Every spring I make the bold move to hang up my winter coat in the back of my closet—officially retiring it for the season. I know I might be jumping the gun, because in the Midwest seasons tend to blend, but it’s one of the best feelings a Chicagoan can get. Boots? Goodbye. See you in the fall. Time to break out the tanks, tees, sandals, sneaks and shades. My semi-annual closet rearrange always leads to a shopping adventure. I can’t debut my springtime wardrobe wearing last year’s looks. Besides, the weather is gorgeous and I’ll use any excuse to soak it up. With so many shopping hubs around Chicago, I’m ready for a little spring spree.
The closest shopper’s mecca to me and any other city-dweller is the Fashion Outlets of Chicago in Rosemont, right next to O’Hare International Airport. I’m like a kid on my birthday in this outlet mall—suddenly I have access to stores I don’t usually browse. All the designer shops like Barneys, Burberry, Coach, PRADA and Tory Burch that I pass on Michigan Avenue, drooling over their window displays, are now within my price range. I get ambitious fitness goals at the start of spring so I pop into the Nike outlet for the latest in spandex prints. Running along the Lakefront Trail or patio brunching in Old Town—I could see myself doing either activity in these cute workout duds. Sold. I’m hit by relentless sunbeams through the skylight as I step out of one store. This reminds me: sunglasses. Good thing there’s a Michael Kors only steps away. As I pull out of the parking garage, my stomach navigates me to Bub City just across the street for some of Chicago’s best barbecue. Next up, those new shades come in handy when the girls meet me for one of Sugar Factory’s signature smoking candy goblets on the patio.
I know I’ll find whatever I’m looking for at Woodfield Mall. More than 300 stores, including the big names like Macy’s and Lord & Taylor—I know I’ll find the perfect dresses to wear to all the weddings I’m attending this spring. For an indoor mall, Woodfield is huge and easy to spend a day in. There’s even a bowling alley and game lounge in Level 257, but I stay focused on the task at hand. When I’m on a hunt, I can spend anywhere from 45 seconds to 45 minutes in a store. Popping from Akira to H&M to Anthropologie to Nordstrom to Zara—it’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it. Whatever my shopping mission is, I always succeed at Woodfield Mall, then I stuff my loot into a booth at The Cheesecake Factory and celebrate my victory with a slice of my favorite dessert.
When the sun is out and little buds start forming on tree branches, I can’t bring myself to stay inside, which is why I love the open-air Oakbrook Center. I get my fix at Nordstrom and Lilly Pulitzer and then nosh on onion soup au gratin at Mon Ami Gabi while considering my next move. Satisfied after my light meal, I decide to take the plunge and buy a new swimsuit. As scary as that can be, the promise of summer gets me pumped enough to have a personal fashion show in the dressing room of Everything But Water.
I tend to stick with dark, earthy tones in my wardrobe, but new spring lines on display and the retro pastels trimming Gurnee Mills inspire me to try something new. Sharing an exit with Six Flags Great America and KeyLime Cove, Gurnee Mills brings me back to my childhood and makes me want to buy jelly sandals and neon shorts. I opt for the grown-up, modern equivalent of espadrilles at the Gap Factory Store. Maybe I’ll pick up a bright floppy hat for old times’ sake.
I would be amiss if I didn’t mention another favorite must-shop outlet paradise. This one could be described in one word: sparkly—seriously, it’s the cleanest outdoor shopping center I’ve ever seen. A canopy hangs over the open-air walkways as a merry-go-round of brand name stores entices me on either side, including favorites such as Kate Spade and Michael Kors. It’s exhilarating hopping from store-to-store; trying on any top I can find with nary a sleeve and pairing my newfound tank collection with some edgy denim from Diesel. I’m so pleased with myself I wear my new get-up straight out of the store and make a beeline over to Two Brothers Tap House outdoor patio for a cold craft brew. Hello, springtime!