I wasn’t fortunate enough to live in Evanston when the Marshall Fields department store was here. Though I couldn’t have afforded to shop there anyway, it must have been nice knowing the town had an established department store – for all those catch-all, department store-y purchases no one ever thinks about until the day before you need them, like the bottle of perfume for Mom on Mother’s Day or the button-down shirt for your son to attend his friend’s bar mitzvah because the shirt he wore at Christmas dinner is now two sizes too small and, curiously, stained with bicycle grease.
When we moved to Evanston in 1997 I was pregnant with our first child and clueless as to where to find clothing to outfit said bambino. We’d registered for baby items at Toys ‘R’ Us and figured on the convenience of shopping for things like toddler clothes and toys at the Evanston location (now gone) in the Dempster-Dodge Plaza.
When that first child arrived, he claimed two titles: First Grandchild and First Nephew on both sides of the family. The influx of gifts was astounding. Baby GAP was at the height of its popularity – and our son received more navy blue & white striped pants, jackets, onesies, socks, bibs and jammies from that store than he could possibly wear. Thankfully, the Evanston GAP carried baby clothes at that point in time, so quite a few fashion exchanges were made.
Our family grew to include three children. As such, our costs rose while our roots sank deeper into Evanston. I discovered treasures like Marshall’s on Main Street and Hand Me Downs to outfit the kids. I’d scour the Salvation Army store and also discovered one of the greatest benefits of being shorter-than-average-in-stature (I’m 5’0” and my husband’s 5’8 but hopeful): our kids, also diminutive, frequently "inherited" friends’ and neighbors’ clothes.
Oh, believe me, I envied folks who’d shop at Wild Child on Davis St. (also gone now) to buy the overpriced yet adorable EVANSTON sweatshirts for their toddlers. I wished I’d been able to adorn my drooling spawn with such fashionable coutre. Instead, I’d pop into the Junior League of Evanston – North Shore Thrift House or (horror!) hightail it to Skokie’s Old Orchard Shopping Mall for sales at their children’s stores. Still I preferred the places closer to home; I’d get so much more clothing for my dollar, and the convenience of staying close meant the world to me.
Then, Target and Old Navy seemed to take over the world.
The one-stop-shopping convenience of Target on Howard St. was undeniable – pick up a pair of socks for the 10-year-old, a few boxes of macaroni and cheese, and – oh look! A sale on tights for my little ballerina! Thank goodness I stopped here for those socks!
Maybe, at that point in time, a lot of us were doing the same thing … and maybe, at that point in time, the Evanston GAP decided to cut out its children’s section. I didn’t even notice. My kids were happily wearing either their Target clothes or those from friends and neighbors. Maybe a little “too” happily: when my daughter was in 2nd grade, her wonderful teacher approached me in the hallway to ask if we needed clothes from ESCCA since Maggie had worn the same outfit six school days straight.
I know, perhaps I should care more about my children's clothes, but for me, life’s just too short. I myself attended parochial school for a number of years, wearing a plaid uniform, envying the “free-range” public school kids for their unabashed fashion liberties. While my own kids might seem like ragamuffins at times, I’m that mom you know who’s just happy her kids dress themselves. I love not having to feel like it’s a fashion show Around Town. It’s one of the things about Evanston I love the most.
However, one of our kids recently lamented, “I think I need new jeans that fit … and not the lame kind.” What does that even mean? We tried The Levi's Store on Church (no sizes for kids). Uncle Dan’s (cute pants; no jeans). Old Navy in Skokie (too Old Navy-ish, whatever that implies). Several stores in Old Orchard (just not right). Marshall’s. Target. Thrift stores. No luck.
I’d almost given up … until I fell back into The GAP and hit the motherload. Evanston's little GAP carries kids’ clothes again. The sales are decent. We can walk there. And the quality is better than some of the alternatives like Target. And, most of all, at least this month, my kids don't think their stuff is “lame.”
While in the GAP dressing room, though, I had to stop and laugh. My kids were trying on jeans and shirts (buy 2 items, get the third free until Tuesday!) while I paced outside their doors. I almost screamed when my eyes caught limbs entangled under a dressing room door, then quickly realized the “patrons” were mannequins.
Thank you, Evanston GAP, for bringing back the kids’ section. Just try to keep the dressing rooms a little more kid-friendly, okay?