Sunday 17th December 2017
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Goodbye to all that

loehmanns

Loyal reader Nancy wrote in yesterday to say she was surprised I hadn’t weighed in on the passing of Loehmann’s, and to ask if I had any special memories of the place. And indeed I do, although they don’t involve any momentous scores, but instead, epic humiliation at the hands of my bargain-happy grandmother Gelta, for whom Loehmann’s was an opiate as powerful as heroin. It was the only place she would take me shopping, and one of the few where she would buy for herself, even though my grandfather was a successful man who wanted only for her to have the nicest things. Part of the horror of going to Loehmann’s with Gelta was that she had no filter, and this could spell trouble for an easily embarrassed 14 year-old girl in a communal dressing room. Like the time I’d just tried on a pair of white jeans with rainbows on the pockets and she started picking indelicately at the inseam, and announced, “Kimberly, these are TOO TIGHT IN THE CROTCH, ”  loud enough that all of the women in our direct proximity actually turned around to see what she could be referring to. If the ground had opened up and swallowed me whole at that moment, I would only have been grateful.

That’s my memory. Now I want to hear yours. Was it something like an amazing Helmut Lang coat, like Nancy, or a markdown-crazed family member, like me?

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Posted on January 30th, 2014 39 Comments

39 Responses

  1. Erin says:

    I have two memories of the Loehmann’s in my neck of the woods of Long Island. The first one was it was one of the first stores I remember going to that had a communal dressing room, which was a bit of a shock at the time. The second was that I was able to score a very nice dress for a middle school event for something like $13. Of course I should put very nice in the context of the 80’s, which meant it had lots of ruffles and lace, a bit of a Little House on the Prairie mixed with Laura Ashley vibe.

    So, I guess my memories lie closer to yours than to some amazing shopping experience.

  2. Adrien says:

    I don’t have a Loehmann’s story but I wanted to tell you that my mother did the “IT’S TOO TIGHT IN THE CROTCH” thing to me too when I was a teenager. She also made a loud dressing room comment about my breast stretch marks as well. Thanks, Mom.

  3. Dianne says:

    My mom was a dedicated Loehmanns shopper. She made weekly trips from our house in Pomona to the Loehmanns in Paramus NJ-wednesday was the day the new stuff was put outso it had to be wednesday. I remember the dad chairs in the corner near the dressing rooms and the i remember hating it whenever she took me. I don’t like shopping, and hataed back when I was a gawky teenager. I would yawn as soon as I got in there and my mom would yell at me for that. I hated the communal dressing rooms but when I complained my mom would tell me about the old Bronx store where there wre no dressing rooms and you tried on clothes in the aisles!

  4. Cara says:

    I spent many happy hours in the Loehmann’s on Rt. 9 in Natick,playing hooky from my studies at Wellesley. I found a Missoni raincoat, white with the typical Missoni zigzag that I wore to shreds. Coming from Europe where these kind of stores do not exist, I though I had died and gone to heaven. Still love a good bargain. Kim, I take your grandma over my grandma any day but can fully understand the adolescent mortification.

  5. Faith says:

    People outside the tri-state area will never truly appreciate how wonderful Loehmann’s was, or how the stores that popped up in the past 15 years and have private dressing rooms are not the same as the old ones were. I worked there in high school and we were required to wear “hosiery” and closed toe-shoes every day. I spent many hours working the dressing room and tucking women into clothing that they assured me would fit once they put their “garments” on. RIP Loehmanns.

  6. Viajera says:

    Your grandparents sound wonderful. My father was that way with my Mom, and I think that kind of only works if you’re dealing with a woman who is frugal to begin with. Otherwise, could be trouble. Depending. Anyhoo.

    I’ve done my share of Loehmann’s, but out here in the candya** West, you could also use a private room if you wanted. And sometimes you might have to wait. I always did.

    I had one of those bad moments too, but it wasn’t at Loehmann’s.

  7. Lesley says:

    I am devastated to learn about Loehmann’s!!! I can live without Gray’s Papaya and lots of other institutions that have gone extinct, but this is the last straw. Manhattan has turned into a tourist shopping mall that has lost its soul!

  8. Aprovecharse says:

    I grew up on stories of my mom’s epic scores at the Loehmann’s in the Bronx in the 60s and 70s. It was probably the formative site of her sale obsession that she has since passed on to me…

  9. gablesgirl says:

    My other doing something similar to your Gelta but instead it was YOUR BOSOMS DON’T FIT IN THAT. Ah Loehmann’s RIP.

  10. Deborah says:

    I walked away from Loehmann’s with zero purchases as soon as I discovered the open dressing room. It triggered a high school gym dressing room flashback. In the 1970’s when I had to change into and out of a horrid one piece polyester/cotton elastic waisted snap front navy blue gym suit five times a week. Not sure how I thought I looked worse…in my shaby (but clean) undergarments or in the “sausage casing gym” suit. Yes, I know I’m ancient.

  11. Drew says:

    Oh, those horrible communal dressing rooms! And the knowing salesladies who, without uttering a disparaging word oozed a certain contempt.

