As native of Alabama and participant in Teach for America, Amber McCulloch brings a unique perspective to Chicago. After a two-year stint in another neighborhood, Amber became an enthusiastic resident of Lincoln Square in 2007, happily soaking up the area’s amenities and attractions. A lover of literature, her adventures often start in the Sultzer Library, but often take her to the many public spaces, welcoming cafes, and independent boutiques that help to create Lincoln Square’s ineffable charm.
As a stylish gal of size, Amber also attends many fashion events throughout the city and reports on them in her blog, www.stylepluscurves.com, which offers street-chic fashion tips for full-figured women. Her infectious laugh, delightful drawl, and perceptible zeal for living in Lincoln Square make her a singular resident in the neighborhood.
1. How long have you lived in Chicago and what chain of events led to your residency in Lincoln Square?
I was born and raised in the deep south–Alabama, y’all!–and after college in Tennessee and grad school in North Carolina, I was ready for a change of scenery, so I headed West! I spent two years teaching English on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico with Teach for America. It was a wonderful experience, but I knew that I couldn’t live there forever. So I put all of my belongings in storage, and ventured out on a cross-country road trip to find my new home. After visiting all of the cities on my short list, I knew that Chicago was calling to me. I packed up my life and moved to the “big city” over 6 years ago, and I can’t imagine leaving any time soon.
For the first two years in the city, I lived in Wicker Park, which was right on the cusp of converting into the hipster paradise that it is now. When the skinny jean-clad kids rolled in on their bikes, I knew my time there was at an end. From the first moment I strolled into Lincoln Square, I knew that it was a perfect fit for me. It’s cool without being pretentious, and it’s quirky and unique without taking itself too seriously–and only a few hipsters roam freely through the streets.
2. Which amenities or attractions do you most enjoy about the area?
Welles Park is my favorite place to spend a summer afternoon! After going to the Sultzer Regional Library, which is amazing, I’ll often stop and sit somewhere in the park and start reading one of my new books–looking up every now and then to watch the older gents playing bacci ball, the babies in their strollers, or a couple playing frisbee.
I also love the good beer and great service I get at 42 Degrees North Latitude. I definitely spend way more time there than I should!
And have I raved about the shopping yet? I have to hide my debit card whenever I go into Eclecticity, Secret Closet, Ravensgoods, Embellish, and Savvy Seconds. Oh, and there’s the best antique store called Hoard on Damen that I can spend hours in!
3. You are a a new blogger, focusing on street chic plus-size fashion. When did you launch the blog and what made you decide to create one?
As a tall, curvy woman, I often lamented at the sad state of plus-size fashion. The options are extremely limited and the quality of the clothes is usually dismal. Shopping as a larger woman can turn into a never-ending scavenger hunt–and it’s so easy to accept what is readily available on the racks, even if it doesn’t make you feel pretty.
After one too many fruitless shopping trips, I could feel myself settling for clothes that were just ordinary and didn’t draw too much attention to what I think are my “problem areas.” That was a huge wake-up call to me. I mean, fashion is the way we present ourselves to the world. It’s supposed to be fun…and a great dress or a gorgeous sweater can literally change your mood and the outlook of your entire day. Why should plus-size women be ostracized and forced into shapeless T-shirts and baggy jeans? I knew I needed to completely changed my approach to fashion.
I began to invest only in clothes that made me feel beautiful, and I made an effort to incoporate the styles and trends from the runway into my curvy girl closet. I started my blog, www.stylepluscurves.com, after women started asking me about my shopping habits and how to put together a flattering, stylish outfit. I realized that by sharing my inspiration, tips, shopping trips, pictures, and stories, I could save other full-figured women a lot of frustration and help them see that fashion can be fun and fulfilling, no matter what your size.
4. One cannot blog without respite! Where are your favorite local places to relax and renew?
Relaxation to me means reading and coffee, so I enjoy spending time at the Perfect Cup on the weekends. Another one of my downtime pleasures is going to Paciugo for gelato! It’s the absolute best gelato I’ve found outside of Italy. Oh, and I’m mad for movies and adore the Davis Theater. Even though it’s a little rundown, it’s definitely got character!
5. What is the wildest, weirdest, or wackiest thing you have seen in the neighborhood?
Well…things get a little out of control in Lincoln Square around Mayfest. The craziest thing I’ve seen involved a man, a woman, a dumpster, and a few rats…in a darkened alley behind the Hansa Clipper. Let’s just say that I have a new respect for the power of alcohol to erase all vestiges of self-restraint. It’s a good story, though, and I always laugh when I go past that alley.