Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Limited Loss

Announced today: The Limited is closing all its 250 stores, laying off 4,000 people and abruptly sealing the vault on my '80s-'90s fashion lusts.

Once upon a time...
When The Limited opened in my local mall I suddenly felt hip, chic, with-it or whatever we called "being in fashion" at the time. The clothes were aspirational but affordable, stylish but not silly. The last 15 years of The Limited were not pretty, but back in the day...

The Limited began in 1963 in Columbus, Ohio, as a single store in a shopping center. It was named The Limited because it specialized in a limited amount of merchandise that turned over quickly. Founded by Leslie Wexner, the stores grew rapidly. Wexner then purchased Victoria's Secret in 1982, followed by Lane Bryant, Lerner Stores, Abercrombie & Fitch, Henri Bendel, and Bath & Body Works. Wexner started Express, for younger women and men, and Limited Too as a much younger version. He turned Abercrombie & Fitch, once an upper-crust sporting goods and related haberdashery, into teeny bopper heaven and drained Henri Bendel of its sophisticated quirkiness. But he was a huge success, the stores becoming fixtures in the retail firmament.

Last week

Eventually Wexner sold off or consolidated many of the brands. The Limited itself was sold in 2007 and continued to limp along under new ownership. I only noticed my store was closed last week when I ran through the mall to check out the Zara sale. I just never thought they would all be gone.

It's not been given credit, but The Limited was an early example of fast fashion. The stores were fairly small with a finite selection of clothing, often within a theme of color or style. There would be a few accessories— belts, scarves, handbags, jewelry— to complement the clothing. You could never find an extensive range of anything (not a plethora of winter coats for example). The merchandise had a bit of a young French feel. Think Jean Seberg in Breathless.

For the working gal with style

I remember once buying a brown tweed suit with a faux fur collar. I thought it tres jeune fille. It was hot as hell to wear in the office, but I stubbornly did for a season or two. In recent years I would walk into the stores, go a few feet, sense too much polyester in the air, turn around and leave. They "lost it" so very long ago.

There are a few other stores on life support. I hear Chico's and Talbot's are limping along. I think they've said that about Talbot's for years. The Taylors are suffering, both Ann and her Loft. I always wonder how The Gap can still be in business, but I love Old Navy. Go figure. J Crew and Banana Republic may not hold the fascination they once did. Shopping in general has left me feeling a bit "meh" these days.

But you surely know this yourself. All it takes is one lovely thing to catch your eye, and the (shopping) world looks bright again, the future—well— unlimited.


  1. Yes, I remember buying colored jeans and matching raw silk tops there and feeling very stylish! Another sad fashion story.