Friday, November 15, 2013

POST # 15 LOEHMANN’S DRESSING ROOM: women and their bodies

I don’t know a single woman who has never been to Loehmann’s. It’s a tribal rite of passage from adolescence to womanhood; the day you went with your mother to try on real grown-up clothes was a landmark event in every young girl’s life.
(note: for the benefit of my male readers, Loehmann’s is a chain of discount clothing stores dating back to the 1940s, distinguished by large communal dressing rooms with mirrored walls and benches; no men allowed.)

In its early days (when I went on a regular basis) you could not return anything and therefore you needed to bring someone with you to prevent impulse buys that you would later regret. In a heedless (and unaccompanied) moment I purchased a slinky black crepe dress, a designer sample with what were then called “floating panels” on the back. I thought I looked divine, but since I was 5’6” tall and weighed 108 pounds, the effect was more Olive Oyl than Marilyn Monroe. Anyhow, I had an important date and wanted to be as devastating as possible. When I walked out of my bedroom in my new purchase, my father took one look at me, cleared his throat and said, “Remember, Renee; you’re the intellectual type.” (not quite what I wanted to hear). When my date arrived, a few minutes later, he burst into uncontrollable laughter. That did it. I went back into my room and changed into something more appropriate for an underweight intellectual. Since Loehmann’s had a “no return’ policy at the time, my error in judgment (or self image) hung in my closet, haunting me for many years.

I had better luck on another occasion when I actually brought a suitor to the Loehmann’s store on Fordham Road in the Bronx. At that time, it had a balcony where men could wait until “show time” when their lady friend emerged for a thumbs up or thumbs down sign. The store had acquired some samples of form-fitting chiffon dresses made up of tiny pleats, Fortuny style. They clung to your body like a wet Grecian toga. Unlike my previous debacle, (maybe I had gained a few pounds) the sight of me didn’t elicit a laugh but an instant proposal of marriage. It was very flattering, but since I couldn’t walk around in a sheer toga the rest of my life, I didn’t see much future in the relationship.

My last visit to Loehmann’s was a few years ago. Fortunately for me, evil satirist that I am, they were having a half price sale on bustiers that day. For the benefit of my male readers, a bustier is like a fancy corset that laces up the front or the back, pushing your breasts up to your collarbone, while exposing your ass. The sight of all those women, all sizes, shapes, ages and colors in that vast mirrored dressing room, trying to get a look at their rumps, has stayed with me lo these many years and given me an endless supply of artistic inspiration.

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