My closet is tired. It seems like my sartorial den of threads has been spitting out the same cycle of outfits and the inspiration is not real. The more I flip through magazines and scroll through Instagram, the more frustrated I become. Where is the originality? Where are the ensembles that make me double tap or rip out the glossy pages and tape them to my wall? Where is the magic that made me fall in love with fashion in the first place? The onset of fast fashion, Instagram influencers and an oversaturated market leaves us with less original options and more of a fashion uniform (there are only so many times one can look at a Gucci belt).
Vintage is the new black. There’s no question that fashion trends are cyclical and what was stylish when our parents and grandparents were growing up is sure to make a comeback. Investing in vintage threads allows you to put your spin on today’s trends and cut down on the amount of waste the fashion industry creates.
Chicago is teeming with great sources of original clothing: vintage stores. Whether you’re looking for nostalgic streetwear, classic designer finds or dreamy looks from the ‘70s, Chicago has it all.
Map by Charlotte Foley, 14 East.
Dovetail’s slogan, “you don’t need more stuff, you need better stuff,” rings true when you walk into the small shop located in West Town. The 10-year-old establishment carries mid-century modern housewares, women’s clothing and accessories from an array of times. Dovetail offers a small but thoughtfully curated selection: tunics and dresses with beautiful embroidery, vintage costume jewelry and pieces of furniture still in great condition that make you think you’ve gone back in time. Dovetail’s owner, Julie Ghatan, believes quality and originality drive customers to shop vintage.
“I think it’s the quest to find something unique, everything is so mass-produced today,” Ghatan said. “If something has lasted that long, chances are it’s going to last another 70 years.”
1452 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60642
Seek Vintage, a neighbor to Dovetail, has been in the West Town neighborhood for eight years. Seek offers clothing, homewares, jewelry and accessories from the ‘80s and back. Beautiful sets of glassware are displayed throughout the store and the costume jewelry section at the register contains brooches, necklaces, and earrings perfect for bringing a dull ensemble to life. Chris Hunt, the owner of Seek, values the rare flair that vintage brings to an outfit.
“There’s that echelon of people who don’t get it but the ones who do want something unique —something that no one else is going to have,” Hunt said. Hunt began hosting monthly bazaars, a marketplace for local vendors and vintage sellers who do not have storefronts, in the basement of Seek. Check Seek’s Instagram for updates on the next basement bazaar.
1433 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60642.
According to today’s standards, streetwear is the pinnacle of style. Lucky for us, Boneyard is the mecca of vintage streetwear in Chicago. Located in West Town, expect to find ‘80s and ‘90s sportswear and streetwear, including pieces on the brink of coming back in fashion. Boneyard has also developed an impressive sneaker collection including a vending machine full of drool-worthy Nike styles and so much more. While the store consists of mostly vintage threads some of the sneakers are current styles that are hard to find, including the Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 97/1.
917 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
Belmont Army is an institution among DePaul students because of its close proximity to the Lincoln Park Campus. Prepare to get your steps in when visiting the four-story building. Each floor has its own theme. The vintage section is housed on the second floor and offers a wide variety of styles. It has designated sections for garments ranging from Hawaiian shirts to Bill Blass denim vests that will give you chills and prairie dresses from the ‘70s. Belmont Army’s owner, Vivian Kim, said the store attracts a lot of theme-party goers and costume shoppers.
“Usually customers are looking for some kind of costume or [clothes for a] photo shoot or party,” Kim said. Belmont Army offers students and local artists discounts to make its apparel more affordable.
855 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL 60657
Lost Girls Vintage
Before finding a home in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, Lost Girls roamed the streets of Chicago in a bright orange van. Owners Sarah Azzouzi and Kyla Embrey offered their wares out of the back of their 1976 Winnebago RV. Less than a year ago, they moved into a shared space with Humboldt House, a vintage modern home shop, occupying the back half. The space is filled with carefully curated pieces, like a lace cocktail dress, Western-style boots or a matching embroidered vest and jacket. Be on the lookout for Lost Girls’ second store opening in Pilsen in September.
1045 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
Nostalgia is taken to a whole new level when one enters Kokorokoko in Wicker Park. Colors assault your senses as if you were dropped into a ‘90s sitcom. Novelties like old cassette tapes and postcards are front and center when you enter the store. Expect to find ‘80s and ‘90s counter-culture clothing like casual streetwear and club gear. Kokorokoko explores the road less followed and brings together different kinds of clothing. You can find anything from ‘80s patterned leotards, vintage Chicago Bulls T-shirts, bell bottoms from the ‘70s, or denim ranging from any decade.
“We’re all about the different creative scenes and how they intersect and create unity,” said Alina Alig, a sales associate at Kokorokoko.
1323 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
This is only a small sampling of the vintage Chicago has to offer. Instead of blending into a sea of millennial pink, cultivate your sense of style by injecting a jolt of originality in your wardrobe. If you’re looking for more, check out some of the spots the owners and employees from the list above recommend: Very Best Vintage, Knee Deep, Store B and Shangri-La Vintage.
Header photo by Charlotte Foley.