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    We love many things about department stores, but their dingy, small dressing rooms are not on the list. The fabulous changing rooms in Sarca, however, are so cozy and stylish that we wouldn�t mind sitting down and staying awhile. Instead of off-white walls and that ubiquitous you�re being watched antishoplifting sign, shop owner Alexis Cozzini decorated her dressing room with chic wallpaper and comfy seating. The larger dressing room near the back of the store features a sizable bench, and the space is big enough to fit a stroller�a smart move considering Cozzini shares some shoppers with Odile, the children�s clothing store her sister owns next door. 710 N Wabash Ave (312-255-0900).�Kevin Aeh

  2. Photograph: Allison Williams
    Photograph: Allison Williams

    We�re dying to get Post 27 owner Angela Finney-Hoffman inside our apartment for a major home makeover. Not only does she have a great eye for vintage gems and outstanding locally designed furniture and home accessories lines, this busy lady runs a side biz as an interior designer. That should come as no surprise after taking one look at the vignettes she�s set up in the sprawling space. We�re ready to curl up on a midcentury couch, stow our china in a multicolored credenza and take a nap under a Unison duvet. Not to mention, with the recent addition of Annie Novotny�s Frei Designs� shop-in-a-shop and Evelyn Daitchman�s vintage clothing rack, we�d have easy access to a fashion-forward wardrobe. 1819 W Grand Ave (312-829-6122).�Jessica Herman

  3. Photograph: Jeremy Handrup
    Photograph: Jeremy Handrup

    As if Ikram Goldman hasn�t garnered enough well-deserved attention between her support of fledgling designers every year as a patron of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her role as the First Lady�s personal shopper. The fashion maven was at it again this year with the opening of her relocated namesake boutique. Equally entrancing, and intimidating, as the clothing and accessories inside is the shop�s outer layer: A ruby red keyhole-shaped opening in the peripheral wall reveals a glass-walled entrance. If the doorbell at the store�s former location didn�t make you think twice about whether you�re worthy of entering, this new iteration of Ikram certainly will. 15 E Huron St (312-587-1000).�Jessica Herman

  4. Photograph: Amanda De Simone
    Photograph: Amanda De Simone

    MAKING A NATIONAL SPLASH Creatures of the Wind
    We feel plenty of hometown pride seeing local designers� names in bright lights in the city. But to break out of the Chicago bubble can be a difficult feat, which is all the more reason we were thrilled to see Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters� work�with its bold use of color, interesting mix of simple silhouettes and surprising details�on the cover of WWD in 2008. Since then, the talented duo known as Creatures of the Wind has been on the rise, with appearances in Vogue, W, Elle and, to name a few. Find the line in Chicago at Ikram.�Jessica Herman

    We�re all about shopping local, but we also can appreciate goods that come from across the pond. This year saw the Windy City debut of several British stores. Topshop/Topman made the biggest splash, but other U.K. brands received warm Chicago welcomes as well: Ted Baker opened an outpost in the Gold Coast, L.K. Bennett (a favorite of Kate and Pippa!) debuted in the 900 Shops, and AllSaints took over a massive space on Michigan Avenue. We wouldn�t mind this trend of cool foreign stores continuing in 2012: If there�s any truth to the rumors, hopefully by this time next year we�ll be thanking Japan for finally bringing Uniqlo to Chicago.�Kevin Aeh

  6. Photograph: Sara Mays
    Photograph: Sara Mays

    For the past seven years, gallerist Morlen Sinoway has been at the helm of this early-summer design fest where moving trucks transform into mini showrooms for one night only. Compared to the Merchandise Mart�s massive international trade fair, NeoCon, which takes place at the same time in June, this West Side alternative is far more manageable: a few dozen fledgling designers accompanied by food trucks and the stimulating addition of a PechaKucha�a multispeaker, slide-show-driven, rapid-fire presentation on a creative or academic topic.�Jessica Herman

  7. Photograph: Nathan Michael
    Photograph: Nathan Michael

    Looking for cool? You�ll find it at this lower-level Bucktown shop. RSVP is like an indie product blog come to life, stocked with plenty of covet-worthy items�many of them exclusive to the store. For example, the huge Kanye West x George Condo x M/M Paris silk scarves inspired by the art on West�s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album cover carry a $300 price tag and are available at only one other store in the world. Other exclusives include Phillip Lim�s men�s line, Comme des Gar�ons BLACK and the Just Don hat Jay-Z wore in the �Otis� video. And now that you know where to find them, scoop up these �bercool products before they sell out. 1753 N Damen Ave (773-770-6666).�Kevin Aeh

