When you reach a certain age, the scent of freshly sharpened pencils and Justin Bieber’s new fragrance just doesn’t set your heart atwitter like a great top, perfectly fitting jeans or a sweet little dress. Go to to the stores that advertise back-to-school sales on television and you’ll look like everyone else. Google map yourself to these Chicago shops and stand out on the first day of classes.
1343 N. Wells St.
Chicago, IL 60610
Every girl wants unique pieces, but those usually require mucho money and wading through tons of racks. Enter Sara Jane where you can snag high fashion at affordable prices in an unpretentious setting. Browse novelty tops, the newest names in denim and fun belts. Get the perfect dress with an eye-catching bag and piece of jewelry to accent it. Sara Jane herself says, “I carry all sizes and all price points and try to have something for everyone! We have tons of accessories, tons of dresses and carry many newer designers and items you won’t find at department stores.” Sign up for email alerts for sales and trunk shows.
2556 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Lesley Timpe, owner of Squasht Boutique and the designer of Squasht By Les, offers an independent apparel and accessories line that is professionally hand-crafted in Chicago. The Boutique carries Squasht brand items along with many other independent designer labels. Rifle through mod reversible hats, vintage cuffs and bracelets, rad Anna Hovet dresses and sweaters, mixed media tops (each one-of-a-kind and handmade), Squasht 1940’s-style petal headbands and adorable polka-dotted skirts. Timpe says, “Almost everything in our store is hand-made by independent designers, providing a higher quality and more durable garment than many of those found in major brand retail locations.” The shop offers free alterations on full-priced Squasht apparel, too.
3228 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
When you’ve grown out of Hot Topic, next stop is The Alley for a wide array of rock & roll, punk, goth and rockabilly clothing, shoes and accessories. Finally get that leather motorcycle jacket or a Nirvana hoodie and throw in a handful of t-shirts since many are just $10. Where else can you find a Sid Vicious padlock necklace and three-inch platform creepers in a metallic red cheetah print? Pick up some cupcake pink hair dye, a studded leather clutch and arm warmers adorned with skulls and crossbones and you’re ready for class.
1359 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642
While others are scouring racks of the same old stuff at department stores, you are flitting through Futurgarb’s 150 brands of clothing including cool trench coats, plaid shirts, sweaters, tees, jeans and dresses, and that’s just the women’s section. Guys get their own long- and short-sleeve shirts, thermals, hoodies, jackets, jeans and more. Finish your look with a new wallet or purse, belt, hat, scarf or winter wear. Prices are comparable to department stores, too.
5028 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640
The Andersonville shop (with other locations in Barrington and Evanston) has a philosophy – “Life is short. Get noticed.” Which is precisely what you want to do as school begins again. The team of mother/daughters who own and run Notice specialize in socially responsible, fashion-forward accessories, handbags, personal care products, baby/child stuff and clothing. Although you can purchase some items online, clothing, including flirty dresses, tops and skirts, is only available in store.
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Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.