The Limited – The End of an Era

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When I started middle school, I suddenly realized my wardrobe was woefully inadequate. In a much larger school with kids from several feeder schools from across the county, I now was in class with kids from different types of neighborhoods, different income levels, and different senses of style. In elementary school, it was more about wearing something fun or colorful. Middle school, it wasn’t good enough to wear your favorite color. Now, the brand mattered.

My parents weren’t wealthy. A lot of my clothes came from yard sales and hot off my mom’s sewing machine. But I just HAD to have a few key pieces… and those pieces came from The Limited.  I can recall going to a yard sale and finding a Forenza top.  it was bright yellow and a dated look with patched-look fabric and a drawstring neckline, but I got it anyway to be able to say I owned something from this brand sold at The Limited.

All my friends were having their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and I had nothing to wear. There were varied events; daytime parties in rental halls and synagogue basements, and evening formal affairs in fancy ballrooms. My mom got to work on her sewing machine and made me some pieces; I recall a dark blue taffeta dress with puffed sleeves and a princess waist. She even sewed in dress shields so I wouldn’t sweat through on the dance floor. But I swore I NEEDED something from The Limited for less formal affairs.

The Limited Storefront 1980s or 1990sI remember the first time I went in The Limited. It was at Landover Mall (RIP). The store was on the top floor. It was dimly lit, lots of chrome, and looked so adult and chic. I remember the fitting rooms were to the left of the store, up a few stairs, staggered with the doors on an angle. My mom got me a two-piece look out of a poly blend that was faintly ribbed like grosgrain. It was cream; a puffed-sleeved jacket with a sweetheart neckline and tiny fabric-covered buttons down the front. With it, a matching cream drop waist skirt with three ruffles. I felt so sophisticated in it. We also bought a 7th grade must-have – a Forenza roll-neck sweater. My friend Kelli had one in dusty rose and Krista had one in cornflower blue (and wore it with matching blue plaid ankle zip Guess jeans); I got one in white which seemed to my tween self to be a very sophisticated choice.

That cream outfit was worth the money. I remember wearing it to Shana’s Bat Mitzvah and a very stylish adult telling me she loved my outfit where did I get it. I was so excited to say, “The Limited!” Even more excited when she said, “I love that store too!” I wore that set to death and wouldn’t be surprised if it was kept and in a box in my mom’s attic.

The sweater was also worth the money. I wore that sweater almost every week. If I wore it on a Monday, I’d wait until Wednesday the next week to wear it so it didn’t look too obvious. The first time I wore it, my boyfriend Drew spilled chocolate milk down the front. My mom used every hint from Heloise to get it gleaming white again. The next time I wore it, I spilled pizza on it. Again, my mom scrubbed and mixed household ingredients to get it snowy white. I wore that sweater to my first boy-girl party.  It was my Cool Girl sweater.

My mom got a new job, I worked summers at the pool snackbar, and with that acquired more fundage for my shopping habit. Soon came henleys and turtlenecks from Outback Red and even a drop-waist shirtdress with braided leather belt. In high school I took a “personality photo” with two friends; we three wore matching v-neck shaker knit tunic sweaters, white mock-necks, and black leggings from The Limited.

After college, I got a job at Express, a sister store to The Limited. Not everyone realized that at that time (the late ‘90s) Express, Structure (which became Express for Men), Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, Lane Bryant, Lerner New York (which became NY&Co), Limited Too (which became Justice but came back with the original name), Henri Bendel, Cacique (yes, they used to have independent stores and carried straight sizes), and Abecrombie & Fitch were all part of Limited Brands. The credit cards would work at any of the stores, and a few times a year employees would get our discount at all the different chains. With that discount I bought an cream silk twill pantsuit from The Limited and for the first time didn't have my mom hem something but went to a tailor to get it custom fit for me. Thought that cream outfit in middle school was sophisticated? This cream suit I felt was an elegant classic and a piece I’d wear and love for the rest of my life. I wore it to a job interview, I wore it to a sorority event, I even wore it to a Bat Mitzvah. I still have that suit; it is not a classic but it is carefully packed away in my attic.

The Limited Stores Closing 2017This month after 54 years of business, The Limited has filed for bankruptcy and closed all of its stores. I haven’t shopped at The Limited in a very long time, but am sad to see a part of my sartorial history end. Every time I see a well-fitting cream suit, I think of The Limited and how it started it all!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Just came across this article and ohmigosh, the memories. In the late 80s we’d just moved to a larger city from a farm town and I was desperate to “fit in”. To the mall and The Limited we went, where I chose a dusty pink Forenza rolled-neck sweater, a miniskirt and some leggings (or tights don’t remember which).

    Fast-forward to today and I found the same rolled-neck sweater in black on ThredUp. It arrived today in great condition. I’m still on the hunt for the pink one — I wish I’d kept it, but we don’t think of keeping this kind of thing as teenagers.

    * PSA to anyone looking for these vintage treasures, keep looking online. ThredUp, marketplace, even regular thrift shops might have them — you just need to be looking consistently and often.

