Monday, August 7, 2006

On the Street ……..Chicago Style


I really like the bottom half of this look – the shoes look good on her and i like the attitude of the belt but she loses a little with the top.

I will chalk up the lack a many good shots in Chicago to the fact I was there on a Friday in the Summer.

Overall though it was a bit disappointing. I grew up going to chicago for my first real taste of chic so I wanted to capture some of that but I guess you can’t go home again.

I was especially disappointed in the service or lack thereof in most of the stores, Barneys women’s designer floor being the worse. I must have walked that floor for 5 or 6 minutes and not a single “hello” or “Can I help you?”. There were about 6 salespeople on the floor and they all saw me but I guess I didn’t rate any service – too bad because I did end up buying a Hussein Chalayan dress for my wife that day at Blake.

Blake was a bright spot- Shopping Note To New Yorkers – if you are a size 2 or 4 or 6 and you can’t find anything good on sale at Barneys or Bergdorf or If Boutique then call Blake I have never seen so much Dries on sale in so many small sizes! It is like the exact opposite of New York -I bet it has to do with an older customer base that needs larger sizes. Blake probably still has quite a bit of good Rochas, Dries, Marni, Chloe etc on triple markdown! i only saw one of each style on the floor but maybe they have more stock in back. Again we did not get very good sales help but they were the only store that was actually busy on a lazy Friday.

Ikram was the other store that lived up to expectations but the mens stores were less than exciting. Selection, display, inspirational salespeople were all in short supply. Again maybe it was because of the transition into Fall – but I don’t really think so.

Come on Chicago! I know you are better than this! I will be back soon, in your best season – Winter!, so I hope to have a more inspiring trip then.

Other than the shopping, the rest of my vacation was great and I’m full of ideas and plans on how to make The Sartorialist even better! over the next six months.

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58 comments

  1. ChiFan

    August 7, 2006 at 8:48 am

    Judging by the second picture, you spent time on Michigan Ave in summer, which is not the best place to look for fashion, any more than Fifth Avenue in NYC during Christmas. We’ll try and pull it together in time for your winter visit.

    BTW, love the blog. After reading it I hold myself to a higher standard every time I leave the house.

  2. MrWynn

    August 7, 2006 at 9:02 am

    I grew up in Chicago and I am consistently disappointed with the state of fashion there. For a town with such sophisticated taste in architecture and design, for some reason personal appearance is left out in the cold.

    If i can make a recommendation, Jeff at Jil Sander is outstanding.

  3. stella b.

    August 7, 2006 at 9:19 am

    i don’t know what to say. i’m shocked this is the best chicago had to offer. /sigh/

  4. Nic

    August 7, 2006 at 10:00 am

    This makes me so sad! What parts of Chicago did you look around? Unfortunately, if you were just up and down Michigan Ave. you probably spotted more tourists than chic Chi Town natives.

  5. Anonymous

    August 7, 2006 at 10:02 am

    Well in defense of Chicago, it was hot, really hot, and it’s hard to look good when you are melting.

    It was also a tourist weekend, we had Lollapalooza, Tall Ships, a professional soccer game, and judging by the number of families walking around wearing jerseys and baseball hats, a baseball game as well. Like most city dwellers, when that happens everyone gets testy and no one wants to go outside.

  6. Anonymous

    August 7, 2006 at 10:12 am

    Well, as a lifetime chicagoan, I’ll chalk it up to one more thing (aside from the heat, the tourists for lolla, etc…) – the stores you were at were absolutely 100% an older, solely Gold Coast crowd (except Jake, which you didn’t mention, but I hope you stopped at).

    The boutiques in the East Village, Wicker Park and Bucktown areas (around Chicago, Damen, North, and Armitage) have incredible stuff, and the people who shop and work there reflect that style. Habit immediately comes to mind, Helen Yi, p45, Niche and City Soles. . .

    Love the blog, wish you had enough time here to do Chicago justice!

  7. Cheryl Cortez

    August 7, 2006 at 10:36 am

    As a former New Yorker, I was disappointed with Chicago shopping and fashion for quite a while. Now I’m just numb and stopped trying. It’s DVF for me now.

    If you stopped by Blake, did you also consider Ikram? In terms of service, you’re spot on when it comes to Barneys–or pretty much every shop on Oak Street. Terrible.

    I’m not sure if you went to Bucktown and Wicker Park, but sometimes you might find photo worthy subjects.

    Enjoy reading your blog.

  8. Ariel

    August 7, 2006 at 10:37 am

    I have always been a fan of Chicago style too. But heatwaves can suck the life out of anything.

