The Living Room by the Ladies Loo

If you’ve ever been in an older theater, or a high end department store like Nordstrom’s, or a top tier jewelry store like Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue in New York and have to visit the ladies room, you will still see an adjacent area with rugs and comfortable chairs or sofas and a mirror for applying cosmetics. The area looks a bit like a living room.

How those spaces came to be, and why they are now so rare, is in this fascinating story in CityLab, a publication of the Atlantic.  Enjoy.

I had a funny experience with Lily and Gloria when they were in the U.S. visiting and we went to Tiffany’s. Fancy bathrooms and adjacent living rooms were, back in the day, the province of affluent white women. Gloria and Lily and I rode the elevator upstairs to use the ladies room, and as Gloria was done first, she sat in one of the plush chairs waiting for Lily and me to wash our hands. A very chi-chi older woman, superbly coiffed and decked out, came in and gave Gloria the stink eye, clearly assuming she was the help taking liberties. Gloria certainly caught the look, and remained smugly seated. The woman positively glared at me as Lily and I met up with Gloria and we three prepared to leave.

These ladies lounge areas may be fading into history, but clearly not the attitudes of some wealthy women who still consider them a private domain.

2 thoughts on “The Living Room by the Ladies Loo

  1. There are still ladies’ rooms with living rooms in upscale and pre-1950 NYC venues. My favorite is Radio City Music Hall. The ladies room has a plush mauve living room. There are two walls of mirrors with built in velour stools. It’s just lovely. We were recently there for the “Rockettes Christmas Spectacular.” There is little opportunity to sit and relax as there are usually thousands of women on the very long ladies’ room line. When my children were little, I loved shopping in A&S. I enjoyed using the “living room” to breastfeed my infant. Also loved that they wrapped all gifts for purchases. Years later it was bought by Macys. I don’t know if the living room is still there. I don’t have no need to breastfeed or sit quietly. In fact, I rarely go into a big department store, primarily doing online shopping. I do shop at the stores in our local shopping center.

    Next time I go to a place with a “living room” by the ladies’ room, I take a photo.

  2. for Katie: And send the pic to me to post! Sardi’s has a bathroom lady that hands you a towel in return for a tip. Not quite the same, but it’s an anachronism too. Haven’t been to Radio City in years, but not surprised they still have a fancy ladies loo.

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