Allison M.

Thoughts on life, fashion, fabulousness, and (oh yeah) dressing up from a full-time male who's a part-time female

#TBT: Poly vinyl pants and shuttered stores

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The late and sadly missed pants in question.

Okay, people, admit it.  You have that one favorite clothing item or accessory that you will want to hang onto for as long as possible.  It could be a purse that still goes well with everything, a pair of old jeans that still fit you like a glove, or an old shirt you’ve outgrown but still keep for sentimental reasons.  I confess that I have a few items I purchased several moons ago…. okay, decades ago, that are still a part of Allison’s closet.  They may be showing their age and they may not fit me as well as they used to, but I still keep them to remind me of the changes in my wardrobe, my style, and myself.

Of course, you can’t keep every single thing you’ve ever worn, but know that they all have a place in the infinite wardrobe of your memory.  Something that once had a home in my closet but still has a place in my mind are the pair of black poly vinyl imitation leather pants pictured at right. (Yeah, it’s a fancy way of saying “pleather,” I know.)  I found them on sale while I was on vacation in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario one end-of-summer weekend 15 years ago. (I’ve always loved going to The World Next Door, even if it was just staying close to the border.)  As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” so I went to the downtown mall in The Soo and browsed around several shoppes and stores.  Yeah, it may have looked like any other mall in North America (and had some of the same stores, too), but it’s always kinda fun to shop at a store that’s not in your hometown and/or you’ve never heard of before.  One such store was a discount department chain called Zellers, and if you’re not from Canada and/or never heard of them, think KMart on a Canadian scale; in fact, Zellers acquired KMart’s Canadian stores at one point in their history.  While browsing through the stylish portion of Zellers’ young adult clothing section, I came across a sleek pair of faux leather pants that were oh so totally awesome.  So, I grabbed a pair that matched my figure, pulled out a few colourful bills (around $20 worth), and later headed back home with a fierce wardrobe addition/memento from my vacation.

Since they came from a discount department store, it may not surprise you that these pants weren’t quite of the highest quality.  But what they didn’t have in craftsmanship, they made up for it in eye-catching sexiness.  I put them to good use, but the pants would wear out as the years wore on, with the poly vinyl peeling away from the lining and creating some spots of cracks and bubbles.  I hung onto them for as long as I could until even the button and fly broke apart.  So about a year and a half ago, just before I took this photo and after 13 years of good personal service and sentimental value, I finally laid the pants to rest.  Oh, okay, I’ll say it, I threw them out.  But I still have good memories of those pants, and I’ll never forget them or when and where I purchased them.


I suppose I should emphasize the “memory” portion of that last sentence, because that’s pretty much all that Zellers is now to most Canadians: A memory.  They may have been the definition of “cheap” and “discount,” and at times they did not have the best customer service, but the name started to gain sentimental value to Canadians around 2011, when Target announced they would take over several of Zellers’ store leases, setting up their own string of Canadian stores while Zellers would fade into the past.  That sentimentality would resurface just a week ago, when Target, after going big at its Canadian launch less than 2 years ago and going through several glaringly bad missteps since then, announced they would shutter all 133 of its Canadian stores.  It was enough sentimentality to make “Zellers” a trending social media topic in the Great White North.

Now, one would look at the failure of Target Canada and snicker all they want, but, sadly, they aren’t the only fashionable store to pick up their racks and go away.  Just in the past month or so, in fact, places like Wet Seal, Deb, and Body Central announced they were either filing for bankruptcy reorganization or closing up shop altogether.  All 3 of those chains had a presence here in the Madison area, and now all 3 have either already left town or are about to do so.  In fact, below is visual proof that Body Central has already departed West Towne Mall; the photo was taken by me just last Saturday.  It’s a real shame, too; I shared several finds from Body Central on this blog, and each one looked pretty awesome.  All these stores did face stiff competition from the likes of Forever 21 and H&M, which thankfully both still have a presence here in Madison, as well as the convenient online shopping world.  But what going online doesn’t make up for is the thrill one finds when that awesome dress, skirt, sweater, etc. is right down the street on sale and ready for purchase.  Let’s see the Amazon.coms of the world try to make up for that.

The empty shell of the former Body Central location at West Towne Mall.

The empty shell of the former Body Central location at West Towne Mall in Madison (photo taken 1/17/2015).


Of course, Zellers and Body Central aren’t the first or last stores to go away altogether.  Other retailers have preceded them in shuffling off the retail mortal coil, either big chains or a little shop down the street.  One of the latter I fondly recall going to when I was still living in Green Bay.  It was an intimate women’s apparel shop called Mr. G’s that was located downtown.  Mr. G’s was an intimate (in the non-sexual term) setup:  A small shop with lots of lingerie, clubwear, wigs, etc.  As conservative as Green Bay was and is, I know I wasn’t the only one to get a kick out of and make a few purchases at Mr. G’s.  Let’s just say one day a couple was in the store the same time as I and the wife tried on a wig or two; they both really got a kick out of it, and despite the gentleman in me minding my own business and leaving them be, I was tempted to pay her a compliment and tell her she looked pretty cute as a blonde (and that he has a lucky husband).  Mr. G’s was actually in Downtown Green Bay for several years; I’m not sure exactly how long it was, but it was long enough for them to move out of their original location and into a slightly larger store front just a few doors down.  Sadly, Mr. G’s is no longer in business; I believe the owner retired about the same time I moved from Green Bay.  It’s old location is now occupied by a Christian Science Reading Room, while its original location is unoccupied the last time I heard (it did house a jewelry and rare collectibles seller after Mr. G’s moved).

There are other intimate and exotic apparel businesses in Green Bay (and here in Madison, of course), but Mr. G’s will still have a special place in this gurl’s heart and mind, as will other stores and clothing shops in other locales.  That being said, what clothing stores were your favorite places while they were still around.  Feel free to share your thoughts below. Thanks for sharing your memories. 🙂

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Author: Allison M.

Full-time middle-aged male. Long-time overworked office drone. Part-time female fashion plate. Amateur fashionista (emphasis on "amateur"). Admirer and supporter of those who are fashionable, fabulous, and friendly. A little bit silly. Absolutely nowhere near perverted. I am a real human being, just like you. Able to share thoughts about my life experiences, fashion sense, and the world at large despite middling grades in high school creative writing class (but at least I do look cute when I'm writing, so that has to count for something).

4 thoughts on “#TBT: Poly vinyl pants and shuttered stores

  1. As a Canadian I was partial to Zellars. They had decent prices and I always found the staff very nice. Target on the other hand I did not like at all, I never found any deals at Target that I could not get at the same price or cheaper from another store. Don’t really mind that they are closing other than the fact some 12,000 Canadians will be loosing jobs.

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    • Great thoughts, Cynthia. I imagine those who worked or shopped at Zellers were proud to be part of something “Truly Canadian.” (Hey, that was their tag line!) I know I felt that way shopping there, and I wasn’t even Canadian. I heard about how high priced Target Canada tended to be (yikes!); sad, though, about their employees and how heartbreaking it will be for them.

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  2. Pingback: Allison’s fashion summary (3/23/2015 edition) | Allison M.

  3. Pingback: Allison’s fashion summary (10/8/2016 entry) | Allison M.

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