1537 N. Milawukee


After working in finance for eight years, Natalie Barber says she realized that “the one thing I loved every morning was getting dressed.” Last fall, toying with the idea of opening a boutique, she went to New York Fashion Week on what was supposed to be a recon mission. But the trip was so inspiring she started placing orders before she even had a space to sell them in. Fortunately she found a primo Wicker Park storefront rather quickly, where she opened Language last month. Barber’s filled the shop with goods from small designers from all over the world–including some stuff that’s new to Chicago, such as blouses by Lundgren & Windinge and handbags by Rachel Nasvik. Everything has some special detail: A supersoft skinny brown leather jacket by Quebecois designers Mackage features ruffled lapels threaded with wire so you can change their shape. A Victorian high-necked, nude-colored silk blouse by Sunner has three strips of lace inset into the back. A Jalda clutch covered in pebbly stingray skin unfolds to become a bag. Like other high-end shops in the area, some of the prices made me gulp–leather obi belts by Ama are $165; a black silk dress by Debra Rodman is $310–but Barber thinks her wares are worth it. “Fashion is written off as shallow,” she says, “but it’s a legitimate platform for self-expression.” And we can always wait for the sale.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mireya Acierto.