By Marla Seidell
You know how spring appears in Chicago when you least expect it? Gone are the depressing black winter jackets, replaced by adorable yellow shoes or electric pink raincoats. But you don’t have to be the fashion victim (caught in a North Face when you should be wearing a mini) of the capricious whims of a fickle Chicago spring, for that matter. A few trendy pieces, like “wrist candy” or flowery dresses, or the perfect commuter handbag, for example—items that don’t break the bank—keep you armed and ready for next time. When the warm rays pop up out of nowhere again, you’ll be suddenly spring fashion forward!
Lakeview may not be as uber trendy as Wicker Park, but it does have its attributes. Take the adorable, under-the-radar boutique, Sage Clothing (3127 North Broadway). Helmed by London transplant Michèle Clark, the two-room store features a dizzying array of costume jewelry, vegan handbags and, yes, a solid supply of every girl’s go-to—dresses. Despite the heavy emphasis on bling, jewelry isn’t Clark’s focus. “I strive to have a good balance of all classifications—clothing, accessories and jewelry so it’s all cohesive in the sense you can create/build a story for a complete ensemble,” explains Clark. She adds, “You can be inspired by any one thing in the store, be it a statement necklace or a bag and still work around to finding the perfect dress or top to complement it, and vice versa.”
Clark’s one-stop shop for creating your look from the ground up is moderately priced, too. She aims to stay under $100 per clothing (or handbag) item. “It’s a no-guilt shopping experience,” says Clark. And although she admits she hates it when fashion gets dictatorial, Clark notes that flowers are “huge” this spring. She points out a light blue dress with embroidered eyelet flowers ($78), and an indigo flowered, fit-and-flare dress as those that are “selling fast.” Clark’s statement-making jewelry picks are the opposite of boring. Eye-catching in bright colors and classic, bold sizes, it’s no surprise she advises to start here for inspiration, and work your way up to the dress. “Accessories are how you individualize,” observes Clark.
That kind of mantra is not lost on Stephanie Keller, who owns Inkling, a greeting card, art and accessories store, just south of Sage (2917 ½ North Broadway) by a few blocks. “I believe gifts can be unique, inexpensive and thoughtful,” explains Keller. “The best card for your sweetie, honey, lover, cutie, hottie…” it says on the sign outside the door. But Keller doesn’t stop at greeting cards. Jewelry here is just as artful as the cards or framed silkscreen prints. The gray wraparound bracelets with gold plating and chains, are, well, pretty sexy. And the brushed-nickel CTA cuff bracelet with detailing of the subway grid is unusually attractive, as gift or showpiece. Take that, unpredictable spring!
Taking a detour in the posh and pretentious Southport corridor, a journalist might get freaked out, to be out of her element (bargains on Broadway). Yet, I found myself back on track at M2 Boutique (3527 North Southport), a busy little place stocked with costume jewelry, handbags and pink baseball hats emblazoned with “Bachelorette,” in rhinestones. Despite being just a stone’s throw from overpriced but pretty Anthropologie, and staid, expensive (and scary) Perchance, M2 holds its own by catering to twenty-five to forty-year-olds on their way up, who still want to save a buck. “Our main focus is to stay in the affordability bracket,” said buyer and manager Kathleen Heil. Functionality and staying on top of trends is also the name of the game at M2. The Francesca ($189, made by the US company Latico)—available in a variety of colors—is the perfect commuter’s bag, as it switches from shoulder bag to strap across the body. It’s leather and, unlike Coach, it doesn’t cost as much as my rent. Local design house Shiraleah makes the cute vegan leather clutches with two-tone cutout detail and wristband ($72) that transfers easily from office to Cosmos with the girls.
Last, but probably one of the hottest on this list of best of Lakeview boutiques is a customizable necklace sold at M2—available in sterling silver or 14K gold and handmade in California. Yes, you can wear the necklace with your initial(s) without breaking the bank! Prices range from $34–$78. Go get ‘em girls! You never know when spring (or love) is going to pop.