    On the bright side, I scored some beautiful A-line skirts (back when no one was carrying that style, which is to say, many years ago).

  12. Caroline says:

    Ahhh.. The summer after my freshman year in college I worked at lohmans in westchester.. The communal dressing room was basically my station..and it was kind of a hoot..Never, ever boring..the need for a good deal truly trumps all.
    If it makes you geel better your grandmother was not alone in the embarrassment game!
    Why they hired me I’ll never know.. Home from art school with ridiculous hair..!’
    A few good scores but honestly I’ll never forget being a captive in the lohmans changing room. R.I.P,

  13. edie says:

    I used to live about 5 minutes away from the 7th Ave Loehmann’s, so I always just took stuff home to try on–I usually kept it. Shopping with a tape measure helped. No horrifying memories–only happy hunting ones–in particular, a Marc Jacobs coat marked down from $1750 to about $275. Sort of bizarre and can only be worn over something totally non-bulky, but it’s a gem, and I smile whenever I put it on. Had some fun with my two daughters there as well. Alberta Ferretti jackets, as I recall. I have missed the old place for several years–it hasn’t been the same for a while. RIP indeed. It was terrific, but not lately.

    • Dianne says:

      In the 1960s and 1970s there were no returns. There was no credit card use either. It was cash or checks only.

  14. Lori mac says:

    In the 70s, I had gone with my mother to an outlet in Secaucus (remember those?)and I saw a lipstick red smock style rain coat. I dithered and dithered about whether to buy it, and ultimately my mother pulled me out of there without the coat. Driving away, I immediately knew I had made a mistake, but there was no turning my mother around. That evening, we went to visit my Aunt Marion, the consummate shopper, and she took me to Loehmann’s. As we walked in, I was complaining about my failure that afternoon to snag the raincoat. To explain to her how magnificent it was, I said, “It was just this shade of red.” and I reached into a nearby rack and pulled out a garment. Lo and behold, it was the same raincoat!! Needless to say, I bought it right away! This was my Loehmanns shopping miracle, and I still have that raincoat in the “history” section of my closet.

    • Leah Z says:

      You said the “history” section of your closet! I now have the right term…thank you

      • Lori mac says:

        Sometimes my husband also calls it the “museum section” as in “If you need more room in your closet, why don’t you clean out the museum section?” As if….

  15. Alyson says:

    In the ’80s when I was in middle school, my mom & I were weekly Loehmann’s regulars. Ours was the store in Brooklyn on a tiny street just off Flatbush Ave. near Macy’s. We’d always visit mid-week when the “new stuff” got put out, and after school for me. Like Gelta, my mom could have shopped anywhere and frequently did (Saks & Bergdorf’s), but she just couldn’t resist the siren call of cut-rate designer goods. And those communal dressing rooms! To this day, I will never forget the initial shock to my ten year old eyes of older ladies sans underwear in their pantyhose; taking the “panty” part quite literally.

  16. Dana says:

    The part of New Jersey I grew up in was more of an Annie Sez or Burlington Coat Factory area, but I did go to Loehmann’s a few times. The only thing I purchased was a $295 Ralph Lauren red leather and silver punk inspired bracelet for $3 in 1990whatever. I still wear it.

  17. Cory says:

    I was sad at first when Barney’s on 7th Ave gave way to Loehmann’s, but it quickly became a regular stop when walking home from work, or shopping Chelsea. Once in the mid-90s I snuck into one of the private members-only sales and came away with a black knee-length Moschino coat with 3-dimensional red velvet flowers that snapped on at the top of long green ribbon stems. At $300 it was the most expensive thing I had ever purchased at the time, but worth every penny. I still love that coat and still get compliments on it almost 20 years later! Ah, RIP Loehmann’s.

  18. Katie says:

    I blogged about the passing of Loehmann’s as well (http://smilingmagpie.com/2014/01/16/rip-loehmanns/), though from the perspective of a girl in Portland, Oregon who’d never seen clothes like that before. My favorite winter formal came from the Back Room (black velvet on top, three tiers of gold lamé on the bottom – very junior Dynasty) and it’s where I bought my first pair of designer jeans. I come from a long line of bargain shoppers, proud to have cut her teeth on Loemann’s.

  19. Nancy says:

    You crack me up! Thanks for taking my nudge and doing this post.

  20. EVE says:

    My memory of Loehmann’s and your grandmother involved my engagement dresses. I had fantasies of shopping at Neiman Marcus for the perfect dress. But Gelta a native New Yorker and devotee of wholesale and Loehmanns, was not about to buy my dress at Neiman Marcus. On a trip to New York she dragged me to Loehmann’s on Fordham Road. I was sullen the entire trip. However, much as I hate to admit it I found 2 beautiful dresses designed by Ceil Chapman, who was a designer of note in the 50’s. In those long ago days you could really find some treasures.

  21. Allison says:

    Oh Loehmanns! If anyone brings up the name of that store my mother laughs hysterically and tells the story of the first time she took me there as a child, how wide my eyes got, how my jaw dropped, and how my face went red when we walked into that huge, round, mirrored dressing room in the Sharpstown Loehmanns in Houston. Her telling the story in my presence is just as embarrassing as the childhood event. Oy vey!

