I didn’t go to my senior prom because I had little school spirit, was short on cash, and didn’t enjoy dancing to songs like “Lean Back” (oh, 2004). It wasn’t until after prom passed that I realized the only perk of the high school rite passage: BETSEY JOHNSON DRESS. Prom morphed from “silly teen event” to “biggest life regret” in my mind, overnight.
At the time of my prom, the 80s were back with a god-awful vengeance (I will be happy to never again see leg warmers and lightning bolt earrings on teens who otherwise shop at Hollister). I remember drooling over a strapless, gold lame dress in the window of the Betsey store that was so Weird Science, bow and all. It was THE ONE, full of crinoline and insanity. It was a badass mix of Stacey Q and Wanda Jackson at cotillion. I should have grabbed that thing, prom or not, and never looked back.
Now, 8 years and one bankruptcy later, I REALLY regret not getting that dress. Betsey Johnson LLC went under in April of this year (in case you live in a cave, y’know), and there was a collective clanking of cherry charm bracelets and Betseyville handbag hardware as tacky girls around the world clutched at their hearts. Yes, it really was that dramatic.
Even more emotional were the store closing sales that followed. Every store in the U.S. began clearing out stock, starting first with a 20% sale and gradually increasing the discount as the weeks went on. I braved the Sherman Oaks store at 40%, expecting empty shelves. It was PRETTY bad – remaining stock consisted mostly of leopard print pajamas and sequin-crusted hot pants. Still, I made it out alive and with two beautiful new addresses, including the patriotic red, white, and blue number above (the other dress I bought, a 40s-style “diner dress”, evidently does not exist online, but can be seen via my Instagram). My purchases were a modest yet fitting send off. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of Betsey!
And, in honor of Betsey, here are some of my favorite moments/designs from over the years:
Betsey show from 1989
Photo credit: First two photos by me, click the rest for sources.Categories: Fashion, old | Tags: bankruptcy, betsey johnson, butterwick patterns, memorial, obituary, sherman oaks, vintage | 5 comments