By Camille Acker
Styling: Teresa Gugliotta-Kremer
Photos: Tyesha Moores
Models: Frances Rich and Shaheem Anderson
These days, it’s easy to feel like a shadow is covering the land and the psyche. From the presidential election and its aftermath to the shortened days of a Midwestern winter, it’s easy to forget that warmth, laughter and light are just around the proverbial corner. But until spring arrives, how does the typical Chicagoan cope?
“Everyone always complains, ‘How are we going to do this?’ or ‘How are we going to get through this?’” says stylist Teresa Gugliotta-Kremer, a fashion buyer for Buffalo Exchange, when speaking of winter and perhaps of other things. But then she realized this: “People got through the winter before there was modern heating. I started thinking what did people used to do; what traditions people had (to use) to get through it.”
One tradition of the season is layering to keep warm and shopping in a variety of places to pull together a look that works for the occasion, the budget and the thermostat. The other tradition, of course, is gift giving and, when it comes to that, Gugliotta-Kremer has some ideas that can brighten anyone’s day while also sparking creativity. Her gift-giving strategy is focused on sating a need. She asks herself: “What need do I want to fulfill with this person?”
Gugliotta-Kremer brought these ideas to life in her re-creations of paintings for this special gift guide with a Chicago-style bent. When a gift card will not do, consider these inspired ways to bring light, beauty, warmth and green into the lives of your loved ones.
Johannes Vermeer, the seventeenth century Dutch painter of “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” loved light and its effect on the subjects of his paintings. Gugliotta-Kremer looked to Vermeer and the portraiture of sixteenth-century Renaissance and seventeenth-century Baroque painters for inspiration. Photographer Tyesha Moores captures models Frances Rich and Shaheem Anderson in the light of her camera, but also in poses where, as Gugliotta-Kremer says, they are “using a candle as a lamp.” The cathedral candle ($18.50 for candle) and floor-standing candle ($18.50 for candle; $75 for metal stand), from A New Leaf in Old Town, can help make you portrait-ready.
Portraits weren’t just about the person, but also the objects around them (and on them). Says Gugliotta-Kremer: “The poses aren’t all traditional and are using all different kinds of modern clothing and current fashions.” Most of the clothes were thrifted but mixed with high-end accessories like the Reinhard Plank hat ($330) from the Robin Richman boutique (similar hats found here). Unconventional combinations were all over still-lifes in the sixteenth and seventeenth century; skulls appeared to remind viewers of the ephemeral. Life is short and winter is long, so what are you going to do? For Gugliotta-Kremer, she tries to be “intentional with everything I surround myself with. You have to put a lot of effort into making things beautiful in the winter.”
Like a Christmas tree, rosemary topiary brings green into your home during winter. The sight and smell of the fresh herb can give life to a space and recalls medieval gardens where topiaries were centerpieces. According to Gugliotta-Kremer, in the 1950s, White House gardener Bunny Mellon was “largely responsible” for bringing topiaries back into fashion. Check out A New Leaf for that medieval and presidential feel ($45). Of course if you don’t want the upkeep of a mini tree in your apartment, fresh flowers could also suffice. Flowers for Dreams in West Town delivers with weekly ($180 a month), bi-weekly ($90 a month) and monthly ($45 a month) subscriptions with a portion of their sales going to charity.
Food and drink are the centerpieces of the holiday season. Pleasant House Pub in Pilsen even offers up medieval eats: meat pies. They’re sold cold to take home or bring to your favorite hostesss holiday party ($9.50 each). And for more warmth, Independent Spirits in Edgewater is the only place to buy a Germain-Robin brandy that won the store’s blind taste test ($65). Gugliotta-Kremer also has other ideas to keep you warm yet stylish. “You can put things that traditionally go under your clothes, over your clothes,” she says. “Switch where things go in your layering.”
Gugliotta-Kremer has “magical memories” of growing up in a home rich with diverse Christmas traditions: midnight mass, Italian cookies, a fish dinner on Christmas Eve. Traditions are easy to forget when you’re Snapchatting. It’s something Gugliotta-Kremer often thinks about this time of year, where she loathes the idea of bingewatching on Netflix and ordering in. Instead, dress up and get out. Says the stylist of making the holidays your own: “Celebrate your specific traditions and your culture.”