Boutique-shopping: more than dressing up

//Boutique-shopping: more than dressing up

Boutique-shopping: more than dressing up

I don’t believe I’m a candidate for a TV makeover show, yet I recently went shopping aided by a wardrobe stylist. The results were great – and not just fashion-wise. 

Exploring Bucktown’s boutiques

A stretch of Damen Avenue on Chicago’s near northwest side, located between North Avenue and Fullerton Avenue, is known for quality clothing boutiques. Many of the stores carry affordable fashion by local designers, which is why Bucktown has long been one of my favorite shopping destinations in the city. Whenever I’m in the neighborhood, I stop by a few boutiques to browse, get inspired, and sometimes put a slight dent in my travel budget.

In for a surprise

On one such day, I was headed home from one of my frequent stops, Michelle Tan, when I noticed a beautifully-decked mannequin next door at Claudia Kleiner. The retro-looking, long pencil skirt in light gray, paired with an off-the-shoulder red top and a black belt immediately caught my attention and prompted me to go in. There I was greeted by a sales representative and wardrobe stylist, Emmanuel. I asked him about the gray-and-red look and, before long, I was trying on the ensemble.

Soon the dressing room filled up with more choices. The clothes kept on coming and I enjoyed myself more and more as the time went by. Emmanuel found pieces that I had missed on the rack, yet was eager to try once I saw them. I ended up buying an item that reflected my preferred style well and would be a great addition to my closet.

It’s as if the light led us to the jewelry table

This was a fun and effortless experience (at least on my part), and I had my new acquaintance to thank.  After talking some more, we decided to meet again for a full-blown shopping spree in Bucktown.

You pick, I’ll try it on

When the day came, Emmanuel had a list of stores to show me and knew what items to look for in each one. Due to our schedules, we didn’t have much time to shop, so we had to hurry before the boutiques closed. We must have been a curious sight, running up and down Damen Ave. with shopping bags in tow…

Despite the time constraints, our mission was successful. When arranging for the personal shopping outing, I wanted to find pieces that I knew I needed, plus some that might be fun additions and perhaps expand my comfort zone. The latter was a deliberate experiment on my part.

Are you sure?…

Not just dressing up

As a traveler, I enjoy exploring, be it new places, new sounds, flavors, or ideas. When you’re on the road, you open yourself up to experiencing the world in new ways, or looking at the familiar from a fresh perspective. Sometimes, you find something you like, something that aligns well with your personality, even if you previously didn’t know of its existence. That can be new music, new cuisine, or new fashion.

I often incorporate shopping at boutiques into my travel itinerary, because they offer another glimpse into the local culture. They can also be cutting-edge, daring, and creative in reinterpreting tried-and-tested styles.  Much like traveling itself, they inspire me to find out what else is out there for me.

The bracelet’s a keeper

During the shopping spree with Emmanuel, I enjoyed letting go of my preconceived ideas of what I should or shouldn’t try on, or what I might feel comfortable in. Many of the pieces he found were very “me,” yet with a few twists here and there (e.g. a new color or shape). There was also one that I am unlikely to have chosen myself , but one that I have since successfully incorporated into my wardrobe.

The striped, knit tunic in my closet serves as a reminder to stay adventurous, even without leaving town.

What are some things you like to explore most – at home or on the road? Have you experienced going out of your comfort zone at first, but then liking it? Share your thoughts below!

By | 2017-03-11T15:50:30+00:00 June 14th, 2012|STORIES|35 Comments

About the Author:

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.


  1. avatar
    @mrsoaroundworld June 14, 2012 at 10:16 am

    What a nice experience. I am very very very jealous! I love boutique shopping, especially when I travel – I hate the idea of wearing the same thing as everyone else (sounds worse than it is) – or rather, I hate that as a result of globalisation, we are all almost wearing the same thing… any excuse for shoes!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..My favourite places in Palm Desert, Palm Springs and other California desert citiesMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      You can definitely find unique fashion at boutiques and I usually can’t resist checking out a few places wherever I go (one of my favorite cities for that is San Francisco). I like your comment about globalization in fashion – I’ve never really thought of it that way.

      • avatar
        Deborah Thompson June 21, 2012 at 12:26 am

        Loved this article and can totally agree with all the points you have made. I too love to find different fashion ideas from other cultures & especially the different fabrics you find when you travel. I have to admit I’m really lucky as my husband has one of the best eyes for fashion and finding clothes and accessories for me. He is like a personal shopper of my very own! I also love the comment regarding globalization of fashion – it is totally true and can make for such a boring look! Viva la difference! Enjoyed reading this very much – thank you!

        • avatar
          Jetting Around June 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm

          It’s wonderful about your husband being so in touch with your style! Shopping with him must be tons of fun. Cheers to him! :)
          Thanks for stopping by, Deborah.

