I, Magnin

by Erin on September 1, 2006

I Magnin Dress

This is from the old department store I. Magnin, by way of Birchhouse Vintage.

I have to say, I've never seen something from this era with an I. Magnin label that I didn't covet. This dress would be mine, as well, if it weren't for that pesky "I don't have a 25-inch waist" problem.

Seriously, the buyers for I. Magnin must have had some kind of code of fashion ethics, something that let them do so much good. Something like:

1. An I. Magnin dress may not make a woman look frumpy, or, through being worn improperly, allow a woman to succumb to frumpiness.

2. An I. Magnin dress must be fashionable, except where such fashionableness would, in fact, be frumpy (conflict with rule #1).

3. An I. Magnin dress must be interesting, except where being interesting could conflict with #1 and #2.

Do you think they had a poster listing these rules in the break room? I hope so.

Of course, there is no I. Magnin any longer; they were eaten up by the horrible Macy's, the same chain that just ate Marshall Field's (and couldn't even get the signs right).

(Click on the image if you want to check out the eBay listing for this dress.)

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous September 1, 2006 at 2:44 pm

This dress is mightily cute…and I must add that yes…Macy’s is horrible. So, so horrible.


Anonymous September 1, 2006 at 3:15 pm

I LOVE I magnin clothing… always so well made. I thought I was the only one!


Linmayu September 1, 2006 at 3:18 pm

Being a Chicago native, I am so very, very sad about Macy’s having eaten Marshall Field’s. I can’t come up with words for the sadness.


Anonymous September 1, 2006 at 3:21 pm

They ate up Robinsons May too. Wasn’t a huge fan of them, but they were better than Macy’s.And I hate hate hate Macy’s.


Maureen September 1, 2006 at 3:53 pm

I suggest we Chicagoans take a page from the colonial boycotts of British goods and mock anyone carrying a Macy’s bag. Allow me to give some examples:”I see someone’s welcomes our new Manhattanite overlords.””So, shopping at G.U.M. again?” (When they express confusion, say, “Oh, well, the red star, the ubiquity–I keep getting the old Soviet state department store mixed up with Macy’s”)”When are you moving to New York?”Thanks a lot for destroying the last original great American department store. Assholes.


Rayna September 1, 2006 at 5:21 pm

Yes, the Macy’s juggernaut took over Seattle’s Bon Marche a couple years back, and tried to “ease” us in to the corporate takeover by temporarily calling it “Bon Macy’s” before lowering the boom and making it all Macy’s all the time. All of the shortcomings with no Thanksgiving parade to make up for it. Grr…That’s a glorious dress, though.


Zoltar Panaflex September 1, 2006 at 6:04 pm

I used to shop at I Magnin’s and longed for the days where I could shop there for everything, not just the little things I could afford at the time.Magnin’s was wonderful. I wish I still had a Magnin’s gift box tied with a pink Magnin’s bow. There is nothing like Magnin’s now.


erma September 1, 2006 at 6:06 pm

I feel oddly nostalgic about all the regional department stores being taken over by Macy’s. The Bon in Seattle and Hecht’s in DC are casualties as well, but I think I’m saddest about Field’s. I hear that Carson Pirie Scott is closing their State Street store as well. It’s all too bad.I do like the dress, though I myself am not quite ready for something so tweedy and fall-like.


Ms Baroque September 1, 2006 at 6:14 pm

Mind you, anything would look great with a 25in waist. I find that every damn time. Katy


Lisa Laree September 1, 2006 at 6:20 pm

I’m just glad Erin got away from the sock monkeys… 😉


Barbara September 1, 2006 at 8:47 pm

I remember I Magnin….down in Union Square in San Francisco. When I was shopping for my high school prom dress, my mother gave me her I Magnin card. I got in so much trouble because I put $85.00 on it!!!!!Barbara


Floridaprincess September 1, 2006 at 11:45 pm

What a cute dress. I wish I still had a 25 inch waist. I remember I magnin we had one in Portland for a little while in the 80’s. I got to go in it a few times. I dont like Macys. I did not know that they bought Marshall Field’s tho Arrrag . They seem to be taking over the U.S retail. Is Macy’s part of May company if they are they are big. I beleive Macy’s is owned by Bloomingdales.


