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In Memory of American Apparel's Most Iconic Pieces

Pour one out for your college going-out skirt.

An American Apparel ad
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In all likelihood, we're about to lose American Apparel. It's been a long, drawn-out process, but the TL;DR is Canadian wholesale company Gildan has acquired it for $88 million in a bankruptcy auction. The deal is expected to close in early February, and once it does, it will set in motion the end of an era; stores are likely to shutter in 100 days.

Then what? Well, for now, all merchandise is 40 percent off. What’s left after that is destined for chain stores like Kmart.

Imagine your old scoop-back bodycon jersey dress that you wore to the club in college hanging on some sad sales rack. Or the deep-V gray tee that you wore with disco pants sitting in a pile on the fitting room floor of Marshall’s. What a way to go.

As it turns out, nearly every single Racked staffer has feelings about American Apparel, since most of us were in college when the brand was at its peak. (And before we realized how predatory Dov Charney was.) So we did what anyone else would do: write a dozen or so eulogies for American Apparel’s most classic items — many of which are currently marked down to 40% off.

American Apparel Crop Top

The Crop Top

American Apparel was way ahead of itself with its crop tops — this was basically the only place you could find them in 2006. (To put that in further perspective, Kylie Jenner was only nine years old in 2006, presumably not yet wearing crop tops). The one I owned was, of course, heather gray — the most iconic of American Apparel colors.

I bought it at the store on 23rd Street in New York where all the art students worked. The first time I wore it out was on my 21st birthday with purple shorts to a dive bar. After that, I cut it into a boat neck, because it somehow didn’t show enough skin just by being a crop top. I still have it, but don’t feel nearly as sexy as I thought I was in college. — Tiffany Yannetta, shopping director

American Apparel mini skirt

Interlock Mini Skirt

When I was an 18-year-old from the Midwest who made the move to the Big City (Philadelphia!!!), I was suddenly thrust into the world of club going. Going to a club and being 18 meant I needed to develop club face, which is when you try to look very old and confident when insisting your ID is really yours, yes you have blue eyes, just look into them bouncer sir.

Every club face needs an accompanying club skirt, and that’s how you, Interlock Mini, came into my life. You meant so much to me every Thursday, when I would bring you to a new party at a new club with the same people I sat next to in my psych lecture. You kept me looking cute (stretch cotton, was I ever so young and cellulite-free?) and from going broke (one $20 skirt could last several semesters, of course). Today, I pour one out for you, as the 2006 banger “World, Hold On” (the 15th most popular song in Mexico that year!) plays on in the background. Julia Rubin, executive editor

American Apparel jeans

The Easy Jeans

There have been a number of close friends I’ve purchased at American Apparel over the years — the deep Vs of college, the inappropriately short shorts of post-college, and at least one new swimsuit every summer since 2006 — but none have been with me as long as you, Easy Jean.

Stretchy enough to see me through a decade of fluctuating waist sizes, you’ve literally been there through thick and thin. In that time, you’ve accomplished the impossible; that is, make my butt look good with every shirt, from crop top to flannel. And for that, I can’t thank you enough. (And oh shit, I guess I better buy a pair in every color.) — Cory Baldwin, shopping editor

American Apparel The Viscose Sexuali-Tee

The Viscose Sexuali-Tee

I had to do a deep Google search into 2009 to double check this tee wasn’t born out of the Sebastien Tellier (who? LOL) collaboration a few years ago. They were pushing his album very hard when I discovered what would turn into my favorite T-shirt. As a natural fiber snob, I had to come to terms with the fact that I now owned viscose — or as Am Appy likes to describe it, “a rayon material that has a silky appearance and feel.”

I am so embarrassed I bought something with such a ridiculous name, but hear me out: Everyone looks sexy in this T-shirt! It’s just a fact of life. I own five of them in navy (the sexiest color) and I will be picking up more (for my grandchildren one day) before they run out forever. — Aminatou Sow, editor-at-large

The American Apparel The Flex Fleece Zip Hoodie

The Flex Fleece Zip Hoodie

While the Flex Fleece Zip Hoodie, an AA mainstay, doesn’t scream “third wave feminism” the way many of the items on this list do, my original want for one came from reasons of sex.

From 2004 to 2008 and probably longer, this unisex hoodie was easily the number one best, most romantic, sexiest thing to grab from the dude whose dorm bed you’d slept in. Or buy to make it look like there was some boy whose clothes you casually wore.

Even if you hadn’t stolen the sweatshirt from a guy, it was an aspiring manic pixie staple. How could you be the emo-inflected girl of some Garden State-watching dude’s dreams without your Natalie Portman-approved cool weather covering? When choosing a medium layer, you have to ask yourself: How would blue-haired Kate Winslet keep herself warm on the beach in Montauk? What would Sofia Coppola throw on to whisper line readings to Bill Murray? What Would Ramona Flowers Wear?

Eventually I got older and realized that buying sweatshirts in the hope of appealing to dudes meant I was submitting to the patriarchy in ways that weren’t even likely to work. Luckily, it turned out the hoodies (I own two!) are great for watching TV in. — Meredith Haggerty, senior editor

American Apparel skirt

Short Gore Skirt

I've bought (and loved) lots of pieces at American Apparel over the years, from the fuchsia jersey halter dress I wore every weekend during my freshman year at NYU to the leggings I layered under every dress I owned in the mid-aughts. But by far my most-worn purchase is the brand's Short Gore Skirt in black, which I bought around five years ago and still wear on a near-weekly basis.