  2. avatar
    Leah Travels June 14, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I wish we’d had time for you to take me shopping. These are the kinds of places I enjoy. I really like what you said about shops showing a bit of local culture. It’s so true.
    Leah Travels recently posted..Inside the House of Waterford Crystal (Part 3)My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      Perhaps next time you’re in Chicago, we can go on a lil’ shopping spree. The area I wrote about is not far from Wormhole… ;)

  3. avatar
    John June 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    It’s funny how when you’re taken out of your comfort zone, you’re more receptive to new experiences. It sounds like this is the case with you for shopping as well.
    John recently posted..Summiting Mount Evans in Colorado – The Easy WayMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 14, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      Taking the first step out of that zone is the hardest and sometimes you question why you even should… But sometimes you may end up having a lot of fun or, in the least, end up with a story to tell friends. :)

  4. avatar
    Francesca June 14, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I was just in Bucktown yesterday! Well, for sushi, but next time I’m going to have to fit in some shopping. You’ll come with me, of course :-)

    This is so well-written and I absolutely agree with everything you said about exploring new sounds, new places, etc. It’s especially fun when it’s in your hometown!
    Francesca recently posted..Where to go for the Big 4-0?My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      Thanks for all the kind words, Francesca! I love exploring Chicago and the different areas here. A staycation in Chicago doesn’t even have to mean staying at a hotel, just walking around the ‘hoods. Next time you’re headed out to Bucktown, let me know! :)

  5. avatar
    Emmanuel Gutierrez June 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    It was so fun Pola! You are definitely one of my favorite shopping buddies. Cant wait to do it agian!


    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 15, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks, Emmanuel! Great times indeed. :)

  6. avatar
    D.J. - The World of Deej June 16, 2012 at 6:38 am

    While visiting a boutique may not rank high on my list of things to do, I can see the appeal to the fairer sex. Although, if they could find a way to make me look like one of those actors my wife gushes over, then maybe it would be worth it:)
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Bay Hill – Deej’s Picture of the WeekMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 16, 2012 at 10:00 am

      Haha!! I was telling a friend of mine the other day that the post might not have a universal appeal. ;-) I sometimes see guys sitting in boutiques with a bored look on their faces, waiting for their ladies to (finally) finish browsing. Maybe more stores should carry men’s clothing, since the potential customer is already there. :)

  7. avatar
    The World Wanderer June 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    This sounds like so much fun! I agree, shopping in boutiques while traveling paints an entirely different picture of a country. We shopped in a lot of little shops in Vietnam, and it was one of my favorite experiences. Plus, I came home with lots of unique gifts for friends and for myself. :)

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

      Great point about the gifts! :)

  8. avatar
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin June 16, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Shopping sprees on the road are so much fun. You often get to bring home souvenirs you wouldn’t find elsewhere at home. Unfortunately on our current trip, I haven’t been able to do much shopping since I’m traveling with a carry-on luggage only.. :(
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Being Great Wall FlowersMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

      Oh, too bad about the luggage!

  9. avatar
    Traveling Ted June 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    So many people when they come to Chicago only shop the Miracle Mile, so this is a great tip for out of town shoppers.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..The laziest hawk ever along the Santa Fe River in FloridaMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      There are definitely great shopping areas in the city, e.g. Roscoe Village, Andersonville or Lakeview. It’s too bad the downtown area doesn’t have more local stores like that…

  10. avatar
    Fiona June 18, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Sounds like something you could get used to! Goes to show that sometimes it’s worth asking the opinion of experts (and strangers at that) it’s so easy to get stuck wearing a certain style!
    Fiona recently posted..Ten Great Places to Have Tea in DublinMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

      I could definitely try that again! :)

  11. avatar
    the lazy travelers June 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    this is so cute. i’m sending it to the hubs and telling him that all my shopping is just cultural research. that should make him feel better about funding, no?
    the lazy travelers recently travel required: #frifotosMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 18, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Haha, you might as well try that approach once or twice…

  12. avatar
    Craig Zabransky June 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Pola, I love how you mentioned you “…enjoyed letting go of my preconceived ideas of what I should or shouldn’t try.” I strive for that moment. And I often think travel or a journey as in this case let’s us do that more easily, it is that mindset I attempt to capture when I wish (or tell) people to stay adventurous… great post.

    stay adventurous, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted..Sunset Sunday – Sunset at Keystone Resort, ColoradoMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 18, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      Thanks very much, Craig! :)

  13. avatar
    Raul (ilivetotravel in Twitter) June 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Pola, I am not made to go shopping for clothing but can appreciate using it not only to complete or expand your wardrobe but as a way to get out of the proverbial comfort zone. Growth only happens when we do that!
    Raul (ilivetotravel in Twitter) recently posted..Photo of the Week – Walking Home into the SunsetMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 19, 2012 at 10:50 pm

      Raul – you realize that if you’re in Chicago again with me and the rest of the tweetup ladies, you may be dragged to these places. ;-) Just a fair warning… haha. But in all seriousness, I like what your thoughts about comfort zone and growth. Thanks!

  14. avatar
    Scarlett October 16, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Oh this is so fabulous – I’m jealous! xx
    Scarlett recently posted..I have an addiction…My Profile

  15. avatar
    Miret October 18, 2012 at 3:01 am

    Great ideas for my next trip to Paris in two weeks’ time! Thank you for posting :-)
    Miret recently posted..Galleria Vittorio Emanuele IIMy Profile

  16. avatar

    […] enjoy boutique shopping on the road, because it’s an opportunity to find designs that reflect local couture traditions […]

  17. avatar

    […] hundreds of miles to another city, I am interested in exploring what is unique about it. I might go boutique shopping, find a local bar or coffee shop, or look for other activities that bring me closer to the […]

  18. avatar

    […] Editor’s Note: Some of the boutiques have been my long-time favorites, others recommended by wardrobe stylist Emmanuel Gutierrez, whom I had met at Claudia Kleiner. Many thanks for his expertise and research. Read more about our shopping spree. […]

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