sisty56 and I had a short e-mail exchange in which we mourned brands no longer available (in retail) like Ferre and Gigli. And yesterday I read that Filene's Basement have filed for bankruptcy, sunk by the economy and a two-year closing of the flagship Boston store due to renovations. (How dumb is that?)
I can name at least a dozen local designer boutiques and department stores where I once shopped, and now they're gone, a never-ending contraction in what's available.
(For Torontonians: Harridges, The Irish Shop, Sportables, Debbie Kiwiets, Robin Kay, Clotheslines, Valery, Dorrit, Creed's, Alfred Sung, Deborah Kuchmé, Tequila Mockingbird, Marilyn Brooks, Bent Boys, Wayne Clark, Loucas, Liptons, Eatons, Pat McDonagh, Marie St-Pierre, Ira Berg.)
If you are over 50, you have probably seen a beloved store close. Retail is risky and there's a natural lifespan... but am I hallucinating?
What happened in the last 15 years?
Even adjusting for my larger size (14-16), the clothes are not there. I'm deeply underserved by the current retail sector. I can see what I want in my mind's eye but I can't find it.
Who's left standing?
1. Department stores. Styles are unexciting, or the lone piece in my size is gone.
2. High-end brand-owned boutiques (Gucci, Escada, Boss, Vuitton), as uninterested in carrying my size as I am in paying their inflated prices.
3. Trendy shops for the mostly young, decidedly thin, short-skirted customer.
A 37 year old size 12-14 friend of mine was shooed out of Mendocino; the associate said, "We have nothing for you here."
4. Discounters. A spin through Winners, our Century 21, is as depressing as a visit to a locked ward.
What to do?
Online vendors are some help; thank the sweater gods for J Crew. I try to cozy up to Talbot's but it's hardly a thrill.
Local specialty stores such as Holt Renfrew (like Neiman Marcus) sell exquisite clothes but in small sizes, and there are few of them. Eileen Fisher wilts on me. Boutique or vintage stores are hit and mostly miss.
Several friends are going the dressmaker route, motivated by fabric they bought while traveling; that may be my next stop.
Dreaming of dresses
Several months ago, I dreamed I was cycling in the countryside, and came upon a village. In the tiny town, I saw a shop window, and the window was dressed in perfect clothes for me, and strewn with delightful scarves, hats, jewelry. (Perhaps I was in France, the clothes were kind of 'sophisticated Amelie'.)
But everything was closed, so I cycled on, vowing to come back, thinking "I must remember where this is".
I took the dream literally: the perfect shop is not here. Can I find it? Does it exist outside the dream? And will they carry size 14?