    Ecofriendly has been a shopping buzzword for awhile now. But this year we noticed some of the bigger retailers taking greener steps. Hip chain Urban Outfitters got rid of plastic shopping bags this year and now offers reusable totes made from nonwoven polypropylene. The retailer also gives shoppers the option of having receipts e-mailed to them instead of wasting paper with printed versions. We�ll take these ecofriendly moves over hemp clothing any day. Locations at�Kevin Aeh

  9. Photograph: Erica Gannett
    Photograph: Erica Gannett

    BEST REASON TO STAY UP PAST YOUR BEDTIME Knee Deep Vintage Midnight Sale
    We�ve all been there: You get a little tipsy and do some late-night shopping. Usually it�s in front of the computer or, God forbid, the TV (how are those Pajama Jeans treating you?). But it doesn�t have to be that way. The hip folks at this Pilsen shop turn late-night shopping into a monthly party with the Knee Deep Midnight Sale, held 6pm to midnight every second Friday of the month. They crank up the music, serve drinks and let you make some boozy purchases. Merch is often marked down as much as half off, so you won�t even need a buzz to get over sticker shock. Plus, the sale lasts until midnight, which means you can hit the town after hitting up the sale. 1425 W 18th St (312-850-2510).�Kevin Aeh

  10. Photograph: Martha Williams
    Photograph: Martha Williams

    It�s one thing to entice passersby with a glittering Gucci outfit; it�s another to catch their eyes with a window full of toy squirt guns, dream catchers made from Hula-Hoops and an array of yarn. Jewelry designer and Eskell store manager Meghan Lorenz has often been the mastermind and mechanic behind these anything-but-conventional displays, but lately, the shop has started branching out into the community, inviting local artists such as Sarah McLaughlin to work their magic on the window area. Consider this your easy monthly dose of culture. 1509 N Milwaukee Ave (773-486-0830).�Jessica Herman

    The last few business cards we�ve been handed have been just as impressive as the bright young things passing them out. These cards from Suitor, the great stationery company from local designer Jessica Murnane, aren�t made on flimsy paper with ink that smears on your hands. Instead, the cards are letterpressed on heavy paper stock featuring simple, classy fonts. And that�s just one of the offerings: Other items include greeting cards that simply say hi and cheeky notebooks (this is my real blog). The sophisticated line is enough to make us want to turn off the computer and pick up a pen.�Kevin Aeh

  12. Photograph: Sara Mays
    Photograph: Sara Mays

    Whether it�s by bike, train or automobile, we�re more than happy to haul over to Evanston�s cosmopolitan Central Street area to shop the fashionable selection of women�s clothing and accessories at Chalk. Not to play the urban-versus-suburban game, but there�s nothing cute or quaint about a knit and leather Victor & Rolf jacket, Golden Goose booties and a Perrin Paris stingray clutch. Owners Carrie Kane and Sharon Watrous know how to curate a knockout selection of womenswear in a modest space; if we could take home one of everything, we�d be happy customers. 2611 Prairie Ave, Evanston (847-424-0011).�Jessica Herman

  13. Photograph: Martha Williams
    Photograph: Martha Williams

    MAKING DUDES DAPPER Fresh & Proper
    Let�s be honest: The shopping options for men in Chicago could use a major overhaul. Our plea to all you retailers: Stop giving our Midwestern men a reason to be lazy with their wardrobes. Fortunately, there are a few designers out there who care. We extend not only applause but also a �thank you� to necktie designer Shannon Jamar Eaton of Fresh & Proper for raising the bar. His simple ties nail that preppy style�we�re partial to the red gingham and discontinued orange-and-blue striped version with sailboats�and we�d love to believe the tag line chivalry is not dead, sewn into the back of every tie. Find them at Apartment Number 9 (1804 N Damen Ave, 773-395-2999).�Jessica Herman

Shopping awards: Critic’s picks

Our Shopping & Style editors name the best Chicago stores, sales and designers.

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