Travel in fashion

Kristin Hassan's Vita Dress

Kristin Hassan's Vita Dress

My traveling mantra: Never do, eat or buy anything I can find at home.

Buying local is not only kinder to the environment and the local economy; it also adds a unique flavor to your travel experience. So when I travel to a new city I try to check out what’s local, including fashions created in the place I’m visiting.

I had the opportunity to do that this weekend in a prime location. Imagine a city where the mayor assembles a fashion council to promote local designers. Welcome to the “windy city,” where there’s more to discover than Al Capone, good pizza and celebrities such as President Barack Obama and Oprah. Chicago also boasts four fashion design institutes and a contingent of designers that have the backing of municipal government.

My visit to the nation’s third-largest city last weekend coincided with the Mayor’s Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Incubator Pop-Up Shop events from March 17 until April 23. I popped into Friday’s event at the 900 Shops on the fifth floor at 900 N. Michigan Ave. where I met Chicago designer Kristin Hassan.

This local designer knows the importance of frugality. None of her pieces sell for more than $200, and most retail for less.

“That’s my philosophy: a reasonable price, but you’re buying something that was made in Chicago,” Hassan said.

Her designs are ultra-feminine. You won’t find one pair of pants in her collection. Hassan’s designs are bursting with flowing skirts and bold, feminine prints, including bright, large flowers, polka dots and feathers; ruffles, and large floral brooches attached to skirts and bodices. She gives the soft feminine lines a little edge with exposed zippers, usually in black.

Yet her designs also are practical. Made of polyester, they don’t require ironing, can be machine washed and have pockets. When I saw her Friday, she was wearing her signature Vita dress, a wrap dress that comes above the knee and flatters just about any figure.

“I feel comfortable wearing it; my mom wears it,” she said. “It’s very forgiving.”

She showed me how she had stowed a cellphone in one of the dress’s pockets without causing a bulge.

You can find Hassan’s designs at Frugal tip: She charges no shipping fees.

But if you happen to visit Chicago, her clothes are also for sale at the Cerato Boutique, 3451 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago. You can also find out about fashion events happening while you’re in town by visiting

The Cerato Boutique is worth a visit for any fashionista with a stopover in Chicago. The boutique sells the creations of about 20 local designers, including Kate Boggiano, a former technical designer for Polo Ralph Lauren in New York who returned to her native Chicago to launch her own line.

Fashion is one of the best ways you can discover what’s exclusive to any given place. Instead of buying a refrigerator magnet or a coffee cup, why not try finding a garment you can’t buy anywhere else? Not only will you leave with a souvenir, there’s very little danger of running into someone at home who’s wearing the same thing.

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  • Blog Author

    Paris Achen

    Paris Achen writes stories about fashion and education with the motto that a frugal fashionista must be a well-educated one. Her blog weaves together commentary on fashion, beauty and fun, frugal tips on how to net the looks on the catwalk. You ... Read Full
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