Chicago Redux: What’s left to do but shop?

Previously on Underculture Unlimited, our partner blog, Bryan (my other half) detailed our original trip to Chicago.  It was exciting, it was fun, there was A LOT of cool stuff.  Check those out at or via the feed below.  Now, on to my part of the story…..

That’s not really true. After our trip there was still a TON to do. However, when we found ourselves back in the city unexpectedly for a work trip of mine we decided to keep to ourselves and explore downtown and the neighborhoods a little more. Well, Bryan did at least (and by exploring I mean winding up walking for MILES one day not realizing the distance he actually needed to cover). I sat in meetings for two days but was spared some nice, long evenings to spend doing cool things he found for us during the day. The coolest? My most favorite?

Making it to the Art Institute and seeing the original “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

I had no idea it was there so it was a complete surprise which made it that much better. But, the title of this post is about shopping, so I digress.

I don’t have quite the same relationship with shopping that a lot of girls do. I enjoy it and despise it all at the same time.

Pros: Finding cool stuff, imagining me in it or it in our house, etc.

Cons: Spending money, never finding something that fits AND looks cool AND isn’t like 20 other people I’ve seen already that day.

So what do I do most of the time? I shop for inspiration and sales – what can I recreate and/or rip-off on my own and what can I find that is or can be made into something really cool for really cheap.

Shopping in Chicago was great because of one thing (or collection of things, depending on how you want to look at it):

The Alley, Chicago
The Alley, Chicago

Bryan made it out there one afternoon and wanted to take me back. I had no idea what I was in for. See, in Cleveland, we have a very small number (I can think of 2 off the top of my head) of clothing/specialty stores centered around punk and rockabilly stylings. Instead, we have Hot Topic in every mall like the rest of the waste of America. The Alley was an entire neighborhood block of stores dedicated to just that (and I’m pretty sure I’m not exaggerating). There’s the adult/lingerie shop, the jewelry/pagan/candle and incense shop and then there’s the clothing shop. Put together, two floors of men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, and shoes – plus two different tattoo and piercing stations. The website doesn’t do it justice – I didn’t even know where to turn. I can’t really process much now even – brand names and styles have faded away. But I’m chock full of inspiration and I did walk away with a couple good finds.

1. A Steve Vintage “Vintage Vandal” men’s sweater silk-screened with black skulls on clearance for $35
2. Alley customized work shirts – old uniform work shirts silk-screened with various Alley logos and images on the back. I found a Frankenstein one that will soon become a women’s shirt dress. They’re only $7.
T.U.K. shoes

T.U.K. shoes

What else did I fall in love with? Shoes and dresses! Duh! T.U.K Shoes were everywhere and most of them were on sale – which is why they didn’t have my size in ANY OF THEM. The rival shoe brand in the store for me was Iron Fist, followed in a very close second by Bordello or Pinup.
The dresses I can’t remember the brands on. They were great pin-up and rockabilly styles for being off-the-rack. I was hoping to be able to find some collected on The Alley website but it seems the only clothing they sell online is Evil Kitty. Bummer for me…
Speaking of the website, though, I did find a couple of things online that I completely missed in the store (if they were even in there). Some really cool cameo rings and an awesome necklace.
Monkey Arms by Marche Noir
VERY cool but VERY expensive Monkey Arms Choker by Marche Noir
Ganesh Cameo Locket Ring
Ganesh Cameo Locket Ring
I’ve got a big thing for Ganesh right now – but that’s a longer story and one for another day.
So, no major purchases in Chicago, no spending sprees. For now I’m content looking online for free sewing patterns and trying to figure out ways to customize my own shoes. And I think it’s more fun like that anyway. Bottom line: if your into the styles, even just a LITTLE bit, and you’re in Chicago, make the trip to The Alley. Brown line train to Belmont. Easy as can be.

About Mama's a Mess

Who am I and what am I doing here? Well, at the end of the day I'm a mother and a wife, a lover of classic monster movies and comic books, of music, TV and movies. I'm a sucker for pop culture. I'm a fangirl. I'm an artist. As my husband always puts it, "Baby, you're a mess!" I have a penchant for creating and collecting. I feed my brain with a mix of anything from hot rods and pin-ups to handmade and natural. I like to dig in the dirt and grow things but sometimes picture myself doing it like Donna Reed. I will always, always choose to wear a dress first. I am head over heels in love with my husband and have a fantastically crazy life with him. Follow all our adventures and musings on our blog at Twitter: @mamasamess Pinterest & Polyvore: mamasamess
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One Response to Chicago Redux: What’s left to do but shop?

  1. Hayley Mason says:


    Looks like you found some really awesome shopping on your trip to Chicago! I love that monkey arms choker! What other sites did you get to see while you were in the city? I am the social media coordinator at Midwest Living magazine and we’re working with Enjoy Illinois on a Facebook contest called, “Magnificent Getaways Giveaway Contest,” which invites people to share recent magnificent Illinois experiences for a chance to win one of three one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime experiences in Chicago and across Illinois. The Grand Prize alone includes dining (for four) on the Ledge at Skydeck Chicago, Terzo Piano and Lawry’s Prime, plus a stay at the Trump Tower and more! If this is something you’re interested in you can enter one of two ways: or on the contest website, Please feel free to contact me with any questions at

    Hayley Mason, Social Media Coordinator for Midwest Living magazine, Meredith Corporation

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