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My Imagination 

Monika Bukowska, 25, moved to Chicago's west side from Poland when she was eight years old. She lives in Wicker Park, works in retail, and fronts the band Brilliant Pebbles.

Tell me about your outfit.

It's stretchy fitness pants and a Speedo swimsuit, which balance out the dress. I like gem details [holds up ringed fingers].

How would you describe your style?

Pippi Longstocking meets glam superhero meets space sorcerer. Ripped-up, taped-up stuff with fancy. I always have elements of animals. I'm superstitious. For shows, I always wear tails. It's playful, but that's also my animal essence. I believe that a lot of what I like comes from growing up in the 80s in communist Poland and being "privileged" to get cool and colorful clothes and toys from America. I'm really into kids' clothes lately--especially little boys' T-shirts since they seem to have more surreal and powerful images on them. I like to combine things that may not go together, like dirty woolly gloves with a shiny zirconium ring, a fancy dress with a giraffe purse.

What are your fashion influences?

I just try and match up the outside to my inside. My only real influence is Elsa the Baroness [Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven]. She was the mother of Dada. I made this teakettle hat because of her. I change clothes 15 times a day, each time I'm changing who I want to be. It's a compromise of imagination and weather and being a walking sculpture.

Where do you shop?

Thrift stores, Walgreens, Urban Outfitters, Rainbow, wig stores, Jewel-Osco, dollar stores, and Marshalls. I mostly look for good deals.

Do strangers comment on your outfits a lot?

People are really nice, usually. Like if I am cruising around on my scooter that is covered in toy animals, they will point me out to their kids. Since I am friendly, mostly it's just compliments. As a show woman naturally I feel more comfortable with expressive and symbolic fashions.

What do you do for fun?

Everything is fun to me. --Jessica Hopper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Mireya Acierto.

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