I was saddened to see these signs up at Frederick’s last week. Most of their nationwide mall locations have already closed, and I wonder if Frederick’s has finally thrown in the crotchless panties. The Hollywood staff said they were “moving to a new location in April” (the current store opened in 2005), but no more details. Frederick’s emerged from bankruptcy in 2003 and went private last year, and calls to the corporate office remained unanswered at post time.
Founded by the fabulous Mr. Frederick (Mellinger) in 1946, whose designs were inspired by European lingerie during tWWII (one wonders if Ed Wood was a fellow soldier.) Frederick’s original aim is still reflected on the website: “Frederick’s of Hollywood Group’s mission is to create products that make women feel sexy, desirable, and confident.” Their now-famous, brilliantly-marked to both men and women – catalog was an instant smash, often featuring Mr. Frederick with his impossibly-proportioned illustrations and gleeful descriptions. from “Fredericks of Hollywood 1947-1973: 26 Years of Mail-Order Seduction.”
After inventing the first push-up bra (1948’s “Rising Star,”) he continued with decade-defining, figure-changing underthings: the fifties’ pointy Missile, the sixties’ Cadillac – all the way into the eighties, when he introduced the thong stateside. Mr. Frederick’s declaration that “the law of gravity will win out,” sent sagging sales back up during seventies bra-burning, and they are still one of the few lines that carry plus-size sexy lingerie.
With models such as Tina Louise, and Jayne Mansfield, Frederick’s status in American pop culture was guaranteed at the outset (see “Fredericks of Hollywood 1947-1973: 26 Years of Mail-Order Seduction.”) but Victoria’s Secret has won over the undie market. In recent decades, models included Pamela Anderson and Dita Von Teese.
Retiring in 1984, Mr. Frederick passed away six years later, luckily missing the 1992 riots where looters destroyed up to eighty percent of stock. Madonna’s bustier, Ava Gardner’s bloomers and Katey Sagal’s push-up bra were among the pilfered items, and one looter guiltily returned Gardner’s and Sagal’s unmentionables to Reverend Fambrini at the nearby Blessed Sacrament Church, later speaking to the New York Times:
“I was after Madonna’s negligee that she would wear live in concert,” he said. “If I was really smart I could have made off with Milton Berle’s in-drag costume,” he said. “I was really wanting Zsa Zsa’s bra. That would have been hot.”
Mr Frederick’s star is at the store’s entrance, where I scattered some of my pit bull’s ashes (he tried to go into Frederick’s every time we walked by, often cheered on by tourists.) Tura Satana told me that Frederick’s bras were too small for her, and she took up the matter with Mr. Frederick himself. That’s a conversation that was probably better than the one in my imagination.