    Seattle could benefit from your watchful eye. The Emerald City is notoriously casual and defiantly so. The rumors are true: Folks attend the opera in polar fleece zip vests and keen sandals. Summer is a blur of short cargo shorts and camisoles with flip-flops…at work.

  9. Anonymous

    August 7, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Oh no! I am a Chicagoan and was so excited that you were coming to town. Sorry it was so disappointing. I hope we do better this winter too.

  10. Anonymous

    August 7, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Do you think their lack of attention to you was because you were male in the women’s section and they figured men don’t buy clothes for women? Its a shame since they lost a potential sale or even just a recommendation to a female friend.

    As a man, I’ve noticed that when following around girlfriends in the women’s sections I suddenly become invisible.

  11. Maria

    August 7, 2006 at 10:58 am

    A man that buys Chalayan for her wife?! mostly because of the cut…man! Stylish love, almost non existent. Lucky pair!

  12. Alice Olive

    August 7, 2006 at 11:02 am

    As a newcomer to Chicago, this is particularly interesting. I’ve actually been stunned by how good the service is, so I guess there’s no rhyme or reason to it. (Or maybe I’m coming from a low base!)

    Mind you, I found an exception in Ikram. I felt instantly dismissed and have stubbornly refused to go back. (Did like their shoes though, dammit….)

    I’ll go out on a limb now. I’m only new to Chicago and I’ve only visited New York a few times, but… on a day to day basis, I haven’t seen the variations of style here that I perceive in New York. (Okay, so I’m corporate and am probably skewed to seeing suits…. but that aside…)

    But overall? Summer in Chicago seems to be a season for over made-up, over-tanned and way too much swimwear worn as daywear.

  13. WWND

    August 7, 2006 at 11:16 am

    Thanks for the Chicago shopping tips, will keep in mind for my next visit to the windy city.

  14. invisible girl

    August 7, 2006 at 11:46 am

    Hey Sarto,

    Thanks for the tips on shopping in Chi-Town. It’s so nice to know that discount Chloe is available in the Midwest.

    BTW the sunglasses rock in both of those shots.

  15. invisible girl

    August 7, 2006 at 11:47 am

    Whoops! I now see that the sunglasses are on the fine looking gentleman in your first Chicago shot, and then on the belle femme from Italy … not Chi-town, sorry.

  16. Clint

    August 7, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    Great blog. I’ve yet to develop my own style, and seriously lack the eye for it.

    Now I know where I can steal from.

    Bookmarked and enjoyed.

  17. Anonymous

    August 7, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    What neighborhoods did you visit? Looks like you were downtown when you took these shots… A trip through wicker park or ukrainian village would have been more fruitful, perhaps…

  18. Carlene

    August 7, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    You were spending time up on North Michigan Ave., I’ll bet. Only tourists will you find there.

  19. Andy G.

    August 7, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    As a Chicagoan who loves this blog, I have to say your assessment is pretty accurate—on average we’re not really stylish people. While Chicago offers some good stores and options (this isn’t LA or NY but it isn’t Houston or Atlanta either), Chicagoans for the most part aren’t really interested in fashion. Though it is not for want of effort; the Mayor himself has set up a “fashion board” to help promote Chicago designers and we have a poorly attended and silly “fashion week” sponsored by Macy’s and a bunch of Chicago’s actually quite outstanding art and design schools. But that said: A shirt from Banana Republic and flip-flops and you’re basically dressed for any occasion. I still love it more than any other city in the country though. Plus, when I put on a tie after work I’m practically royalty!

  20. Amy

    August 7, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    Scott – I love your pictures and commentaries! It’s great seeing pictures of regular people – the kind we walk by and live with every day.

    It’s funny that you mention the dearth of smaller sizes in the city. I myself make the suggestion to New Yorkers to go shopping out in the ‘burbs for exactly the same reason – the surplus of smaller sizes in less metropolitan areas.

    If you’re looking for a laugh, take a look at my blog – the difficulties in being ridiculously small. I’d like to be beautifully dressed too, but sometimes just finding anything to wear is impossible for my 4’10″ self.

  21. Broady

    August 7, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    I am waiting for “The Sartorialist” cable tv show — as long as it’s not on MTV. MTV is for animals.

  22. EnidP

    August 7, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    Love the man’s style…Not so much foro the girl style. Shoes and skirt look good but the top and belt does’nt put it all together. At least not in my opinion.

    ENID P. http://www.AllAbout-Style.Com

  23. Anonymous

    August 7, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Wow! So surprising at Chicago…but at the same time not so surprising at all.

