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Lamenting Loehmann’s

bargain rackThe demise of Loehmann’s "says something about our altered expectations of the retail experience," writes Ginia Bellafante in The New York Times (1/25/14). Shopping at Loehmann’s, which started in a Brooklyn basement in 1920, required "time to wade through the racks of clothes often bearing obscure foreign labels you imagined would impress peers at a cocktail party only in Warsaw; time to wait in line to get into the communal dressing room; time to scour the racks outside the dressing room to see what others had discarded and re-enter."

The Loehmann’s sales staff, meanwhile, "was never ingratiating or particularly helpful. Salespeople couldn’t or wouldn’t guide you toward the Prada stewardess skirt you might have hoped to find or tell you anything about the collection it came from … because the point of shopping at Loehmann’s was that you brought not only a commitment to the hunt but also your own prodigious authority." As with other recently departed stores of its kind – Filene’s Basement and Daffy’s – it is "a casualty of … the notion that shopping should feel more like cultural enrichment than commercial diversion."

In other words, it’s a shopping experience wholly unlike the edited and curated collections of retailers like the Armoury, where the clothes "would seem to have their own PhDs," and you might learn "about a Neapolitan tailor whose trousers they sold," as well as "the unique type of iron the store used to press its garments." Ginia continues: "More and more, what it means to buy truly luxurious things is to engage the refinement of the person selling them to you … At Loehmann’s you were buying bargains, not conversation, from working-class people, not historians of fashion."