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Shopping

BEST NEW DESIGNER
DIETERBENNET

Three years ago, DieterBennet, the label representing Dieter Kirkwood and Bennett Cousins, launched with a full collection of its austere yet beautiful take on tailored women’s wear. Since their debut, the pair have only refined the look and proved the brand’s appeal in some of the city’s best clothing boutiques. Kirkwood, 32, and Cousins, 30, met as Columbia College fashion design students when a professor, sensing an aesthetic compatibility, paired the two for a classroom project—and together they have stayed. Today, the line is the best-selling local product at Jake, one of the city’s most influential boutiques, and performs well at Helen Yi on Damen Avenue, where its $464 pencil skirt and $828 black zip coatdress stand alongside items from powerhouse designers such as Derek Lam and Barbara Bui. “There’s enough of an edge to be interesting,” says Lance Lawson, Jake’s creative director. “And it’s very wearable.” High praise indeed. dieterbennet.com

BEST CHICAGO T-SHIRT
A silhouetted city skyline you’ll find in abundance, but there just aren’t kitschy-cool Chicago shirts in the Michigan Avenue souvenir shops. We looked all over, and the most original designs hang on the wall at the Wrigleyville stalwart Strange Cargo (3448 N. Clark St.; 773-327-8090). Cubs paraphernalia aside, there are about 40 Chicago decals, most of which are exclusive to the store. Our pick is an exception—the “License to IL” logo has been around—but, for $25, you can customize it against whatever T-shirt color you choose.

Best New Boutiques

 

 

MEN
NEAPOLITAN MEN
The brother store to the North Shore’s premier luxury women’s boutique, Neapolitan Men brings the same high-style aesthetic for those who want personalized service. You’ll find classic Italian Lorenzini shirts ($345) with mother-of-pearl buttons next to trendier items such as Pringle cotton argyle sweaters ($195) and a pinstripe suit coat from Alexander McQueen ($1,775). Accessories include modern ties and fun cuff links in shapes like shamrocks and corkscrews. 725 Elm St., Winnetka; 847-441-7784, neapolitanonline.com

WOMEN
CHALK
At Chalk, a sleek newcomer in Evanston, women can shop for investment pieces with a bit of an edge in a friendly environment with a neighborhood vibe. High-end lines include Narciso Rodriguez, Stella McCartney, and Jason Wu, the designer of Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown. Basics include organic tanks, tees, and cardigans from 88 Orange and Current/Elliott jeans. 2611 Prairie Ave., Evanston; 847-424-0011, chalkofevanston.com

KIDS
FRANKIE'S ON THE PARK
The Lincoln Park teen-and-tween store Frankie’s on the Park spans two floors, running the gamut from casualwear to special-occasion dresses and suits for girls and boys ages 7 to 16. Selections are refreshingly age appropriate, in prices ranging from $10 to $450. There’s also a 30-foot “graffiti bar,” where kids can customize their clothing with more than 500 transfer decals, and TVs and Xbox games in the dressing rooms. 2322 N. Clark St.; 773-248-0400, frankiesonthepark.com

BABY
TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE ONE
Roscoe Village’s Twinkle Twinkle Little One offers one-stop shopping for expectant parents who care about design and quality. A lot of the furniture converts as the child ages; the hardwood cribs are built to last; the bedding and artwork are hip, not cutesy; and the gifts are adorably quirky. The robust selection comes with impeccable customer service from the owner, Rachel Glasson, possibly the friendliest shopkeeper in town. 3224 N. Damen Ave.; 773-472-3000, twinkletwinklelittleone.com

MICRO BOUTIQUE
SERPICO
The designer Melissa Serpico Kamhout is a master of the drape, particularly in the form of her effortless dresses. We love the silk jersey dress that can be worn backwards or forwards ($780) and the black shirtdress with an asymmetrical hem ($440), with leggings or without. The designer’s small shop in Wicker Park, attached to her design studio, carries her collection of apparel in cotton, wool, and silk. 1514 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-252-5940, serpico-collection.com

HOME
ROOM SERVICE
Although everything old seems mod again, Andersonville’s Room Service refines the trends by balancing a mix of mid-20th-century furniture with new accents. The mid-1950s and early 1970s furniture and accents are sourced mostly through estate sales and auctions around Palm Springs. The well-edited selection of furniture has been refinished or rehabbed, while the spectacular old lamps are mostly as is. 5438 N. Clark St.; 773-878-5438, roomservice-chicago.com

BIG-NAME STOP
MARIA PINTO
The local designer Maria Pinto earned her fair share of ink designing for Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, but she is still making clothes for the rest of us. Pinto’s new West Loop boutique shows the breadth of her collection, from casual- and workwear to dramatic gowns. Confident and unfussy, the spring 2009 collection includes a jaw-dropping flapper-inspired black sequined dress and a strapless plaid dress that can double as work- or eveningwear. 135 N. Jefferson St.; 312-648-1350, mariapinto.com

 

Photography: (Image 1) Courtesy of DieterBennet, (all others) Michael Boone

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