Shed a tear for the "dowdy shopper"

Depressing article in the Times today regarding the future of Lord & Taylor’s, which has been going downhill for years but now is likely to cut off the “dowdy shopper” (“not Paris Hilton”).

With Wanamaker’s, Altman’s and Bonwit’s gone, where is the “dowdy shopper” (“not Lindsay Lohan”) to go? I’m not wealthy enough to do all my shopping at Brooks Brothers or Burberry or the Madison Avenue private labels, so I’m pretty much confined these days to Lands’ End and the occasional Ann Taylor sales rack. I am proud to be a “dowdy shopper” (“not Britney Spears”) as, by a Certain Age, a woman should damn well dress like a grown-up and know what looks good on her.

But it looks like I’d better rush toward the grave, as there’s I am being pushed from the watering hole by the Parises and Lindsays and Britneys . . .

Dowdy, huh. Let’s recap the expenditures I made courtesy of a birthday L&T gift card two days ago:

White Michael Kors t-shirt
Beautiful costume cocktail ring - cushion cut honking great topaz stone
“Pure White Linen” - the new Estee Lauder fragrance
a Chanel eyebrow pencil (blonde taupe, for those taking notes)
a very lovely Anne Klein watch

If the L&T in Bridgewater NJ is “dowdy”, it’s no surprise I find Abercrombie & Fitch repulsive. 99% of the stuff at the Bridgewater L&T looked to be made for the Lindsay/Jessica/Jessica/insertinterchangeableemotionallydisturbedteenybopperidolhere crowd. I’d say L&T were ahead of that particular game.


If you select very, very carefully, LLBean can be a source for the dowdy shopper. This spring I bought two long skirts and every boatneck sweater they offer–very happy with it all. I am about disgusted with Land’s End; they refuse to acknowledge that I have a waist.

I recently discovered the men’s department at L.L. Bean – finally, a place where a young woman can purchase shorts that cover one’s behind. And these shorts have pockets, unlike modern women’s shorts that have little scraps of fabric sewn in place that can barely hold a gum wrapper.

The Lord & Taylor at Crabtree Valley Mall closed several months ago. While I never bought clothes there, I did enjoy purchasing gifts (such as cologne); the sales staff always treated me like I was going to buy something.

“Dowdy”? Has looking professional gone completely out the window? I can’t afford to shop at L&T or Land’s End, but I would if I could.
I’m 29, 5 ft. 4 in and 140 pounds. There is not way I can fit into fashions made for the Paris Hiltons of the world. When I go to a job interview or a professional function, I **do not ** want everybody looking at my cleavage.

Hell, I just made a student worker leave the lab. “We do research here, with acids and other toxic chemicals. No open toed shoes, no mid-drift bearing tops. You were told that when you first came here. Go home, change into some senible clothes and stop rolling your eyes at me!”

Sorry…I have to say that I’ve always found lots of stuff at Lord & Taylor to be in the dowdy column. You can be sophisticated, mature, and professional without being dowdy. They just haven’t received the memo. I hate the boxy, knit jackets with the piping. I hate the shapeless skirts. I hate most of the shoes. There is a balance. I like a lot of the stuff in this catalog:

That example may be a bit casual for some work environments, but it’s just an example. There are other places that strike a balance between dowdy and mature-but-stylish.

It looked to me like whoever (whatever?) bought Lord & Taylor was intentionally running it into the ground. The store was one of the anchors of a local shopping center when that place was new (early '90s) and it was great. The last couple of years of its existence it sure went downhill with regard to the clothing, not dowdy but downmarket. Every time I went there I ended up wondering what the management was thinking. It looked like Dress Barn. (I.e. trendy, too-fussy items, not terribly well made.)

I don’t know if their styles appeal to you, Eve, but do you have Coldwater Creek in your neck of the woods? They’re a mall chain/website marketed towards those of us who aren’t nineteen anymore. Sometimes I find their stuff a bit colorful, but often I find good separates in shades that don’t clash with a blonde’s complexion (I’m blonde). Prices aren’t bad, either.

Though I must say the stuff they have on line isn’t as icky as the stuff I remember seeing in the store.

I love Coldwater Creek! I hesitated to mention it because it is a bit on the bold side. I adore the walk-in store in my neighborhood.

It’s a little too “hippie” for me.

My impression with department stores is that there’s usually another one waiting to fill the ecological niche when one goes under.

Sometimes it seems as though the buyers for a store will just take it into their heads to sink the whole chain. Recently Filenes was bought out and was running a bunch of clearance sales here in the Bay State. So I went bargain hunting (long before the shelves had gotten to the stripped bare stage) and was amazed at just how much incredibly ugly stuff was stocked. My only theory was that the buyers were saying “Buy out our store will you? Well try to unload this crap!”

I grew up shopping at Bonwit Teller, Altman’s, Wanamaker’s, Lord & Taylor–the great old family-owned stores, which catered to People of Quiet Good Taste. I remember the skirts my mother bought used to have little lead weights in the hems to make them hang correctly.

Saks, Bloomie’s, Bergdorf’s, Bendel . . . All a little too glam and trendy for my tastes. I’m from Philadelphia, we invented dowdy.

Women of a certain height are being pushed out of the market, too :mad: Saks brought back petite sizes, but Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus are cutting way back.

I love them- they let me continue in blissful denial about the size of my waist.

I was a Marshall Fields kid when we could afford it. Either that or my mom made my clothes (she was a great seamstress). I really loved that store back in the day. They had beautiful things, great service. When I started working and buying my own clothes I mostly went to Petite Sophisticate because none of the major department stores carried 0-2. But they’ve gone dowdy, too. 'Cept now I work from home so career clothes are a thing of the past.

When Wanamaker’s and Altman’s went out of business, I made my mother’s charge cards into refrigerator magnets . . .


Did she remember to take the curtain rods out, too?

Heh, I’d be doing well if I could just dress professionally and 26. If you think it’s hard being a lady of a certain age, try not being one! Lands End sometimes helps, but there’s that no-waist thing. J Crew, if one is ready to spend some cash, has a nice suit selection. Ann Taylor, sometimes, but they often fit me weirdly and they’re more expensive than they ought to be. Banana Republic used to be a savior, but this is one of those ugly years that comes by every so often. I think it’s just difficult to look professional at any age these days without looking like my grandmother.

and now worst of all, strawbridge’s 8th street store is no more. it was very sad seeing that store go down.

wanamaker’s is being redone to become macy’s. macy!!! in gimble’s town!!
might i suggest christopher and banks?

I forgot about Ann Taylor. They have great clothes. But yes, pricey.