Let’s meet at The Basement on Saturday.
Wanna go down to The Basement after work?
These phrases were on the lips of Bostonian women of all ages. That’s what we called it. The Basement.
I am, of course, referring to Filene’s Basement, located on two floors beneath the art deco flagship Filene’s department store and cornerstone of Boston’s Downtown Crossing.
The Basement folklore was plentiful. The Running of the Brides, so named for its resemblance to Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls, turned ordinarily polite young women into fierce competitors the moment The Basement doors opened, as they fought over designer bridal gowns offered at a fraction of their original prices. And men would actually stand in line waiting for The Basement to open on the mornings of the semi-annual men’s suit sale. But the outrageous bargains were only part of it. A trip to The Basement could cheer you up on a rainy day. It was as loud, as crowded, and as chaotic as Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The Basement was pure joy.
The three-dollar Christian Dior bras I pulled from the depths of the lingerie bins were mine for the taking. And the shoes! I thought nothing of squeezing into incredibly cheap Ferragamos and Via Spigas that were only a-half size too small. There were no dressing rooms in The Basement so I’d angle for a spot near a mirror then strip down to the Danskin leotard I’d worn under my clothes. Some women were so intent on getting a bargain that they tried on their finds right over their clothes. Others, caring nothing about modesty, were on full display in their bras and slips as they tried on a pile of potential purchases. It was divine pandemonium.
In 2007, Filene’s Basement closed its doors for good and shopping has never been quite the same. I’ll always miss the tradition and the spectacle that was The Basement.