Anonymous September 2, 2006 at 7:55 am

Nice dress, and it’s in my size . . . hmm . . . must consult bank account.


Larkspur September 2, 2006 at 8:22 am

I do like that dress–very classy. Macy’s bought Rich’s in Georgia . . . used to operate both stores under different names but now they are all Macy’s. Local department stores had a real history with their communities.


Gigi September 2, 2006 at 9:17 am

What a beautiful, classy dress! Macy’s bought Burdine’s here in Florida but now everything is Macy’s. Not that Burdine’s was so fabulous but at least they had different stock than Macy’s. Sadly, the US is becoming very homogenous.


john September 2, 2006 at 10:01 am

Actually I think it was Federated that ate everyone up and then spewed out Macy’s everywhere.


marcia in austin September 2, 2006 at 8:02 pm

Whether it’s Federated or Macy’s that’s doing it, they’re also swallowing up Foley’s down here.


Floridaprincess September 2, 2006 at 8:39 pm

Federated merged with May company in 2005 that’s what happened. This is so sad :+(


Wendy September 3, 2006 at 10:20 pm

I had an aunt who bought most of my childhood clothes — and my first prom dress! — at I. Magnin in San Francisco. Going to I. Magnin’s was such an adventure…always wore a hat and gloves…and I can recall every floor — especially the seventh floor, which was toys and dolls. An entire room of elegant Madame Alexander dolls! It was not simply a department store, as your comments imply…it was a gracious way of life, elegant and civil.


La BellaDonna September 6, 2006 at 10:31 am

And Macy’s has eaten Wanamaker’s and Strawbridge & Clothier in Philadelphia, both of them historical institutions. :( It has been no gain for Philadelphia, that’s for sure.


Anonymous February 23, 2007 at 3:28 pm

Ah, lovely, elegant I. Magnin! I designed their store interiors in the 1980’s and familiarized myself with every inch and personality in that wonderful store. I could not bring myself to attend the closing sale as I would have been standing there in tears, feeling self consciously sentimental. I miss the 33% discount, blue books, pink boxes, the professionalism, and the merchants who understood the ART of fashion and sales, and not just the business analysis. All of the decor was a combination of very expensive antiques and custom designed interiors: Baccarat chandeliers, silver leaf ceilings, and art deco back painted French mirrored fixtures. There will never be another one of these stores. Cheers to he talented Architect Timothy Pflueger who designed the stores up until his unexpected death in 1946. Union Square was one of his last projects.Barbara Corff


Anonymous June 8, 2007 at 12:08 am

I absolutely despise Macy’s. I live in the Houston area and Macy’s is no Foley’s. The stores are awful now and the merchandise is cheap and overpriced. I predict over half of the old Foley’s will be closed within a year (along with the other former May divisions). I shopped Foley’s without coupons. I disagree that Macy’s problem is coupons. It is much more than that. It is a multitude of problems created by themselves. It is funny that every month that their poor sales figures come out they blame something – the weather, a change in promotions, couponing, customers needing to be re-educated due to their “confusion” over the change in merchandise. This is hysterical considering Macy’s competitors have double digit increases (Nordstrom, Saks VonMaur on the high end, Penney’s, Kohl’s etc on the low end and Dillards in between). Dillard’s associates have told me they have seen a marked increase in their business since Foley’s demise. The arrogance of Terry Lundgren is appalling. Just admit you made a mistake and bring back the regional identities and traditions as well as the better merchandise. Atlantans are still not over Rich’s nor are Floridians over Burdine’s, Californians over Bullock’s/Bullock’s Wilshire, I Magnin, The Broadway, Robinsons, May and the list goes on and on. Folks across the country are sick of the cookie cutter stigma across the board. Everywhere you go are the same banks, department stores, restaurants. As I said before, Macy’s downfall is their own fault. They should have been a good merchant and listened to the customer prior to abolishing all the regional nameplates and all the other changes. It is NOT ABOUT COUPONS. Bring back Foley’s!!! By the way, I found a link to an old Foley’s commercial that shows how treasured the name was to the Southwest – This commercial is from the mid 80’s prior to Foley’s expanding into Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Louisiana… thus their slogan then of “At the heart of Texas” Go to Google Video (YouTube) and type in Foley’s department store


Michele September 26, 2007 at 6:28 pm

Macys. Ugh. I remember the day I. Magnin folded up, I wanted to wear a black arm band but instead I wept! Gone was fashion at it’s tasteful best. Macys still is the epitome of trashy, poorly made clothing. I. Magnin PLEASE COME BACK!


