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September 22, 2009

Snag stylish sundries at Randolph Market

Jessica Hester / The Chicago Maroon

Once a month during the Chicago summer, the Randolph Street Market District becomes the site of an open-air market that recalls the overflowing bazaars of Paris’s Rue Cler district or London’s funky Portobello Road. Shoppers looking to score bargains on everything from vintage dresses to refurbished dressers flock to the Chicago Antique Market, where they scour for steals. Described by the staff as an “urban treasure hunt,” this market is the place to mine for vintage gems on a student’s budget.

Now in its fifth year, the Chicago Antique Market is anything but old-fashioned. In place of stodgy collectors, the market’s 175+ vendors attract a hip crowd that browses for chic, tailored trench coats and kitschy kitchen utensils. Fashionistas flock to the adjoining Indie Designer Market, which takes place in the Plumbers’ Hall building. There, up-and-coming and established independent designers sell their wares, including intricate belt buckles from Heroine Chic and the versatile 10-Way Wrap from Cuff Love, a chic shawl to help transition from balmy summer to the blistering Chicago winter.

Though some items are out of a student’s price range (like an elegant wrought-iron table and chairs reminiscent of a Parisian cafe) or over-the-top kitschy (such as giant amusement park signs), many of the sellers’ goods are as affordable as they are beautiful. I excavated some serious treasure during my trips to the Market this summer. On my first trip, I strolled from stall to stall and purchased bags of beautiful vintage buttons and handfuls of old photographs.

On my next visit, I picked up a delicate butterfly preserved under a piece of convex glass, and got an amazing deal on some pretty china dessert plates (4 for $2!).

Every month, Market visitors can also treat their taste buds to sweet or savory morsels at the accompanying outdoor Fancy Foods Market, where local restaurants and bakeries come to sell bite-sized snacks. Grab a lemonade and a cookie to fuel up for a day of intense browsing and bargaining. You’ll need some energy to spot great pieces and haggle on prices.

The last market weekend of the season will be September 26-27. Stop by to browse anytime between 10-5 on Saturday or 10-4 on Sunday. To get there, take the Green Line to the Ashland stop, or pick up a free, round-trip trolley from Water Tower Place. Trolleys leave Water Tower Place on the hour between 11-3, and depart from the Market on the half-hour. General admission is $10, and students get in for $5 with valid I.D.

Hopefully, searching for vintage treasure will become a Chicago tradition akin to music festivals and outdoor movies in Grant Park. This weekend, sail over to the Chicago Antique Market to hunt for some antique finds of your own.

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