  2. I wish I could post photos, because I just came across a fabulous bright Kelly Green cropped Forenza jacket from the 80s.
    It’s one of the only pieces of clothing from high school that I STILL HAVE!
    It has a round neck and shiny gold (sailor style) buttons down the front. Stiff fabric, like a blazer, but cropped at the waist with classic late 80s shoulder pads.
    I also have a photo of me wearing it.
    The Limited was one of my fave stores, though I couldn’t afford to shop there often.
    This jacket was for my senior photos. I graduated from a school in the high desert of Southern California. Hesperia, CA.
    It’s always sad to see an end of an Era through store closures.
    I live in Oklahoma now.
    My daughter was so tickled that I still have the jacket.
    We just came across it tonight and though the shoulder pads are a bit much for her, lol, she was adamant that I never get rid of it!

  3. So this comment comes way late (story of my life) but I just came across this article. I knew Landover Mall. I grew up in Northern VA and later worked in Upper Marlboro. The Mall that carried our The Limited was Springfield Mall. I so miss those days and some (not all) of the 80’s fashion trends, I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Thank you for that lovely walk down memory lane.

  4. I had a peach Forenza roll neck sweater and wore it in my 7th grade school picture. I no longer have it, but it has been preserved for posterity in that picture!

  5. ohmygosh Outback Red! I bought a chunky white knit sweater there in the early 80s…I wore that thing to DEATH…I. STILL. HAVE. IT. I can’t fit into anymore, not by a longshot, but it’s such a memory piece for me. Sad to hear Limited is closing 🙁


  6. I LIVE for the exact stretch from The Limited – they are what has gotten me through medical school (clothing wise, anyway!). I have NO idea what I’m going to do now 🙁

  7. Back in the late 80s, when I was in my early 30s, I was most definitely not a huge fan of the Limited. It had funky, trendy clothing that I thought was a bit overpriced, but exactly what my baby sister loved. So, as she shopped, I tried to find the conservative clothing that I loved for myself. One day, I found something special that was exactly my style–a small black leather shoulder bag that looked exactly like a camera bag! It zipped around the top, was cloth lined with a couple of slip pockets, and held all my every day essentials perfectly. I loved that little bag and always appreciated the compliments I received from complete strangers, especially photographers! I loved it so much, I bought another one after the first one fell apart. Later on, whenever I was mall crawling, I’d make it a point to stop in and look around, but was never able to find anything that brought me as much joy as that small bag. It’s sad that The Limited chain is closing, but I always felt that this day would arrive sooner than later.

  8. *Sigh*. I, too, came from a family with not much money. I remember the year I got a roll neck cabled Forenza sweater for Christmas (red!). I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I also remember getting an Outback Red henley at one point. I didn’t shop at Limited for a while – and then one day a few years ago, I wandered in just to see what the place looked like these days. I was shocked to discover that I found a few things in there – things I liked! My favorite pair of perfect sized fake diamond earrings set in sterling silver are from Limited, as are a few other jewelry pieces. I have a white blazer from there that I wear, as well as two shirts and some red stretch ankle pants. While I wouldn’t say they were a “go to” store for me recently, I’m sad. It’s kind of like losing a piece of my pre-teen history. (I was also sad when Brooks went under many moons ago, as that was another piece of history from my pre-teen/early teen years.)

  9. When I was a freshman in high school, I won a gift certificate to the Limited — I got a turquoise tank top and matching socks, and a crisp white button-down shirt to wear over the tank (which was funny because I work a uniform, and had since kindergarten, that included a white button-down, but there was something so luxurious about the white shirt from the Limited.

    Jeez, I loved that outfit.

  10. I love this–so many memories! I worked at The Limited in 1987-88 when I was a junior and senior in high school. We got great discounts and were offered two outfits a month for like $30-40 complete (they wanted us to wear the clothes while we worked there). I remember I preferred the Forenza side of the store over the Outback Red side because I was more preppy/classic in style. I loved my black plaid miniskirt/red mock turtleneck/black rolled neck sweater outfit so much! I had quite a few pieces because of the discount (bought them myself), but that was my favorite. It was a great place to work–good pay and that fabulous employee discount. I think the clothes were pretty good quality, too, because I wore the aforementioned outfit for years, well into my early 20’s. I’m so sad to hear they’re closing down :-(.

  11. This bought back such memories. I had a roled neck Forenza sweater and an Outback Red Henley top. Same boat as you – parents on limited means and I treasured those piece!!

  12. What do you think happened? Did they lose their customer base and not get a new one? Corporate mismanagement? I’m always curious about these things.


  13. I hear you! I also felt a nostalgic sadness when I heard this news. I’m a couple of years younger than you but also came of age in the late 90’s early 2000’s. More recently, The Limited was a great place for me to get affordable professional clothes after I had my babies. I still love and wear their exact stretch skinny pants–fun colors and so comfortable but not leggings.

  14. Okay, so I’m a bit older than you … I shopped at the Limited for everything in the mid and late 80’s as a newly married 20-something, AND the funny thing was I used to see the exact clothes I bought there worn by an actress in a show called Thirty Something that was on TV from 1987-1991! It was the coolest. Also rediscovered the store in the late ’90’s for my stay-at-home mom wardrobe and actually bought a cream suit there too! For a bar mitzvah! (Still hanging in my closet …)

    1. EXACTLY! The character Hope wore those fantastic baggy narrow ankle pants – I worshipped those pants. So relaxed but SO chic. I would still love to have a pair!!! Great memories.

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