The Garment District: Some South Side shops to check out when you’re looking for…

photo by Katie Buitrago
DIY-Chic to Wear While Riding Around on your Fixie
No Coast
The awning outside No Coast advertises sandwiches, snacks, and pop, but if you wander into this corner store with a rumbling tummy, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If your hunger is for something a little more imaginative, however, you’re in the right place: the store and screenprinting/fabric studio is run by the No Coast art cooperative and is “dedicated to selling inexpensive art publications and objects like music, records, and clothes that are mostly handmade or independently produced,” says cooperative member Alex Valentine. They also put on events like knitting workshops and screenprinting lock-ins (where members are “locked in” the store for twenty-four hours straight while offering free screenprinting lessons). No Coast carries handmade bike hats and shirts by Spokepunchers, screenprinted T-shirts by Sam Kirk and Ra Ra Press, handmade skirts by Orangyporangy, and appliqué shirts, jewelry, and more. Cooperative member Annie Novotny runs Frei Designs, an eco-conscious and locally-produced couture line that emphasizes responsible labor and environmental practices, out of the back of the store. Not bad for a place that advertises itself as a malt shop. No Coast, 1500 W. 17th St. (Katie Buitrago)

Apple Bottom Jeans and Boots with the Fur
Born on East 47th Street and now with stores across the Midwest and England, J-Bee’s specializes in designer urban wear for men (with a smaller women’s section, too). Sleek, bright stores with wood-paneled walls house brands like Konvict, Enyce, True Religion, Timberland, and Apple Bottom. There’s an impressive collection of baseball hats–yes, the Cubs, too–in official and unofficial colors. My personal favorite, in spite of the team it promotes: a Sox cap sporting an embroidered Chicago skyline. J-Bee’s, 232 E. 47th St. and other locations, (773)268-0516. (Katie Buitrago)

photo by Sam Bowman
A Pair of Heels That Won’t Break the Bank
Sylvia Rocha started Zapatillas in Pilsen a year ago with an eye towards affordable fashion. “People who come in here have been pleasantly surprised,” she says. “We have a wide range, from the very high-end to affordable but still trendy.” She carries shoes by Steven, Nine West, Chinese Laundry, Mexican brand Ozynix, and more, as well as a broad selection of ready-to-dye bridal shoes by Nina. She recently introduced handbags and accessories to the store. “Sometimes I think we sell more handbags than shoes,” Rocha laughs. Zapatillas, 1421 W. 18th St. (312)226-4040. (Katie Buitrago)

Cheeky Chicano T-Shirts
When OMD founder Octavio Martinez opened up the quirky, uber-Chicago store two years ago, his block on 18th Street was a lonely place for fashionistas. Now, OMD is neighbored by Zapatillas and Knee Deep Vintage, which means you can find old, new, and shoes all in one trip. OMD has a huge collection of Chicago-oriented T-shirts by local designers and graphic artists (No Manches, Rudy Montez, Sam Kirk) and trendy women’s and men’s wear from LA, with plans to include local designers in the near future. The shirts from Back of the Yards duo No Manches are standouts; the designs are gorgeous and graphically bold, and the messages play off the humor and social irony inherent in the lives of bilingual/bicultural Latinos living in the urban United States (“Mow Your Own Lawn,” “Midwest Chorizos” in a West Coast Choppers logo, “One Wuey” on a one-way sign). OMD, 1419 W. 18th St. (312)563-9663. (Katie Buitrago)

photo by Sam Bowman
Cheap Vintage Clothing for Everyday Wear
Knee Deep Vintage
Can’t have too many plaid flannel shirts? Think that ‘80s beaded women’s wear never went out of style? Love those retro Lacoste sweaters like it’s nobody’s business? If your wardrobe is drooling right now, look no further: Knee Deep, a Pilsen vintage store, is waiting for you. Oh, and did we mention that it’s difficult to find anything in this neighborhood gem for more than $20? Yes, that’s right: a fun, quality vintage store with Salvation Army prices. Bags, shoes, men’s, women’s–it’s all right here. Knee Deep Vintage, 1425 W 18th St. (312)850-2510. (Clare Fentress)

A Dashing Winter Coat
“Oh. That’s a great coat, you know? It fits you perfect. How much is it–oh, ten dollars? Get it right now, don’t even think about it.” In this moment, the two cultures of Unique had met in a fantastic collision: detective coat on one side, bright, white fur coat on the other. I, a university student taking a couple-hour trip into Bridgeport for the purpose of finding the silliest articles of clothing I could find, and she, a woman looking through this mass of second-hand clothes to find herself something to wear in much the same way I go to Bloomingdale’s (although, nowadays, I daresay there may well be better finds at Unique than that place). Now, this does not merit extensive sociological or even moral commentary. I’m just saying that when I get stopped on the street and asked, “So who’s the coat by?” it’s really amusing. Unique Thrift Store, 3000 S. Halsted St. and other locations. (312)842-0942. (Matthew Carville)

photo by Sam Bowman
Forward-Thinking Local Couture
Anna Fong
Guatemalan-Chinese designer Anna Fong brings an international eye to the world of women’s fashion. Many of the pieces are reminiscent of an earlier time, but they are anything but stale. Prices can be a bit high, but Ms. Fong was not named the “2008 Rising Star of New Designers” by Fashion Group International for nothing. Simple and elegant shirts and dresses in intriguing silhouettes manage to flatter various shapes in a classy 1940s look. The other half of the collection seems to be following the “Revenge of the ‘80s” trend, but the quality of the materials and the thought that was clearly put into the designs make it a guilty pleasure worth indulging in. Anna Fong, 1932 S. Halsted St. #504. (312)952-0140. (Sarah Pickering)

Something to Add to Your Collection of Vintage Lanvin
The Garment Room
If you enjoy vintage fashion, shopping at the Garment Room is a one-of-a-kind experience. The store is a treasure chest full of big name designers like Dior, Pucci, Chloe and Gaultier. Owner Tiffany Nicole has collected more than a decade of vintage pieces and restores them with a fashion forward eye. The prices are consequently towards the higher end of a large budget, but even if a late holiday gift isn’t in the cards, dropping by this store just to look at the impeccable handiwork is a worthwhile trip. Current up-and-coming designers are said to frequent the store to get inspiration; there’s no reason the rest of us shouldn’t follow their example. The Garment Room, 1474 S. Halsted St. (347)581-7930. (Sarah Pickering)

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