    The guy at the top – I mean, c’mon, put the dreadlock sock away. Those things are as horrible as the poncho trend that popped up last year.

    The girl on the bottom positively needs to invest in a better top. Chicago – who knew? Thank you for giving us the peek into another city’s closet.

  24. Anonymous

    August 7, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    I was a little worried that you would not find a lot of good style here in Chicago. Also, I don’t think the plethora of small sizes is due to older ages; it’s the Chicago diet. Having said that, yeah, the fact that you were here in the hottest part of the summer didn’t help provide inspiring fashion photo opportunities.

  25. Omo Naija

    August 7, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    Its the mid-west remember, all that fashion stuff is for you folks on the coast. If Chicago was not inspirational, then forget my Cincinnati. For the men, its bulbous khaki pants with blue or white shirts!

    Those who make an attempt, just replicate the Banana republic look!

  26. Jeff

    August 7, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    In-person retail shopping has become crap–we are in a customer service crisis. I take great pains to avoid it when I’m able.

  27. Gidget Bananas

    August 7, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    Are you saying that sizes 4 & 6 are the larger sizes, or that those are the sizes left because Chicago women are buying sizes 8 & 10? Personally, I don’t want to live in a world where 4 & 6 are considered large.

    P.S., I already know I don’t belong in Hollywood.

  28. annecruz

    August 7, 2006 at 7:05 pm

    Unfortunately your inability to find many good shots is not due to being in Chicago on a Friday summer afternoon. This is the way it usually is. I had just emailed my sister in St. Petersburg regarding the dearth of fashion in the Windy City. This became clear after reading the Slate piece on yours and other sites.
    There are, I’m sure many people who have good/or unique fashion sense, but its really hard at times to find it. I work in the Loop and live off of Michigan Ave, which considering the stores available, you would think there would be more examples of stylish men and women.
    And before any Chicagoan gets their back up – yes I love Chicago and all it has to offer, but sorry when it comes to fashion/style on the street its just not there.

  29. claudie

    August 7, 2006 at 8:21 pm

    Lucky wife.

  30. Anonymous

    August 7, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    Next time you are in Chicago make sure it is a bit colder. That’s when we do our best! As a boutique owner I have to say that there is a HUGE fashion client here in both Men & Women. I really try to source out great lines and bring in amazing items and we have fantastic reaction.
    I think your element is great!!
    Pop in next time you are around!
    Best,
    Jim Wetzel
    Jake

  31. Katharine

    August 7, 2006 at 10:55 pm

    1. I adore your blog and I was so excited that you were coming to Chicago!

    2. That being said, I have to say that after living in Chicago for roughly a year I’ve found the fashion sensibilities pretty boring and conformist. How funny that the Sunday Tribune featured an article about Chicago’s ‘fashion czar’:
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-0608060425aug06,1,5703620.story?coll=chi-business-hed
    Maybe things will shape up for your next visit!

  32. Anonymous

    August 8, 2006 at 12:18 am

    As a very wise fashionista, and Chicago resident recently said: “Chicago is where fashion comes to die.”

  33. Anonymous

    August 8, 2006 at 1:17 am

    That’s very true about Blake. Back when they were in Lincoln Park and carried menswear, this time of year would roll around and you’d find racks of Margiela 10, Raf Simons, Dries, and Ann Dem. in all sizes and marked down to 1/3 of the original price. It was pretty much cheaper to shop there on those brands than to go to the mall and buy Ralph Lauren or Banana Republic.

    It’s too bad they eventually realized how unprofitable that section of the store was and put an end to it, because I had a good thing going for awhile…

  34. tweedlesinpink

    August 8, 2006 at 3:28 am

    the tone of the commentary made me laugh; it sounded like a giddy shopper’s blog rather than the polished stuff we’ve come to expect of your site. very funny! :)

  35. The Sartorialist

    August 8, 2006 at 9:03 am

    to tweedlesinpink

    I really take offense to your comment!!!!!!

    since when has my commentary ever been considered “polished”

  36. fashion survivor

    August 8, 2006 at 9:16 am

    Hey, we’ve only had good shopping here for about ten years. Give us some time to catch up!

    BTW, I’ve never been offered sales help at our Barneys either. I could never figure it out because I am well dressed, etc. Glad it’s not just me!

  37. Maria

    August 8, 2006 at 9:26 am

    The “polished” expectation is a value given to an idea of fashion, in spite of all humans being part of fashion. Maybe a modern mind in the look for class determination understand fashion as matter of some vs others…interesting comment reflecting the “understanding” of sartorial expression.

  38. s.b. & co.

