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Colorful layers of style on Chicago's streets

By Ashley Strickland, Special to CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Amy Creyer's street style blog highlights colorful fashion in Chicago
  • Three neighborhoods define Chicago fashion: The Loop, Gold Coast and Wicker Park
  • Bright colors and layered looks set Chicago's street styles apart from other cities
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Editor's note: There is fabulous fashion beyond New York, Milan and Paris. In this series, CNN showcases trends in threads around the globe. Blogger Amy Creyer of ChicagoStreetStyle.com shares the Chicago style scoop.

(CNN) -- Remixing bright splashes of color and lots of layers help create the style attitude on Chicago's streets.

From punk fabulous to classic elegance, the Windy City has something for everyone, and fashion blogger Amy Creyer of ChicagoStreetStyle.com is there to capture it all.

"Here, people have the freedom to dress like individuals," Creyer said. "We don't have the 'machinery' of a fashion industry with landmark magazines and design houses like in New York, so we're a city of true individuals. It's actually better that way."

Below, Creyer delves into her city's colorful street style.

CNN: What sets Chicago's street style apart from other cities?

Creyer: The two main things that define Chicago style is the use of bright colors and layering. I think that use of bright color is very optimistic. It's very Midwestern -- you don't have that I'm-too-cool-for-school complete black ensemble very often. Even if they're all dressed in black, they have that little wink to them, like a purple streak in their hair.

People are used to layering to keep warm in spring, winter and fall, so the layering is a necessity but it's also a fashion statement. I like the idea that people have to put things together.

It's an endless combination of ways, not only to shop inside your closet, but to use pieces in different ways, and Chicagoans are very resourceful, so all of these concepts really come through in the layering.

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CNN: What's the mix of style flavors on the streets in Chicago?

Creyer: There are three neighborhoods that create the downtown look: the Gold Coast, Wicker Park and the Loop.

The Gold Coast is very upscale, fashion forward, designer and label-oriented, so this is the kind of street style that people think of as only being in New York but we have it here in Chicago as well. You find them on Rush Street, the main shopping street in the Gold Coast. Michigan Avenue is tourist central -- real Chicago style is on Rush Street.

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Wicker Park is the very young, hip vintage-oriented people who tend to brag about spending the least amount of money on their clothing. Their looks are thrifted, vintage or local designers you've never heard of. A huge bike culture there influences the style.

The Loop is the heart and soul of Chicago fashion because you see everything: hipsters, designers, hip-hop, preppy. People from all over the city come here to work, shop, go to school and hang out. It's a snapshot of the entire city.

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CNN: Is there a key store in each neighborhood?

Creyer: When I'm in the Gold Coast, I always shop at ikram, which I think is the most important American high fashion store. In terms of directional fashion, the stores that play a role in literally directing where fashion is moving next, ikram is the primary one. It's incredible for Chicago to have that resource here.

When I want to shop at H&M or Zara, I always go to the Loop because those are where the real Chicagoans shop. The ones on Michigan Avenue are so crowded with tourists.

In Wicker Park, I really like to shop at Kokorokoko. It is probably one of the most well-curated vintage stores in the country in terms of point of view. It has the best of '80s/'90s hip-hop and popular culture. They're a really important part of the cultural fabric of Wicker Park. That's something you see in Chicago a lot, the influence of these different stores play not only in fashion but in driving culture as well.

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CNN: What makes you stop someone and take a photo?

Creyer: I stop somebody based on whether or not they really are communicating a sense of individuality and self-expression with their look. It has to strike me instantly, there has to be that resonance.

I really like spotlighting people who are not afraid to say who they are through their clothing and appearance. Whether it's a Wicker Park hipster with a Mohawk, crazy tattoos and piercing with a 1980s dress on and riding her bike, or if she's somebody who is extremely well-dressed in the Gold Coast wearing a Marc Jacobs dress, it says more about how the person is put together than necessarily what the labels are.

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I walk past a lot of people in the Gold Coast who are just dripping in logos and monograms because to me that's not self-expression to be swathing yourself in branding.

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CNN: How did you develop the love for street style photography?

Creyer: I have always loved street fashion, since I was a 5-year-old in Greenwich Village. Street style to me represents the best of what cities have to offer, which is an endless kaleidoscope of human variation. This street style blog has been a lifelong evolution, 23 years in the making of me devouring fashion.

 
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