By  on February 7, 2002


CHICAGO -- If there was any debate over the hippest neighborhood frequented by fashionable young Chicagoans, MTV settled it.

When MTV chose the trendy Bucktown/Wicker Park area to film "Real World" last summer, it made the already popular neighborhood even hotter -- so hot, that some neighborhood residents protested outside the "Real World" house, claiming MTV was exploiting the area's artsy existence.

Nevertheless, all this exposure promises to generate renewed interest in the area's cutting-edge boutiques and hangouts, especially among the teenage and twentysomething crowd.

Tricia Tunstall, a co-owner of p.45, a boutique just around the corner from the "Real World" house, said her teenage and young-20s clientele is increasing and predicts the surge will grow if her business or merchandise is featured on the MTV show.

"We have a reputation of having the latest styles," she said of p.45, which is known for showcasing young designers. "We're seen as a funky store in a funky neighborhood."

Cara, one of the "Real World" girls, shopped at p.45 last summer with a film crew in tow. She purchased a pair of $110 Seven jeans -- there is now a 50-person waiting list for the style -- and a $30 tank top.

Most teen shoppers at p.45 follow Cara's lead, purchasing denim and T-shirts for everyday wear and also buying dresses and accessories for special occasions.

"We just had four 16-year-old girls in here shopping for the same dance," Tunstall said. "Customers who we've had for four years are now bringing their daughters in."

One girl purchased a $398 black, above-the-knee Catherine Malandrino dress with a scooped neck and floral trim around the hem. Tunstall predicted other dresses by the same designer in black, white, red and slate blue will sell well for upcoming proms.

"Our younger customers are kind of like miniversions of our older customers," Tunstall said. "They're very stylish. They read all the magazines. They're right there [in terms of their look]."

Some college customers use the p.45 Web site during the school year and then come into the store during their breaks. They often buy comfortable, casual items, such as a $105 pair of Susana Monaco drawstring Supplex nylon and Lycra spandex pants in red or black and a $78 Veronica M. stretch polyester and rayon wrap dress.

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