CHICAGO — Longtime favorite of politicians, poker players and deal-makers everywhere, the cigar is emerging from smoke-filled backrooms into the mainstream — and Chicago is stokin’.
Three new cigar-friendly clubs have opened in the past year, exciting women to puff on a Partagas or a Hoyl de Monterrey along with the men.
“Almost one-quarter of our cigar smokers are women,” said Justin Jarvinen, co-owner of the Distant Mirror Cafe in Rogers Park, the oldest of the trio of smoking rooms.
Much like seeing a woman in a man’s shirt, said Jarvinen, “Men who see women smoking cigars think it’s sexy.”
To Jim Lasky, owner of The Hunt Club in the Gold Coast, the trend is “the Hoola-Hoop of the Nineties.” His 30-person capacity cigar room is filled beyond limits on weekends with single-malt scotch sippers sucking stogies.
“Men and women both try cigars; it’s a novelty,” said Lasky, who goes through 100 cigars each week, priced between $5 and $10 a piece.
“People want to be fat cats today,” said Dion Antic, owner of Harry’s Velvet Room, an intimate River North cafe modeled after a Moroccan smoking den.
“The Eighties were about getting in shape,” said Antic. “In the Nineties we live luxurious again.”

GLENVIEW, ILL. — From steel works to society looks, Mira Horoszowski has designed it all. The former mechanical engineer has left her mark on the North Shore, where Mira Couturier’s custom bridal and ball gowns have lured customers for 25 years. Along with her daughter, designer Yvette SimOne-Zajeski, Mira outfits 20 to 30 brides each year with custom-made gowns beginning at $2,500.
“Most girls, when they get married, have dreamt about dresses,” said Mira, who comes up with 10 new designs each year.
She allows brides to pick and choose figure-appropriate elements. “We don’t discourage their ideas, but add our own vision,” she explained.
Mira has clients from as far as San Francisco, and once she worked with a woman from the Czech Republic. In that instance, the bride wore burgundy.
Four fitters work in the front showroom, and another 25 work in back patterning, cutting and sewing. Each year, the team also produces a 40-piece made-to-measure collection featuring suits, dresses and evening gowns.
“They always come back,” said Yvette. “You get spoiled when something fits so well.”

CHICAGO — Glamour babies are bred — not born — and bred early at Cradles of Distinction.
The North Side shop at 1445 West Webster features everything for the upscale tyke, from custom toy boxes to designer bibs. A standout wrought-iron crib and cradle pair are part of the store’s exclusive line. At $1,400 and $1,100, respectively, the heirloom pieces move at a relative clip — one set per month since the store’s January opening.
Clothes tend to be trendy. Offerings include Recykidables infant jumpsuits made of old flannel shirts, Fattamano cotton fleece jackets and Baby Lulu cotton knit dresses, all priced from $30 to $60. Handknit skull caps and “cowboy booties” complete the look.
“You don’t have to have a kid to appreciate these clothes,” said owner Stephanie Thompson, who doesn’t have one. “It’s good fashion. We start ’em out young.”