    August 8, 2006 at 9:43 am

    Well being a native of the chicago area (let alone the midwest) I must painfully agree that it wasn’t until I started going to school on the east coast that I discovered the beauty of true fashion. We have our good days, I just hope we get better.

    “The guy at the top – I mean, c’mon, put the dreadlock sock away.”

    To that I just say, that being a part of a caribbean family, one must be careful to remember that some things were of cultural significance to some before becoming a fad for everyone else.

  39. JP

    August 8, 2006 at 10:00 am

    Come on, Sart! I was excited that you were coming here, and though I fully admit Chicago is no New York, Paris, or Milan, but many Chicagoans can hold their own when it comes to fashion. I am surprised that this woman was the best representation of style you could find. I can see from the picture that you were on Michigan Ave., near Water Tower. That is where dowdy, unfortunate suburbanites congregate. Next time, I would suggest Wicker Park, Boystown, and perhaps the Loop during the lunch hour. In the menatime, we will try to improve! Love your blog.

  40. Anonymous

    August 8, 2006 at 11:04 am

    I have to say (this admittedly comes from someone more downmarket than up) that I’m always relieved when no one approaches me as I browse clothing. I feel much more comfortable when left alone.

  41. LBellatrix

    August 8, 2006 at 11:41 am

    As a former Chicagoan, I must co-sign all the others who said you were in the wrong part of Chicago at the wrong time of year.

    I remember Wicker Park/Bucktown when it was significantly grungier (and cooler, IMO) than it is now, but it’s still pretty much my favorite place to visit when I’m in town.

    To sb & co re the “dreadlock sock”: Thank you for letting folks know that not everything is necessarily worn for shallow reasons (such as style).

  42. tweedlesinpink

    August 8, 2006 at 11:43 am

    the sartorialist: i hope you’re not offended i meant it in the best possible way! “polished” in the sense of quality photography and almost-incidental yet crisp accompanying words – this post seemed to me to be accompanied by a good deal shopper’s glee rather. it made for amusing reading.

    no it’s not a reflection of my understanding of fashion. i’m hardly the sort to pontificate on fashion. :D

  43. EMNH

    August 8, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    Scott, You really should have visited the areas of Chicago with style. Wicker Park, Bucktown…etc.

    I must agree with you however on horrible service at Barneys…it is the worst. The staff is completely inept. It wasn’t always…but it is now.

    I love Chicago, but I don’t shop here…except for Hermes. I’m not trying to slam the city..but..shopping is not the town’s forte. We couldn’t even keep the Henri Bendel on Michigan Ave…

    I love it here though…I will raise my kids here…I have no desire to move…but my heart will always belong to Bergdorfs.

  44. Monique

    August 9, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve got a nice spoof for you at my site, second photo from the top.

  45. Jennifer

    August 14, 2006 at 7:50 pm

    Wow. I thought that since you were from Chicago you would know that Michigan Ave in the middle of the summer was NOT the place to look for great fashion. Unless you were setting it up all along to make Chicago look like a place with no style sense. After Wicker Park, Bucktown,Ukranian Village, and any number of other places you could have visited, it seems suspicious that you would have chosen a spot that is well-known to be overrun with tourists as a representative of Chicago style. There are great boutiques, fabulous design talent and great dressers here. It is unfortunate that you arrived back here with preconceived ideas.

  46. The Sartorialist

    August 14, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    Jennifer
    I think it is really funny that all the people from Chicago keep saying that Michigan Ave is all tourist and no style and yet the same could be said for 5th Ave in NYC but i get plenty of shots there.

    Also Oak Street/ Rush St and Mich. Ave have all the big stores so some fashionable people must be going there.

    By Wicker Park i think what you are really saying is that is where the young trendy people go but I don’t always look for just the young trendies

    I remember Chicago as Ultimo and June Blaker and City. I know Chicago has style but I just didn’t see much when I was there but I’m sure I will be back soon for another look.

  47. Tamara

    August 17, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    I moved to Chicago this year from a tiny hamlet in rural Michigan where haute couture was a Willi Smith castoff from TJ Maxx. I was thrilled to move to a real city with culture and fashion, but I must agree with posters who says Chicagoans are a very pragmatic, practical Midwest crowd who dress for the weather, not to impress. However, I have to say that relatively speaking, the shopping is FAR better than it is in Southwest Michigan. Imagine having to drive across a state line to get to a mall – and one without a credible anchor store, no less. Chicago, by comparison, is a shopping mecca, and I am so happy to have more options than I did back home. It is possible to dress well in Chicago…people just need to execute!

