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!


  1. Wow, what a pity! What with all the retro-comeback a la Mad Men, a store that specialises like this could really cash in.... get themselves a web presence/online ordering, a blog.... too bad Mr Manager wasn't in Gertie, you could have pitched him some sort of an idea to run a blog for him ;o)

  2. So weird! I'm a conspiracy theorist, so I think it's obviously a gang hangout :)

  3. This story cracks me up. Don't you wonder how some places stay in business with service like that?

  4. How utterly disappointing! I would love to have a shop like that here in Richmond, VA. We have some decent vintage clothing shops but nothing like that. I have an to find out when the manager will be there and show up armed with a plate of home-baked brownies and a big smile and tell them you want to help them make more money by writing a wonderful review of the shop and telling all your friends about it. If they pass up free marketing/promotions then they're idiots!

  5. Good morning Gertie, Perhaps they don't want more customers. Consider this; the stock is shrinking, so there may be nowhere to get fresh items (A 24" girdle? Yes dears, everyone, regardless of the numbers wore a girdle. You weren't dressed without one) I wore stockings, not pantyhose and would love to find them for my over-the-hill calves. The ones I preferred were silk, which now run about $50.00 and up, mostly up. Large cotton panties, you betcha, those very heavy older women are modest and need someone who will have the sizes they need. Had you looked further, I'd bet the farm you would have found all-cotton, with circle-stitched DDD+ cups, bras with four hook backs.
    What this store most likely feared were comments that would hold their less-than-size 2/over sixty/unfashionable customers up to ridicule. Those customers are loyal shoppers and the store cares to keep their custom. I say, "Good for them" Nehmah

  6. I lived in Astoria for several years and I CANNOT believe I never passed by this shop. I agree with the comment above that maybe they don't want actual customers because then they'd have to locate new stock and couldn't be the fantastic retro undie time capsule that they are.
    I love your blog by the way -- it's very inspiring because I've been contemplating sewing dresses from vintage patterns I have.

  7. I live in Astoria and love this place. Maybe they want to keep their privacy for their customer's sake. You say that you were just doing a blog on the history of the place and snapping pictures but maybe they thought you were lying. It's hard to trust people at times

  8. I decided today to start reading your blog from the beginning, and came upon this post...and then I saw the photo! Madelein's?! I live a few minutes from there! Haha! You used to live in Astoria, too! :D And yes, most of the stores around here are like that, don't take photos, and are unwilling to give information. It's just NYC, I suppose...

  9. Thanks for the great sharing! These sexy Wholesale Hosiery was given to me for new hope this past year and it has gotten some heavy use. Thus an idea began to blossom.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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