The Light Touch / A pick-me-up for the shopaholic
Loehmann's is the playground for adult women -- an escape clause for the bored and restless.
Whether you are a true shopaholic or a bargain hunter, Loehmann's is bound to satisfy. A few hours spent in this flesh factory does more for a woman's mental health than 45 minutes with her shrink, although the outcome can be more costly.
The true spirit of Loehmann's is found behind the scenes in the communal dressing rooms. Here, a body meets a body in all shapes and sizes. She who thinks she is grossly in need of some body-pruning finds solace in seeing a woman whose rear end can hardly squeeze into a size 12. Once a woman becomes "Loehmannized," she quickly learns to shed all modesty. Nudity has a sobering effect. Standing in front of the wrap-around-mirrors clad only in one's underwear evokes instant camaraderie -- a sisterhood united toward one common goal: Spending money.
For me, the Loehmann's experience either excites or repels depending on my mood. If I am tired, I grow easily impatient with the constant treks from the clothes racks to the dressing room and back again. This is hard labor. It's not easy lugging pounds of clothing while being weighed down by a heavy shoulder bag. No wonder women have that disproportionate look known as "The Shopper's Slouch." But when the mood strikes and time isn't an issue, no holds are barred.
Women are truly at their best in a state of semi-undress when they can let it all hang out. And the complaining never stops. Here we can vent with a vengeance. "My tennis elbow is killing me, I can hardly lift the hangars," one customer bellows, to which her friend, in the midst of slipping a turtleneck over her head, replies: "I hope all this stretching won't ruin my facelift." Another confesses: "I find that trying on clothes for a few hours every day provides the perfect workout I need." "Do I really need this rubber dress?" one friend asks another.
"You're kidding me, right?" her friend retorts. "It's absolutely fabulous. If you don't buy it I will."
This is the moment of truth. No woman who is holding a garment someone else covets will ever relinquish it. I once tried on a dress that looked terrible. There was no occasion that justified my wearing it. Then, my dressing room neighbor remarked how sexy I looked. I didn't hesitate buying it. That was in 2008. It still hangs unworn in my closet. I am convinced that Loehmann's places spies in their stores encouraging women to buy what they don't need.
While we are out there in this designer jungle clamoring for the latest Donna Karan, killing for the perfect Calvin and Ralph Lauren, and chipping our nail polish on zippers, are the guys -- aka "the bag men" -- who have been coerced into accompanying their wives and girlfriends to Loehmann's. Their job is to wait on the sidelines like obedient lackeys, holding the handbags and looking forlorn.
My friend Sue's husband, Steve, would sooner ward off a pack of wild wolves than be part of the Loehmann's scene. Once, under duress, she got Steve to tag along. "I left him looking somewhat bewildered when I dashed off to try on clothes. When I returned, he was flushed and perspiring profusely."
"What happened?" I asked Sue.
"He was accosted by three women, all of whom wanted his input before making their purchases."
"What did Steve tell them?"
"The truth," Sue said. "That the dresses made them look fat."
Steve has been permanently banned from Loehmann's.