is a go-to for contemporary menswear. Run by relaxed women, the shop will host pop-ups of hard-to-find brands and brands without any other brick and mortar representation like Warby Parker and Bucketfeet or Jack Spade and Loomstate.

Rsvp Gallery

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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.
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.

Robin Richman

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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.

Neapolitan

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.

Chalk Boutique

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.

Architectural Artifacts

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.

Lu Lu's at the Belle Kay