  22. Martina says:

    There was a Loehmann’s in Swampscott, MA. I bought an amazing red mohair sweater, with popcorn stitches on the front. Well, amazing until it stretched a little and two popcorns ended up right on top of my nipples. Not a good look for a 23 year old girl in an Irish bar.

  23. Heather says:

    I love all these stories! I hadn’t been to a Loehmann’s in years, but I did buy my first ‘real’ job interview suits at the Loehmann’s just off Union Square in San Francisco around 2001. Since I now (fortunately) have a salaried job I’m not quite as willing to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. But I did go into an Loehmann’s on the Upper West Side last summer because I wanted something generic that I didn’t want to pay a lot for (a strapless bra for a dress I’ll probably never wear again). They had installed greeters, like at Walmart. What happened?

    • Viajera says:

      I’m not sure, but my theory from the bleachers is that during the recession, more of the good designer stuff got diverted to online sales.

      Or maybe they just ran out of money and couldn’t compete for the good stuff anymore?

      Whatever the cause, it seemed to me that their merch hasn’t been as good for several years. I don’t really know why. It’s a shame.

  24. Sheila says:

    There’s no question that the Loehmann’s of my fond memories bears little resemblance to the store today, but I’m still a little sad to see it go.

    I was introduced around 1980 by a college roommate who worked there (in Miami) during breaks. Even though I’d worked part-time as a bookkeeper for a boutique in Tampa, “real” fashion was 100% out of reach. Not just financially – there was no Saks or Neimans or Bloomies in central Florida at that time. Maas Brothers (now Federated’s Burdines) was as close as I’d get.

    After graduation, I returned to Tampa, a career in a conservative field and a single Loehmann’s, in Clearwater, 30 miles away. Once a month or so, I’d cross the causeway, but not to go to the beach. The entire afternoon was devoted to their long racks of bargain possibilities. At this time, they didn’t accept credit cards and there were no refunds or returns.

    I should also note that the likelihood of my VW Scirocco needing a repair soon after was directly correlated to the $ spent that day.

    At that time, they provided almost all of my work clothes. Ok, there was the occasional suit from the Hart Schaffner & Marx store (on sale), but most everything else had an unpronounceable Italian label or none at all (remember when they cut them out?)

    Loehmann’s played a part in so many memorable events of my life at that time. My mother’s MoB dress? Yep. Rehearsal dinner dress? Ditto. Grad school interview suit? You know where it came from.

    The store(s) in Atlanta continued this tradition for me until their decline. The liquidation sale was two weeks ago. And even though I’m no longer trading lunch money for clothes, I do miss the hunt.

  25. Leslie says:

    I’m from DC and never got to experience Loehmann’s (although it was famous enough that I knew what it was, and wished to go).

    What your story reminded me of was shopping for my first bra at 13 at Sears. A this branch, the lingerie department was right on a main aisle. I was not enthused about the mission and was trying to stay further back, away from public view. My mother insisted in browsing the racks right next to the aisle, waving one bra after another over her head: “HON? WHAT ABOUT THIS ONE? THIS LOOKS LIKE IT MIGHT FIT YOU, TRY THIS ON “. As MEN walked by, glancing over. Oh, the trauma. I still hate bra shopping.

  26. Tamara says:

    Never a fan. Those dressing rooms could scar you for life!

  27. Kate says:

    There was a Loehmann’s in Skokie in the north shore suburbs of Chicago – my first experience was in the late ’90s.

    We went to the wayyy back – and I spied a Donna Karan Collection black jersey dress that was super duper double top secret on sale.

    I went to the communal dressing room and tried it on. I was dubious, since it fit like a second skin (however, I was about 25 at the time, so why was I even doubting?).

    A lady in the dressing room told me, “Honey, if you don’t buy that dress, you’re going to regret it.”

    I bought it – $800 original tag, $45.00 final sale.

    I still have it, and wear it to this day.

  28. It’s amazing how many people have a story about that communal dressing room. Like everyone.

  29. Donna says:

    I loved my Loehmann’s in Cali. It was a bit like heroin for me, too. No epic finds, but lots of little ones. We had a communal dressing room but they also had private rooms. I didn’t think theirs was anywhere near as bad as one store in the Village where you just tried on things in the rear of the store.
    I’m so bummed that they’re going out of business! It’s an institution. I moved back to my hometown in 2008, where sadly, there are no Loehmann’s. But I kept hoping that they would eventually open one here. Guess that’s not going to happen.

  30. Jenny Rappaport says:

    A burgundy velvet dress to wear to my brother’s bar mitzvah in 1997. I loved that dress SO much! 🙂

  31. Kristin says:

    Oh Loehmann’s and your communal dressing rooms! I still carry the psychological scars. My mother used to drag me to the one in Norwalk, CT all the time, and she used to make out like a bandit! I think I got a few dresses there for school dances, but sadly I don’t think I saved any of them.