Friday, August 24, 2007

Filene's Basement

Filene's Basement, founded in 1908, will close its doors soon. I'm sad. This store is certainly a Boston icon. I have many memories of shopping at Filene's with my Mom, Grandmother, and Aunt, mostly during Christmas and sales. It was always crowded in there, hot, and not a comforting spot for a small child. I remember the smell of the place, and how the merchandise bins were just over my line of vision. My mother would deposit me nearby her, then jump into the fray with all the other ladies, grabbing for sweaters, underwear, shirts..... It alarmed me that the women would change right in the aisles. I remember particularly one old lady whacking me with her cane, saying "Get out of the way kid." I couldn't imagine shopping could be this important.

Later as a teenager and adult I went to Filene's basement to buy dreaded dresses for weddings or interviews, my first suits for work, and a long line of winter coats. (Filene's basement really was the best place to buy a winter coat.) Many Christmas presents--- Dad's shirts, grandfather's bag of socks, house dresses for my grandmother, sweaters for my mom, were bought at Filene's basement. All through the years I heard the reports of the bargains my aunt would get at Filene's. She worked in Government Center, and frequently during her lunch break would visit Filene's basement (with all the thousands of other women) keeping an eye on that certain item, and waiting for the 75% discount.

Filene's basement always had the fancy designer clothes--- Versace, Armani, Yves St. Laurent, Liz Claiborne, Saks Fifth Avenue....... Filene's was the first place in my life where I ever saw & touched truly gorgeously made clothes. What amazed me was the original prices of some of the items (2,000 dollars for a dress!) There was also that mysterious room (that I never entered) with the fur and leather coats, & the bridal room. At Filene's basement the prices for designer clothes were still expensive (by my standards). Sometimes there were slight flaws in the items. You had to hope your size was there. But it was a poor woman's dream to buy top line designer clothes for 1/3 of the price some society woman paid in NYC six months prior.

Alas! Filene's Basement. Adieu!

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