Loehmann’s Last Day: R29 Editors’ Odes

1 (1)Designed by Caitlin Owens.
When we found out that legendary designer-discount chain Loehmann's was going out of business, a collective wail arose from the R29 offices. Sure, plenty of us had never set foot in a Loehmann's. But, for those of us who had, this was an end-of-an-era-level tragedy. For a certain type of woman — possibly young, frequently broke, and definitely striving — Loehmann's was Valhalla: thousands of square feet devoted to the promise of transformation through clothes. Clothes we'd never be able to afford without those legendary red-ticket discounts.
Today, Loehmann's will close the doors on its Chelsea location here in NYC for good. To help channel our grief, we asked R29 editors to share their favorite memories of shopping the retail giant. From walking 30 blocks to get there and fighting over the last Calvin Klein clogs to the innocence-ending odyssey that was the communal dressing rooms, here's what we went through for a piece of designer glory.
"I grew up in suburban New Jersey, which means I was likely within walking distance of three separate Loehmann's stores at any given time. Considering how much our high school population valued name brands (and, by 2002's standards, I mean bright-pink Juicy Couture velour jumpsuits, ill-fitting 7 For All Mankind jeans, and those god-awful Steve Madden sneakers with the white platform), it was a plus — especially considering that, when you combined the ever-present promotional coupons, I could walk out with a prom dress for less than the price of a baseball tee at the local Red White & Blue Thrift.
Still, my favorite memory is also my first memory of Loehmann's, when I realized my aunt would be trying on an assortment of pantsuits in full view of six other women. You haven't lived until you've watched one woman try to rip a gold-sequined bandage dress off another woman in an attempt to divert her attention from a pair of Calvin Klein clogs in the communal dressing room. The best part was that a third woman ended up running off with them. Farewell, Loehmann's. You'll be missed."
—Lauren Caruso, contributor network editor
2Illustrated by Caitlin Owens.
"I went to school in Morningside Heights, which meant I was a mere 30-some blocks from the nearest Loehmann's. It was a type of pilgrimage I would make whenever I was bored. Or, really, when I didn't have class on Fridays. I'd stick in my headphones or find a friend and convince them that it was cathartic, it was transcendental, it was necessary to go to Loehmann's. Yes, even if we had been just last week.
I guess it's because I went for the first time at an early age with my mother during my seemingly endless 'bat mitzvah guest' years that I felt going to Loehmann's was a natural time waster. Whatever the case may be, I found myself seemingly drawn to the department store out of nostalgia — and because it was on the same block as Urban Outfitters and because I could actually buy something with the money left over from babysitting during school. I can't remember a single item I bought there. Maybe one pair of shoes or some underwear or a sweater I ended up feeling remorseful about moments after walking away from the register. But, either way, I'll always think of Loehmann's with a very specific mixture of desire for the racks and racks of random, red-ticket items and concern for myself and my shopping addiction. It definitely wasn't natural."
—Annie Georgia Greenberg, style editor
"Loehmann's in Paramus, New Jersey, May 2003. It was the first time I traded in my thrift-store dresses for something more appropriate for prom and high school graduation. I wanted to dress differently than all the other girls with their long gowns, so I opted for a knee-length cocktail dress that had a severe asymmetrical hemline — thigh to mid-calf, diagonally across the body — made from tulle. It was a tight look at the time."
—Jinnie Lee, staff writer
3Illustrated by Caitlin Owens.
"Mama Loehmann is a Brooklyn legend, and her business will always have a huge impact on my life and my career in fashion. Because I didn't have the money to spend on expensive clothes, and fast fashion and Internet shopping didn't exist when I was growing up, I learned to be a discerning shopper by putting in my time among the racks at Loehmann's, examining everything.
When I was growing up in Brooklyn, my mom used to take me there. My first internship-interview blazer from DKNY, my eighth-grade-graduation dress, the dress to my boyfriend's prom, countless Calvin Klein swimsuits, an amazing pair of Tod's lace-up combat boots, and these spring '08 Max Mara creepers — all Loehmann's finds.
The shared women's fitting room at the Sheepshead Bay Loehmann's was where you could observe a mix of Eastern Europeans eyeing up Versace gowns, Orthodox women scoring tailored skirt suits for synagogue, and self-conscious preteens nervously hiding among fabric forts made of Juicy Couture track pants and Michael Stars T-shirts. All fair game to share once an item was discarded to the 'edits' rack — much to the store associates' chagrin.
