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Chicago's Probably Part of the Chain Gang


Dear Fashion Police: I am going to Chicago for vacation for five days over Memorial Day weekend. I plan to get in some shopping, and I'm hoping to find some different things that cannot be found in Los Angeles, where I live. I'm looking for spring and summer dresses, as well as a dressy dress to wear to my niece's bat mitzvah. I'm 52, petite, slim, and shop in stores and boutiques geared for younger women as well as women's stores.

Also, what kind of weather can I expect, and what clothing should I bring along?



Dear Different: We don't know if you've been traveling much lately, but if you have, you've discovered the sad reality of global retailing.

With the proliferation of department stores and specialty clothing stores such as Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Old Navy, Ann Taylor, Talbots and Abercrombie & Fitch, it's getting more and more difficult to find anything unique in any city. As soon as a mall goes up or a shopping district becomes gentrified, up go these stores.

Such shops have infiltrated other countries, too, making Gap T-shirts and Banana Republic khakis as much a part of the daily uniform in England as they are here.

Not that we're against capitalism, but it would be nice to be able to find affordable, non-cookie-cutter clothes without having to become Sherlock Holmes and hunting for one-of-a-kind shops.

We'll descend from our soapbox now. No doubt Chicago has shops offering an alternative to mall looks, but unfortunately we haven't been there in some time. We did find out from our sources that Armitage Avenue, a street on Chicago's north side, is a great shopping district with lots of boutiques. Jane Hamill (1115 W. Armitage Ave.) is one, offering contemporary clothes with a retro edge, designed by Hamill herself.

We'll put out an APB for more wonderful, one-of-a-kind women's stores in the Windy City offering the kinds of clothes you described. Any Chicagoans or ex-Chicagoans with great tips are encouraged to write, fax or e-mail us at the address and numbers below. Please include as much information about the shops as you can.

As for weather, highs should be in the 70s to 80s, lows in the 40s and 50s, with some chance of rain. For traveling we always recommend packing comfortable, wrinkle-resistant clothes you can layer, and choosing one or two main color schemes. If you're planning on visiting any fancy-shmancy places, take the appropriate clothes and accessories. Keep in mind that Chicago is not as casual as California, so no Hawaiian shirts and shorts at nice restaurants.


Dear Fashion Police: With warmer weather just around the corner, what is the best way to wear strappy tops and dresses without bra or camisole straps showing, and not resorting to wearing a strapless bra?


Dear Strapped: Two words: wide straps. If you choose tops and dresses with skinny straps, you will forever be tugging at those things to align them, unless you sew or pin the straps together, and honestly, who is going to do that? While some covet the visible-bra-strap look, we think it's tawdry.

It also helps to wear a bra in the same color as the garment, or as close as you can get. That way, slippage is a little less noticeable.


From the Fashion Police Blotter: While perusing the May edition of In Style magazine, that hefty monthly tribute to all that is good and wonderful about celebrities and rampant, unabashed consumerism, something caught our eye. A story titled "Island Whirl" chronicled the wedding of entertainment mogul Russell Simmons to model Kimora Lee on St. Bart's. A picture of the bride and groom showed her in a tiara, long veil and stunning beaded white mermaid dress by Susan Lazar, and he in rumpled, baggy khakis, a white oxford shirt, sweater vest and Adidas sneakers, looking as if he had just fallen out of bed and landed at the altar.

You've heard us rail on and on about appropriate attire, especially at weddings. But this may be the first time we've seen the bride in a floor-length gown and the groom in play clothes. No matter that Simmons was wearing pieces from his own Phat Farm label (which the magazine mentioned three times), that didn't acquit him of charges. Would it have killed him to at least put on a tie? Maybe the groom should add formal wear to the Phat Farm line. That way he'll always have the proper attire for the occasion.

Write to Fashion Police, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, fax to (213) 237-4888, or send e-mail to

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