Bloomingdale’s. Iconic from the very beginning. Circa 1872-2022. 150 years. And so the celebrations have begun. A tribute to the world of Bloomingdale’s…an American luxury department store of style.
A brief nod to the history of its early beginning…
In 1861 Benjamin Bloomingdale and his eldest son, Lyman, opened “Bloomingdale’s Hoopskirt and Ladies’ Notion Shop” on the Lower East Side of New York City. But it was the two Bloomingdale brothers that would embark upon a new era of their namesake. In 1872 brothers Lyman and Joseph Bloomingdale opened “Bloomingdale’s Great East Side Bazaar”. Located on Third Avenue, between 56th and 57th Streets in Manhattan, their product offerings expanded beyond the women’s garments to men’s garments. Through the establishment of their own buying office in Paris, European fashions became a successful part of their new venture’s allure. Their success resulted in relocating Uptown to 56th and Lexington Avenue in 1886.
Of note, the Third Avenue /Bloomingdale’s Illustrated 1886 Catalog (left image below) is said to explain that the mysterious item atop the building was “a hoop-skirt attached to the flagpole.” A symbol of the first garment of success for Bloomindale’s. Who knew?
When Bloomingdale’s headed uptown to 59th and Lexington Avenue in 1886, their world of visual merchandising would certainly benefit from what the building presented with its double height, cast iron entry and large glass windows. It is said that these windows gave Bloomingdale’s the ability to display their items “often in a theatrical manner”. The art of window display and visual merchandising, onward! With success upon success, by the 1920’s the expansion of Bloomingdale’s was over an entire city block. As side note of architectural interest, during the late 1920’s early 1930’s, the entire store front was redesigned in Art Deco style by architects Starrett and Van Vleck. So befitting.
Bloomingdale’s evolved into one of America’s first department stores and become a fashion destination across the country and the world. A “beloved, global retailer“, indeed. A nod to the success of an iconic retail establishment in celebration of 150 years…
Oh, the logos of Bloomingdale’s! I certainly recall. Growing up in Long Island, New York during the late Seventies and Eighties, it certainly was a department store that everyone was well aware of…and a known destination.
Since the 1960’s Bloomingdale’s commissioned artful shopping bags that would be lauded as the first “Designer” shopping bags.
But perhaps there is no other infamously known bag than their iconic brown paper bag. In 1973, a century after opening the Midtown Manhattan store, Bloomingdale’s launched, with bold simplicity, the Big Brown Bag. Designed by Massimo Vignelli, the Little Brown Bag followed a year later and the final addition would be the Medium Brown Bag. Oh, the joy of the trio of Brown Bags of Bloomies! Icons that endure, indeed…
It was during the early 1990’s that I was a part of this iconic retail company. It was the 900 N. Michigan Avenue Bloomingdale’s location in Chicago, Illinois that would hold my experiences of the world of Bloomingdale’s. Located on what is known as “The Magnificent Mile”and within walking distance to Oak Street Beach and Lake Michigan, it was here that I realized that the level of service, the merchandising and the appeal of this iconic department store which would forever impact my perspective on retail. In fact, it would begin my quest for quality and possibly where my personal search for elegance began…
As a Beauty Advisor for Lancome, in the busy city hub cosmetic department, the lights and energy, the style and sophistication and elegance this store held at that time would not be forgotten. Rather, those recollections remain, having made an enduring impact. There are those moments in life when your eyes are widened into the vastness of design, fashion, interior graces and the quality of those things that you aim to fill your life with. The fine pleasures of living in search of elegance, indeed. Bloomingdale’s succeeded in all of that. And for 150 years, Onward. Perhaps Andy Warhol said it succinctly: “The best museum is Bloomingdale’s”.
To end with, one final quotable from the iconic Andy Warhol:
“I don’t believe people die. They just go uptown. To Bloomingdale’s. They just take longer to get back”.
For the love of Bloomies. Happy 150th to an icon of style!