Chicago is a city known for its various neighborhoods, each with its distinct characteristics and unique atmosphere. This diversity is brilliant for students because it quite literally means that you can find anything that you are looking for, whether it’s a chunky knit sweater from the ’80s, the perfect pair of leather pants, or the most durable winter boots. The abundance of neighborhoods also makes Chicago a treasure trove for students living on a budget because it means that you have a million options to shop from—and some of those choices are bound to be affordable.
First off, the most traditionally well-known shopping area in Chicago can be found downtown along North Michigan Avenue and in the Gold Coast. While some students may assume that these places are generally too pricey, there are a number of more budget-friendly options that range from European powerhouses Zara and H&M to more familiar brands like Forever 21. Venture a little farther north on Michigan and you’ll find Topshop, the British phenomenon that’s already taken New York City by storm. A great sidenote about Topshop is that it has a year-round 10-percent discount on all items whenever you present a valid student ID, so you can be sure you’ll leave with something beautiful without breaking your personal bank. Across the street, the Water Tower Place houses Free People, a brand known for its bohemian, flowy, almost dream-like style. And if you’re looking to score some designer items at killer prices in the Gold Coast, Nordstrom Rack is a sure bet.
If you would rather avoid the big avenues and multitude of department stores, Wicker Park is a small piece of heaven located 15 minutes northwest of the chaos. Its narrower, quainter streets can make you feel like you’re in a movie from the 1960s, and the shopping there is no joke. You can hit up classics like American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, or the more upmarket Intermix. However, what sets Wicker Park apart is its abundance of thrift stores. From Ragstock to Kokorokoko and Store B, it is guaranteed that you won’t leave Wicker Park empty-handed.
The ever-happening Lincoln Park is home to the Urban Outfitters outlet store, where you can snag some serious statement pieces and basics for prices so amazing that you’ll think you were actually dreaming. Armitage Avenue, which hovers between Lincoln Park and Old Town, has an upscale feel to it with stores like Cynthia Rowley and Art Effect (the perfect gift store for anybody over the age of 35) sitting front and center. However, it’s also got some hidden treasures in terms of thrift stores, such as Fox’s and The Second Child. As a side topic, when making your way to Lincoln Park, make sure to stop by Molly’s Cupcakes, as there is no better company to all the shopping bags that you’ve accumulated than a baked-from-scratch center-filled cupcake.
So whether you like the high-rise buildings that comprise the Gold Coast, the charming record-playing shops of Wicker Park, or the more trendy Lincoln Park area, Chicago has something for every student, no matter how much or how little he or she is willing to spend. For college kids, the Windy City is the ultimate shopping paradise.