Jessica Silvester from The Cut wrote a beautiful story, which I sent along to my mom, sister, aunt, and cousins when it came out. Read it whether the store touched your life or not."
—Marissa Rosenblum, market director
6 (1)Illustrated by Caitlin Owens.
"I grew up lower middle class in Rochester, New York, and needless to say, postindustrial Rust Belt towns aren't exactly known for their fashion savvy. (The famine of beauty is real, y'all.) I've actually been through Loehmann's loss before. In 1997, my hometown Loehmann's closed shop, and my mother took me to the final day of its going-out-of-business sale. Looking back, it must have been tragically picked over, but seen through the eyes of a girl who'd done most of her clothes shopping at crumbling strip malls — Fashion Bug, Dots, and "slightly irregular" hoodies from the Champion Outlet, anyone? — it was mecca. I remember going wide-eyed through the racks, gingerly touching labels with designer names I'd previously only seen Sunday mornings on CNN's Style With Elsa Klensch or in teeny-tiny photos in Sassy magazine: Donna Karan, Todd Oldham, Anna Sui. In real life.
My mom spent more money on me that day than she probably should have. I remember feeling guilty even about the 90%-off price tags and her telling me 'But, honey, I want you to have nice things' in a way that was almost contrite. I left that day with two matching shantung cocktail dresses — one in turquoise, one in flamingo pink (very Swingers) — and a gorgeous, royal-blue-silk tuxedo jacket. I remember trying it on with no top underneath, trying to feel like Kate Moss in a Gucci ad, and standing in front of my family's bathroom mirror, pretending to smoke with my mom's red Maybelline eyeliner playing cigarette. Listening to a Suede CD, of course. I don't think I ever actually wore it out of the house.
I also got a gorgeous, poufy, extremely high-waisted black-silk skirt by Givenchy — back when Alexander McQueen was at the helm. I wore it with a vintage Adidas track jacket and my lug-soled Doc Martens to Belle and Sebastian shows and punk matinees at Coney Island High that fall. I remember getting compliments on it from badass-looking girls with choppy pigtails and lots of eyeliner, and I felt for the first time that dramatic clothes were a kind of power. My mom just unearthed the skirt and brought it to me over the holidays. It doesn't fit anymore, of course, but it was a happy reunion anyway."
—Leeann Duggan, style features editor
5Illustrated by Caitlin Owens.
"Having grown up in Brooklyn, going to Loehmann's — the big location in Sheepshead Bay — was almost like a rite of passage. One that my mother was excited to share with me despite failing to mention the communal dressing rooms. I guess I'll always associate the shopping mecca with me being a bashful 10-year-old, huddled in a corner, trying to slip into, well, probably an embellished tee? A dress for my fifth-grade dance? To be frank, the fact that I had to be naked in a room full of strangers left the biggest impression on me at the time. While I probably won't make a habit out of public nudity, I have Loehmann's to thank for pulling me ever so slightly out of my shell."
—Gina Marinelli, associate fashion features editor
"Oh, Loehmann's. What would I do without thee? You were always there for me. When I would pay for gas in change to reserve my minimum-wage paychecks for your prom-dress wonders. When I needed a 'power' suit for my first job interview, ever. When, on a whim, I'd shuffle through your Backroom treasures for designer finds on a major discount. When you'd send me discount points on my birthday. I'll miss you. And your kinda intimidating communal dressing rooms, too."
—Diana Nguyen, senior editor
4Illustrated by Caitlin Owens.
"My desire to move to New York had many facets: the media I grew up with (looking at you, Working Girl), my dream job, a sense of adventure, and, if I am being honest, fashion. I had always been surrounded by clothes, but I just knew that my wardrobe and style would take on a new life once I lived in New York. Sadly, my wallet and dream wardrobe did not match. And, cue Loehmann's. Like plenty of women before me, it became a sanctuary where my dreams became tangible, and every once in a while I got to take a treasure home.
During my first year here, I wore a few pieces from Loehmann's with everything and for every occasion. Like the impossibly comfortable four-inch black pumps I wore EVERYWHERE. To work, to job interviews, to dinner, to dates, to the High Line on weekends. In my head, they epitomized this romanticized version of a stylish NYC. They're now worn out, not fit for public consumption, and retired to the back of my closet. But, I haven't quite been able to throw them away yet — they represent an exciting time in my life, when I chased dreams so recklessly. And, that is what Loehmann's did so well. It inspired people to dream. Fashionably, of course."
—Rebecca Smith, SEO editor

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