Best Clothing Designer

rThe Reader’s ChoiceAbigail Glaum-Lathbury

To paraphrase Meryl Streep at the SAG awards, there is no such thing as the best designer—I could have easily chosen any one of four or five local designers here. But Abigail Glaum-Lathbury’s combo of creativity, technical skill, and a professionalism unusual for her relatively young age finally put her at the top of my list. I still remember her final project for the School of the Art Institute a few years ago—a dress made out of pink latex molds of tripe. It’s a testament to her talent that something that sounds so disgusting had such an undeniable, alien beauty.

Glaum-Lathbury still gets obsessed by odd things: one collection was all about the shape of an insect’s body, which, butterfly-like, underwent a wonderful metamorphosis on the way from her mind to the hanger. But she never lets her concept get in the way of her execution. Characterized by painstakingly tailored yet romantic flourishes like folds, pintucks, and pleats, her work showcases her sharp sense of the properties of different fabrics as well as an awareness of what flatters the body. Her clothes are vintagey yet futuristic, both pretty and thought provoking—truly the best of all worlds. —Heather Kenny

&Our readers’ choiceAnna Hovet

Best New Boutique

rThe Reader’s ChoiceLe Dress

This past year was more notable for store closings than store openings. But the owners of Le Dress have a solid concept—just dresses!—that may have helped to insulate them from the retail downturn. (Wonder when other entrepreneurs will jump on the idea—Just Pants, anybody?) It’s actually brilliant—women are always in need of a dress for something or other. And there are plenty of them here—sisters-in-law Eva and Robyn Anderson have no qualms about sullying pristine open space with items people might actually like to buy. The pink accents in the interior foreshadow the feminine, romantic nature of most of the frocks (don’t come here for severe or challenging designs), which range from special-occasion styles by labels like Trina Turk to casual, more affordable numbers suited to those summer cookouts around the corner. There are a few jackets scattered here and there, which of course can be layered over the dresses; a small selection of strappy shoes, clutches, and gut-flattening Spanx makes this place a godsend for the shopping averse or anyone who just needs a whole outfit in a hurry. a 1741 W. Division, 773-697-9899, —Heather Kenny

&Our readers’ choiceSkinstinct

a Water Tower Place, 845 N. Michigan, 312-202-0708; 3343 N. Broadway, 773-857-6900; 5135 N. Clark, 773-506-7343;

Best Used Clothing Store

rThe Reader’s ChoiceLenny & Me

I have to admit I’m not a big buyer of secondhand duds. I don’t have the time—or the inclination—to comb through rack after rack in some grim linoleum space in hopes of finding some hidden gem that I’ll then have to have altered, repaired, or cleaned. But Lenny & Me is the perfect middle ground. It’s now in a bigger space just next door to its original location, but the look and feel is the same: fresh finds in a boutique-like setting. The staff has a great eye, and the stuff is a mix of designer pieces, true vintage items, and “recent” secondhand from stores like H&M and Banana Republic. The accessories tables are always good for a quick fix, whether it’s a velvet cap or a flower pin. The men’s selection is smaller but just as carefully curated. Most pieces are tagged between $10 and $60, with prices topping out a little under $200. If you like the chair something is draped over, most likely it’s for sale too—Lenny & Me also deals in vintage furniture and home accessories. The store takes items on consignment and does straight trades, but the same pickiness that makes this such a great place to shop means it may not be the right place for your once-a-decade closet dump. a 1459 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-5576, —Heather Kenny

&Our readers’ choiceCrossroads Trading Co.

a2711 N. Clark, 773-296-1000; 1519 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-5300; 1730 Sherman, Evanston, 847-492-9400;

Best Shoe Store

rThe Reader’s ChoiceAkira

I used to bemoan the fact that the women’s shoes at Akira seemed to consist mainly of heels at punishing heights—great when you’re cabbing it to the club, not so wonderful when you’re hoofing it to the corner bar. But in the last several years the company’s expansion has pushed it into offering more foot-friendly styles like flats and lower heels by trend-conscious companies (e.g., Corso Como) that make comfort a priority. “Dressing from the shoe up” is easy and affordable here, with of-the-nanosecond styles from brands beloved of the budget-challenged—Seychelles, Jeffrey Campbell, Chinese Laundry. But there are also droolworthy designs from more expensive lines like Frye and L.A.M.B. Guys, too, have a range of options—sneaks from Adidas and Converse, a contemporary take on the classic wingtip by Bronx, and LA rocker boots from Mark Nason. What I like best: many sizes are out on the floor already so you can try on a half dozen without feeling like a schlump if you don’t want to buy—a retail idea more shoe stores should adopt. a1849 W. North, 773-342-8684, and 122 S. State, 312-346-3034, —Heather Kenny

&Our readers’ choiceDSW

a1101 S. Canal, 312-880-0245; 3131 N. Clark, 773-975-7182; 9601 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-674-2772;

Best Eyewear Shop

rThe Reader’s ChoiceEye Spy Optical

Glasses can be expensive, even before you get to the bits that help you see, and Eye Spy isn’t the first shop to try if you’re looking for a deal. But we’re talking about something that you might be wearing on your face 18 hours a day, and if you want a statement of personal style and not simply a medical device, you’re in the right place. Eye Spy carries limited-edition handmade frames by European and Asian brands (Anne et Valentin, Theo, Persol) in kooky, glam, and serious architect styles. I haven’t worn my boring black glasses out of the house in years, but I would be willing to bypass my contacts once in a while for those leopard-print frames from Lafont. The staff at this independently owned shop know the products well and offer skilled help in choosing frames to fit your face, with no compunction about being amusingly blunt when necessary. They’ll even take a picture of you in your prospective eyewear so you don’t have to squint six inches from the mirror to see how you look in them. One bummer: they don’t accept insurance. But they do offer layaway and their own credit card. a 3350 N. Lincoln, 773-477-2670, —Heather Kenny

&Our readers’ choiceEye Spy Optical