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April 11, 2014

Buying in bulk: Hyde Park’s new boutiques

As a result of encouragement from the University, the Harper Court area has become a new location for high-quality enterprises. Three new boutiques—The Silver Umbrella, Independence, and Sir & Madam—seek to bring an elevated shopping experience to Hyde Park. While browsing around in the neighborhood may never replace spending a much-needed day downtown, 53rd Street’s burgeoning retail scene gives students the opportunity to find great clothes in a pinch, or simply to make the most of a few extra hours.

The Silver Umbrella

As vintage fashion has gained prominence in the past few decades, the word vintage has been stretched to entail quite a lot, and often ends up meaning less André Courrèges and more last season’s Ann Taylor. Neither a couture consignment store nor a chaotic depository of old clothes, The Silver Umbrella hits a certain middle ground. The newest addition to Hyde Park’s clothing scene, The Silver Umbrella hails as the first neighborhood vintage store. Small, well-organized, and immaculately clean, the store provides bargain prices in the environment of a more upscale boutique. The brands range from Aldo to Cole Haan, and the clothing is priced accordingly, all in good condition and often with original tags. A black London Fog trench coat goes for $29, while a pair of high-waisted Elizabeth and James boot-cut jeans sells for $69. On the men’s side, I found a vintage navy pinstripe blazer from Burberry (back from when Burberry was Burberry’s) for $42. In true vintage store fashion, The Silver Umbrella isn’t defined by a single aesthetic, but instead displays Nike dunks next to cap-toe loafers and bright, floral shifts alongside more conservative work clothes. Emblematic of its unpretentious ambience, The Silver Umbrella is a boutique that won’t dazzle you with high-fashion names, but shows the potential for some unexpected great finds at student-friendly prices.

Independence

The Hyde Park Independence boutique is the store’s second outlet in Chicago, with the original located all the way north on Oak Street. The airy space is a homage to the rustic-chic aesthetic prevalent in contemporary design, complete with unpolished wood and shirts tied with twine. Accordingly, the stock is composed of items with rural origins that have now filtered into urban life. The anoraks, flannels, and leather lace-up boots aren’t quite intended for the great outdoors, but will suffice for a walk in the park or perhaps a bike ride on a rainy day. The store also specializes in American brands, an integrity that we can all appreciate, but admittedly entails made-in-America prices. Lightweight jackets by Engineered Garments go for $350, and hand-stitched, leather-soled Oak Street loafers sell for $328. The women’s section is fairly minimal, though I found a pair of jaunty seersucker shorts made by Gitman Brothers for $180, and there’s a unisex appeal in the smattering of random cool items on sale, such as handmade leather sporting goods and Field Notes notebooks. Quality clothing comes with a price at Independence, but if you’re looking to invest in one great item this spring, look no further.

Sir & Madame

Sir & Madame, the second installment of the boutique with Wicker Park origins, is an unabashed mash-up of different styles. It’s a place where a minimalist Scandinavian raincoat from Stutterheim ($368) hangs on a rack next to Sir & Madame–brand sweatpants with leather detailing ($89). The store does lean somewhat toward more athletic-inspired garments, as emphasized by the vintage sneaker ads plastered on the walls—think varsity jackets, tees, and sneakers. However, one can just as easily find metallic snakeskin-print pants from Line & Dot ($120), or Cheap Monday black jeans ($70), as well as an extensive selection of Levi’s jeans for men. True to its name, there’s a balance in the selection of men and women’s clothing, with a significant portion of the items being the brand’s own. Meanwhile, club music blasts on the speakers, indicative of the store’s upbeat, sometimes flashy selection. Whether it’s updated athletic wear or blazers with sequin detailing, Sir & Madame has an eclectic stock designed to craft a unique look.

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