As 2011 draws to a close, we asked some of Chicago’s experts in style, music and art to share their favorite places, people and things of the year. On Wednesday, Pete Zimmerman of CHIRP Radio and The Steve Dahl Show rounded up his favorite Chicago bands, albums and songs of the year. Today, Refinery 29’s Chicago Editor Shani Silver shared the shops and designers she couldn’t live without this year. For tips on everything from NYE pre-party pampering to amazing Chicago street style shots, try more of Silver’s work on Refinery 29’s Chicago page here.
Best Place To shop For Clothing. Period: Penelope’s, 1913 W. Division St.
There isn’t a day where a trip to Penelope’s appears like a bad idea. If there is one store in Chicago I might like to show into my closet, it’s this one. The shop has the best head-to-toe brands, and their prices aren’t heart-stopping either. The lovely couple that owns the store has spot-on knowledge (and instincts?) about what people in Chicago wish to wear.
Penelope’s, photo by Shani Silver
Best Place To Discover a Gift For someone You don’t know That Well: Sprout Home, 745 N. Damen Ave.
Sprout Home will end all trips to ﬂowers-in-plastic stores forever. You can easily map out a plant-plan for your own home here, or simply pick up something well-potted and lovely to present as a gift.
Best Place To buy For A guy: In Store: Vintage Smith, 2041 N. Damen Ave. Online: Buckshot Sonny’s
Vintage Smith is a brand-new vintage shop that is well-stocked with the clothing and accessories your man has always wanted, but never had. Nudge him over this way while you’re shopping two doors down at Roslyn. Buckshot Sonny’s is a Chicago-based online store filled with man-gifts that women will want, too. The main focus in on handmade goods created by individuals who still know what the word “craftsmanship” means.
Best Place To Ruin Your Finances: Robin Richman, 2108 N. Damen Ave.
Just leave your inhibitions in the car, trust me. You would try to ﬁnd cheaper, less awesome version of whatever you ﬁnd here somewhere else, but why would you? Know what to expect before you go and this place will become a dreamland.
Best Place To Stretch Your Dollar: Akira, 1837 W. North Ave.
Akira is a sure-ﬁre store for event-speciﬁc shoppers. Typically when you’re in a rush or you’re looking for something for a purpose, you don’t need to spend a ton of cash. Akira is good about keeping affordable cuteness around in case of emergencies.
Most Curated Store: Soﬁa, 72 E. Oak St.
Soﬁa understands (in a non-pushy way) that shoppers don’t always know exactly what they need. Every single staff member in this store is knowledgeable not only about brands and trends, but what is going to look good on an individual. They’ve got an awesome eye.
Best Newcomer: The Edit, 1917 N. Damen Ave.
As with new restaurants, ambience matters, and The Edit will win you over ﬁve seconds after you are within the door. The store’s design is just as impressive as its clothing, which needs to be the case with all truly great stores.
The Edit, photo courtesy of Boldface Chicago
Best Consistently Awesome Brands: Eskell, 1509 N. Milwaukee Ave.
I place quite a lot of trust in Eskell, because they’ve earned it. Several of the brands in my closet were introduced to me at Eskell, and the shop has consistently stocked them since, so I always know I can ﬁnd what I need (or want). I’m also a fan of their in-store events and sales, the vibe in here is very welcoming.
Best Local Label: Elise Bergman, Various locations
Elise Bergman consistently impresses me together with her zen-like, cool-girl clothing. I like that Chicago gets to assert her. Her collections are really focused and cohesive, in other words you’ll want every bit with equal passion.
Best Place To find Inspiration (And Stuff) For Your private home: Post 27, 1819 W. Grand Ave.
I’ve looked into just forwarding my mail here and moving in. There isn’t a better store for vintage furniture in Chicago, in my view. Beyond that, the store will actually show you how to ﬁgure out what to do with that amazing end table or accent chair. It is an impeccably styled space that offers just as much by the use of inspiration as merchandise.
Best Bags: Sir & Madame, 938 N. Damen Ave.
This store deserves a mention because while they stock clothing and shoes for women and men, I’m consistently impressed by their bag-designing skills. I’ve always loved their sturdy totes and canvas luggage, but they’ve got a red leather clutch/ipad case that I have inappropriate feelings for.
Sir & Madame, photo by Heather Talbert
Best Gifts That Come in A Bottle: Lush Wine & Spirits, Various locations
No-brainer gifts live here. Everyone loves receiving something drinkable, and Lush is well stocked with righteous bottles for collectors, or drink-me-now host gifts. Better still, there are always open bottles around for impromptu sampling. My suggestion? Go shopping on Sunday afternoons during their free tastings.
Best Chicago-Based Online Shop: TwentyThirtyFourty
This shop is dangerously well-stocked. You won’t ﬁnd any ﬁller clothing here, it’s just the good stuff. On the upside, they’re not wasting your time, but on the downside, hide your paychecks.
Best Mens Accessories: A TIE (no pun intended), between Artfully Disheveled and Chivalry is just not Dead
I really like whatʼs happening in menswear. It once seemed impossible to get men to care even about the best way their clothing ﬁt, but now theyʼre all about accessories, too. These two companies create brilliant prints and rather well-made, thoughtful products. Theyʼre inspiring me to learn how to tie a tie (properly).
Best Place To Dig For Gold: Salvation Army, 4141 W. North Ave.
Iʼm a huge fan of thrifting. What started as a joke in high school has evolved right into a full- ﬂedged treasure hunt in adulthood. My favorite ﬁnd so far is a yellow Ferragamo clutch I found for $6. The Salvation Army on North Avenue may be very well known for having tons of furniture, plus the space is huge so that they donʼt have to do that upper/lower rack thing.