  48. Anonymous

    October 5, 2006 at 8:54 am

    I’m hoping to visit Chicago by the middle of November. I like to shop around the Gold coast and the small boutiques in Wicker park as well. I just wanted to mention a boutique that sells Men/Women’s Italian footwear called Battaglia (on Walton) that’s worth a visit. I discovered it after going to Barney’s. The service was excellent. Styles are exclusive. I was told they were going to carry handcrafted leather coats and jackets from Italy so I will definitely stop by there in November. More often times than not one has to stop by the smaller boutiques to find a gem don’t you think?
    regards,
    Julia

  49. Anonymous

    April 9, 2008 at 1:33 am

    i actually love this look…and wish she’d lose the belt. i love the pairing of the skin tight skirt with the looser shirt. i wish her bag was more interesting though, or that she had played with accessories…i also don’t like the shoes, i think they’re chunky in a bad way.

  50. william

    July 15, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    As a Chicago native who just moved back from NYC…. CHICAGO has blossomed in fashion, the arts and has always been on top of music. Anyhow, i know this blog is madd old, but i am real content with chicago nowadays in the summer of 2008. I have a mixture of friends here who are from Chicago, NYC, Cali, etc. and i’m sorry to say for the most part are as hip or hipper than my friends from nyc are in regards to fashion. maybe it’s just who i roll with. Yes, there is a lot of midwest trash who could care less about fashion in Chicago, but the same goes for NYC. if you just stayed bet. 23rd and 59th street in nyc, it would all be the same as the loop in Chicago. the only reason NYC is cool, hip and fashion forward is due to anything below 14th street and brooklyn. everything else is suburban. I’m not trying to compare chicago and nyc fashion; of course nyc is the fashion capital of America, but after visiting NYC last month i’ve been rethinking that. i have seen more street fashion in chicago that is avant garde, than i have in nyc lately. kudos for the blog

  51. Anonymous

    February 23, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Oh my God, THANK YOU! I recently just moved to Chicago from Sao Paulo, having also spent a number of years in Paris and Copenhagen, and I simply must say that the lack of street style is causing my soul to wither away, I this is quite frankly a painfully unfashionable city! My fabulous pieces are molding away in my closet, I take them out to air whenever I stop by New York on business trips. Music scene? Love it. The arts? Fabulous. But my goodness, could people please start dressing better? This was posted in 2006, it’s 2009 and I have yet to see any improvements.

  52. Louise

    July 21, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    I simply adore your work; unfortunately, as a Chicagoan, I am rather saddened.

    If you find yourself in the downtown area again soon, I'd recommend visiting S. Michigan Ave. Being a student myself, I know there are many noteworthy ensembles to be seen around Columbia, School of the Art Institute, and DePaul.

    Hope you visit again soon, can't wait for your book!

  53. GQsteven

    August 13, 2009 at 10:48 am

    First of all, I want to say your blog is tremendously great! I'm only 15 and I enjoy looking at your blog everyday now to get tips for my wadrobe.

    When I came over this article I was disappointed, but not suprised. I live in Chicago and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be the drive for fashion as it was back in the 80s as I see wih my moms old pictures. Now it's sad to say that I'm dressing a lot better than the older people here in there 30-40s. It seems that a lot of people here are just cheap. They look for the sale on 7 for all man kind jeans at Filenes, instead of paying for quality denim such as APC or Nudie. And then they think they are doing something different when they go to Urban Outfitters, that just has cheap and overpriced outerwear and accecories. We have great boutiques such as George Green, Jake, Leaders 1354,and many more that aren't visted often enough.

    Its disgusting at times, but there is a bright spot in Chicago with people like me! SO please do come back and hopefully you will find the sartorial crowd. :D

  54. Chi_Kid

    December 25, 2009 at 12:34 am

    SORRY TO HEAR THAT BUT I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU GO TO WICKER PARK AND BUCK-TOWN ON MILWAUKEE AVE AND NORTH AVE. YOU'LL FIND EXACTLY WHAT CHICAGO REPRESENTS FASHION WISE

  55. Dawn

    August 3, 2012 at 12:14 am

    You have to go back. I don’t think Michigan Avenue is the place to find fashionistas. You have to go deeper.

  56. Tobia St Germain

    November 30, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I simply love how you try to capture the everyday person from different walks of life. I always feel like I can connect with you subjects.

  57. Deb

    September 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Well I think your visit to Cuicago was accurate–you simply don’t see the style sensibility you see in NYC. I really think that because Chicago doesn’t have a fashion industry and no textile/garment industry we don’t have as many influences or options to mimic.

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