Anonymous November 19, 2007 at 12:09 pm

I spent many hours of my youth at I Magnin & Co. We were 4 sisters and one brother, so the girls were dressed often from Magnin’s, and my brother from another store of the past – Young Man’s Fancy, in Laurel Village.I remember the 7th Floor – got my Senior Prom dress there at the after Christmas sale – $12.00 – still have it, just can’t fir into it anymore. The sales ladies were dolls, and VERY helpful. I can remember shopping at a sale one day, and waiting for Dad to pick us up after he got off work. We had figured how much we Saved that day – and cheerfully told him! He urged us to not try quite so hard, as you had to spend $$ to save $$.there was a toy department with books, which entertained Dad while he waited for us. The madame Alexander dolls were exquisite!I do have a few pink and gold boxes, and I treasure them!


Mezzodrama January 1, 2008 at 4:40 pm

What does I.Magnin mean to me? I am a native Northern Californian who has lived on the other coast for 30 years. I.Magnin was the definition of elegance. I still have a skirt I purchased at Magnin’s when I was a student at U.C. Berkeley. I just purchased a beautiful lace robe with a Magnin’s label in it on E-bay because I just had to have a nostalgia fix. How I wish I could turn the way-back machine to San Francisco in the 1960s and 70s…


Anonymous February 10, 2008 at 4:18 pm

There is a listing for a beautiful I Magnin dress on ebay – if I could still wear a mini – I’d buy it!


M. Magnin May 17, 2008 at 12:57 am

I am a Magnin :)


Anonymous July 18, 2009 at 10:38 pm

I have read that the Magnin family wanted to bring I Magnin back but the creep Lundgren that runs Macys started a cheap lingerie line at Macys called I Magnin so the copywrite would still be theirs and blocked the family from bringing the fabled elegance and fashion back.


Barbie July 20, 2009 at 5:12 am

I used to shop at I. Magnin in La Jolla when I was in high school, also at Joseph Magnin. I bought two of my prom dresses from those stores, slinky, pretty gowns (none of those pouffy, frilly dresses for me). Live on Maui now, all we have for dept. stores are Sears and Macys (used to be Liberty House), hows that for selection?


Ms. Bee September 8, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Ms. Bee: As a native San Franciscan, I remember so well shopping @the BIG stores w/ our Mother downtown SF. The W-house, T-City of Paris, etc. I am one of the REAL VINTAGE collectors of Genuine VINTAGE clothing, purses hats,etc. (I actual wear many ) I Love this dress and I am so glad I kept (In excellent condition) most of our Moms I.Magnin purchases. If I had the patience,Id put them on e-bay.


skycruiser May 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm

i absolutely loved I. Magnin. I shopped in the Seattle store from the ’50’s until 1976 when I moved to San Francisco. I could always depend on them for quality, good taste and value – and wonderful service. One outfit I tried on in Seattle (in 1969) was one size too large. I was leaving for Hawai’i two days later and wanted it for the trip. They called S.F. who had the smaller size in stock, had it shipped up over night (before fedex, etc). It didn’t matter that it might not fit and was a sale item. It wasn’t the only time I got exceptional service but just one example.
Macy’s is no better than a high price Target. One store in California even moved all the registers from each department and lined them up at the escalators – and brought in carts. With that, of course, not even that ONE employee per dept.


Chanel Lover August 5, 2013 at 1:04 am

Does anybody remember the soap sale at I.Magnin’s??? It only happened twice a year. All the ladies that worked in the Cosmetic department had to help getting the soap from the stock room and bring it down to the sales floor. We then stacked in on long tables set up in the Cosmetic department for the customers. People loved this soap. We even got phone orders from customers that lived out of state. They would buy enough to last them until the next soap sale. I worked for I.Magnin’s in Oakland as the Chanel Counter-Manager in the late 80’s to early 90’s. Of course I got totally spoiled by Chanel cosmetics and fragrance. Stores like this are now a thing of the past and I.Magnin’s was in a class of it’s own!!


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