Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Madeleine's Hosiery: A Top Secret Retro Lingerie Store in Queens
I'd tell you more about it, but then I'd have to kill you.
Well, I'll tell you what I can. But then this post marks the beginning and end of my career in investigative journalism. It's too scary out there.
Madeleine's Hosiery has always intrigued me. It's a little store in my neighborhood, about a ten minute walk from my apartment. I live in Astoria, a neighborhood in Queens that has a lot of family-run businesses.
Madeleine's is basically a relic from the 50's, as far as I can tell. It carries Rago girdles, the exact kind that would have been worn by the readers of Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing. You can buy waist nippers and tummy slimmers, with or without garters attached. They carry nylon slips in every length. They have packages of stockings that look like they've been there since the 60's. They sell cotton housedresses in floral prints. They have the biggest pairs of cotton panties I've ever seen. Nylons with seams up the back. Fishnets in nude and black.
Anyway, readers, I thought you might be interested in Madeleine's Hosiery since we lovers of vintage patterns so often end up talking about foundation garments--specifically, how they differ from modern offerings.
So I trekked up to Madeleine's with my camera, armed with a few questions for the staff. How long have they been in business? How well do the Rago girdles sell? What's the oldest thing in the shop? Stuff like that.
Well, as soon as I started snapping pictures of the storefront, an employee came out demanding to know what I was doing. I explained my purpose and asked if it would be all right if I came in to take more pictures and ask a few questions. The conversation went like this:
Employee: "No, I'm sorry. You'd have to ask the manager and he isn't here now."
Me: "Oh, okay, do you know when he'll be back?"
Employee: "No, I can't tell you that. I'm sorry."
Me: "Oh. Can I get his name?"
Employee: "No, I'm sorry. I'm just an employee, I'm not supposed to give out any information."
Me: "Huh. Can you tell me how long the store has been in business?"
Employee: "No, I can't give out any information."
And so on. Can you believe it, readers? I'd stumbled upon the most top secret lingerie store in the country! Do you think it's a drug front?
Anyway, I stuck around to browse a bit, with the employees keeping a suspicious eye on me. I have to say, at that point Madeleine's had lost a bit of its magic for me. I was expecting kindly ladies who would be thrilled to tell me about the history of this wondrous shop. Now its charm had faded a bit. The old packages of hose, just looked . . . old. As I browsed the Rago offerings, I noticed how small their selection of sizes is. They had one in a 30" in waist, and about five in a size 24". Seriously, what woman with a 24" waist is buying a girdle?
So that's that, readers. The most secret lingerie store in the world! It's going to take a more intrepid journalist than I to crack this case. Someone get the New York Times on the horn!