One of my first “grown-up” clothing purchases was a black pencil skirt and a blush color silk blouse. I was barely eighteen years old and had been in the workforce for only a few months when I realized jeans and a tee with my navy cardigan were not going to be appropriate for every situation. I visited Masengill’s Specialty Shop to invest in my first important clothing purchase. Even at that early age, I must have instinctively known that the basics would allow me to be appropriately dressed for many life events. I wore these pieces separately and together for the next ten plus years until they fell apart from use.
The skirt and blouse were worn when I modeled for a friend who was building his photography portfolio. I was about twenty-four years old in this photo, taken in the park by my little apartment in Norfolk, Virginia.
I was deeply saddened when I recently read in the newspaper that Masengill’s was closing after more than one hundred years at the corner of North Roan and East Main streets. Founded in November 1916 by John Masengill, the store celebrated a century of business in December, but now Ambers Wilson has decided to close the store he has owned and operated since 1958.
On Saturday, I made a final visit to walk through the elegant building and make one last purchase from the store that has supplied all of the most important clothing purchases of my life.
When I was in pageants or going to a prom, I didn’t think of going to any other store. I always purchased my gowns in the salon on the second floor. Many of my coats and jackets were purchased in the first-floor boutique.
With a big lump in my throat, I paid for my final purchase. I chose this fabulous streamlined, lightweight black trench coat by Linda Richards. Traditional trench coats in tan with all the trim never work for me because I carry most of my weight in my torso. The typical trim details add bulk where I already have size, and the tan color is all wrong for my complexion.
Later in the day, Mr. Mickey and I took a stroll, remembering all the stores from our childhoods that were once located downtown. When the local mall opened in the early seventies, it became deserted overnight. The town is slowly experiencing a renaissance, but retail shopping is drastically changing with the current attitude of always casual, anything-goes way of life for many people.
I have always dreamed of sitting in the Café de Flore on the boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, sipping a glass of wine while watching the well-dressed people passing by. I will have to settle for Capone’s for now.
I wore a blush color Trophy Jacket from White House|Black Market last year over a gray tank from Chico’s for this shopping trip. The jeans are by Lior Paris from ShopMyFairLady.com. The wicker bag is from J.McLaughlin purchased last year. The shoes are by Vince Camuto purchased last year.
There are many art installations placed throughout Johnson City, and new restaurants and cafes are frequently opening. I hope that the growth continues and that the new path the city is taking will serve generations to come. The elegant stores may never return to downtown, and people may never get dressed up to “go to town” again, but I will.