|Getting married in my Loehmann's dress.|
Loehmann’s flagship store stood on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Sterling Place, a mecca that drew true believers in high fashion at discount prices from all five boroughs, Long Island, Westchester County and, likely, the ends of the earth. It was ruled by a former department store buyer, Frieda Loehmann who was probably a very sweet lady. But with cheeks rouged scarlet, in her mourning get-up, with a boney finger waggling at shoppers who were sloppy at re-hanging, she made for a formidable figure. A little scary. (Okay, a lot.) And then there was a place called The Back Room. How’s that for nightmare material? In fact, The Back Room was the repository of the store's most exquisite merchandise, couture clothes at everywoman prices.
Loehmann’s—which didn’t carry menswear—was no place for the hairy gender. Yes, they were allowed in, but then immediately sequestered. Husbands mostly, having driven their wives to the store, they took their rightful places in chairs clustered at the door or on the landings where they dutifully read their newspapers and tried mightily not to look at the aisles where bizarre rituals were taking place. Here, between rows of racked garments, women of all ages, sizes and shapes did quick asexual stripteases. Back then, Loehmann's provided no dressing rooms. Perhaps their absence had to do with the Judeo-Christian ethic—waste not (on curtained, mirrored cubicles), want not (room for more racks). So, right there in the aisles, in full view of each other and anyone who dared peek above the pages of his New York Post, women stripped down to their slips (full and half), or panties and bra or (oy!) girdles, before stepping into whatever dress or skirt looked promising.