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Chicago milliner Maureen Swiertz wants her hats to feel like one-of-a-kind works of art, which is why she free-form sculpts them rather than letting a hat block do all the work. Like a flared coat or gloves in a color that pops, the hats are a fun way to add shape and style to your winter-weather look.

We?ve been coveting Swiertz?s vintage-inspired hats ($55 to $125) in her Baubles & Whatnots Etsy shop for the past year, so naturally we were thrilled to hear about her recent partnership with the edgy West Town boutique Vile & Valiant. That is, you can now buy the goods offline.

Armed with a fashion design degree from Columbia College, a love of hand-sewing and a collection of retro clothing, Swiertz combines her formal training with her artistic sensibilities to shape wool felt into jaunty, feminine shapes.

Beyond her cloche-like creations, Swiertz also makes fascinators ($75 to $315) for wearing to cocktail parties or weddings; the hand-beaded toppers can take as long as a week to complete.

Swiertz?s hats are a natural fit at Vile & Valiant, a store that revels in the playful, original and hard-to-find. As for the milliner herself, she gives all the credit to the fabric--which, she says, tells her what it wants to be.

Baubles & Whatnots at Vile & Valiant, 1359 W. Grand Ave.; 312-972-2071 or

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