As a teenager and very young adult, I had the (extremely misguided) notion that personal style was about one thing and one thing only: wearing designer clothing. Considering that I was a pretty normal suburban teen, I couldn't exactly afford most of the labels I saw in Vogue — but when I discovered my first BCBG dress, I felt like I had arrived. It was made of royal blue satin and featured fluttering sleeves, a silver-trimmed neckline and a cinched waist. It didn't matter that I bought it (or rather, my grandma bought it for me) at a Long Island Burlington Coat Factory instead of the chic BCBG store at my local mall. I just cared that it was beautiful, that it fit me like a glove, and made me feel like the Blair Waldorf of the ball every time I wore it to a school dance or Sweet Sixteen party.
The memory of that dress and how beautiful it made me feel as a very insecure 15-year-old came flooding back to me when I first saw the news that BCBG would be closing its retail locations and focusing on, "digital sales, wholesale accounts, and licensing" going forward, according to Bloomberg. As a brick-and-mortar die-hard, it pains me to hear that one of my favorite standbys is going the way of delia*s, Jessica McClintock, and so many other beloved '90s and early '00s brands.
According to a timeline on the brand's website, BCBG was founded in 1989 and opened its first store in 1992. However, I most closely associate BCBG with the early '00s, when many of my high school classmates frequented the store for event dresses, and, as Racked points out, red carpet fixtures such as "Tyra Banks, Miley Cyrus, Leighton Meester, and Jessica Simpson" were often spotted wearing the label.
Although the brand's heyday seems to have passed, I still find their offerings modern and fresh. In fact, my most important BCBG memory has nothing to do with high school. At age 23, I found myself with an invitation to a fancy dinner for my boyfriend's job at the time. I had just graduated college a few months before and was mostly living at his apartment rotating through a small suitcase full of clothing. I had very little sense of what to do with myself, but I knew exactly what kind of life I wanted to have, and it involved being the type of person who had a couple of gorgeous evening dresses that were always freshly dry-cleaned and perfect for any occasion hanging in her closet. I dragged my boyfriend to the only store I could think of when I imagined a relatively affordable but still dream-worthy cocktail dress: BCBG.
It took me maybe fifteen minutes to find what I was looking for — a cream and black striped mini dress with a deep neckline, flared peplum skirt, and cut-out back. The best part? It happened to be on sale! I felt an instant connection with that dress, as if we were made for each other, and I've worn it many times since. It's still the one I reach for when I don't know what to wear but I know that it has to be good.
The news of BCBG's restructuring didn't actually shock me, even if it did make me a little bit sad. Much as been made about the so-called "fall of brick-and-mortar" and the "death of the mall" and it seems that retail, like everything else, is going increasingly digital. We're moving on, and brands are too. Recently, I found the blue satin dress from high school at the back of my closet. I hadn't worn it in several years, and, guided by nostalgia, I put it on and looked in the mirror, only to find that it didn't look quite right on me anymore. The problem wasn't the fit — it was the vibe. Those dainty, floaty sleeves that I remembered looked more like curtains for my chest, and the fabric seemed dated. I put the dress into my "to donate" pile and haven't thought about it much since.
On the other hand, I still wear that black and white number every chance I get. It's likely that a few years or months down the line I'll put it on and find it doesn't suit me like it used to. But for now, it's one of my most reliable favorites.