Put plainly, it is the perfect skirt. It's just the right length (unlike many American Apparel items, which run super short), has an ideal amount of twirl to it, looks good with everything from a plain white T-shirt to a sequined tank, and has stood up to dozens if not hundreds of washes at this point. Shortly after I bought it, the brand discontinued the style — and I regularly kick myself for not stocking up when I had the chance.

As American Apparel's days come to an end, I'll be focusing not on the void the brand's closure leaves in the basics market, but rather how many wonderful memories my Short Gore Skirt and I have shared over the years — and how many more are still to come. — Elana Fishman, entertainment editor

An American Apparel body suit

The Bodysuits

I don’t get too upset over celebrity deaths; when shows I love come to an end, I bid them goodbye and make my peace. But believe you me when I say that American Apparel’s impending closing has me close to tears, because I am about to lose my first, best purveyor of bodysuits.

I’m an unlikely candidate for one-piece obsession, since I never don’t have to pee, but I own no fewer than five American Apparel leotards and bodysuits. All of them are black except one, which is dark blue, and they are all very sexy, very easy, and very wait-did-that-girl-escape-from-an-extras-call-for-Bunheads. I cherish them. And as for the peeing conundrum, after years of wear I’ve mastered the perilous but necessary shove-aside motion, and I suggest you do the same.

The benefits of a leotard are manifold, and Am Appy mastered their engineering (for a steal!). You don’t have to worry about your top bunching up or coming untucked from your bottoms; your neckline stays exactly where it is supposed to. You get to feel like a cool dancer girl even if, like me, you are incapable of making your arms do one thing while your legs are busy doing something else. Above all, they just look great.

They smooth what you want smoothed and hoist what you want hoisted. They allow you to flirt and preen and move to your heart’s content, and while other brands followed AA’s lead, none have managed to quite capture that effortless, comfortable sluttiness so affordably nor so reliably. How will we ho now? Only time will tell. — Alanna Okun, senior reporter

American Apparel sleeveless top

The Sleeveless Button-Up

I lived in this cropped, sleeveless, Peter Pan-collared, denim button-down during college. A shirt requiring that many adjectives should probably be hideous, but it was cute, I swear! Proof: One day while I was wearing it with yellow jeans (also RIP: colored denim), the girl who ran my college town's fashion blog took my picture, and she's now one of my best friends! Truly I owe this shirt so much.

I don't wear it on its own with jeans much anymore, but it's my favorite piece to layer under sweaters; its lack of sleeves makes it almost like a dickey! It's discontinued now, but there's a very wrinkly one on sale on Poshmark. — Stephanie Talmadge, social media editor

American Apparel pencil skirt

The Pencil Skirt

Farewell, old friend: The perfect, the faithful, the shapeshifting, the multi-purpose American Apparel pencil skirt. In all of my years of searching for something so loyal, so pure, so utterly necessary, I know I will never find anything I can trust as much. It was you, American Apparel pencil skirt, that helped me stop fighting with my mother in high school about too-tight and too-short skirts.

As an Orthodox Jew who grew up only wearing skirts, I was looking for you my whole life: something cute and fashionable that would also appease my mother by covering my knees and not hugging my butt too much. All those years of fighting with her in the dressing room, I wondered if I’d ever find you.

But then you came into my life, swiftly and unexpectedly, after that cool girl from LA, Rachel, introduced us. You were so soft, and you came in so many colors. You were the perfect length because you sort of covered my knees, and you stretched so you could be worn at different lengths, making you the perfect skirt for tricking parents.

I assured my mother, as I dragged her to the Garden State Plaza in New Jersey after that summer to find you, that even though you were so perfectly form-fitting and accentuated my bottom just as I had wanted, you would stretch. You were a peacekeeper, a diplomat, a politician. My mother and I were both equally delighted by you and bought six colors (I'm not exaggerating: black, brown, navy, red, purple, cream). You retailed for around $42, which was honestly a steal because we literally hung out every single day.

You lasted through my rebellious phase of senior year, when I was wearing you straight out of the dryer, nice 'n tight, and rolling you way, way up. Through my pious stage while studying abroad in Israel, doing lunges after you were washed so you’d stretch, and worn on my hips so you covered my knees. And through my college years, when you stretched with my freshman 15.

You also stuck around in my more recent years, even as I swapped you out for jeans for the first time. I thought we'd last forever, and while I intend to hold onto your remnants as long as I can, I know this is it, because while American Apparel still has a similar version, it’s just not the same. — Chavie Lieber, senior reporter

American Apparel gray tee

The Unisex Tri-Blend V-Neck T-Shirt

American Apparel’s Unisex Tri-Blend V-Neck T-Shirt — a.k.a. the most perfect T-shirt in existence — was the first item of clothing I bought in college. American Apparel was the only normal clothing store located within ten blocks of my college campus, and therefore the go-to spot for retail therapy.

Luckily, back in 2007, most things there were fairly affordable and useful, like the Tri-Blend V in that perfect gray. Since buying it that freshman fall, I've worn it religiously — under sweaters with the long hem poking out just so, under blazers for that "business casual" look, pulled over leggings as part of athleisure ensembles, tucked into A-line skirts... the list goes on and on.

The deep-V hangs perfectly (just enough cleavage, but not too much), the bottom hem hugs the waist but not too tight, and the soft heather fabric just gets better with age. Which is good, since this V-neck and I are going on our tenth year together. — Ellie Krupnick, managing editor

American Apparel disco pant

The Disco Pant

It took me a few minutes to think about what American Apparel item resonated with me the most, because I've spent every day since I graduated (a.k.a. a lot of days) blocking out the fact that all I wore in college was The Disco Pant — otherwise known as the art school version of leggings. I bought them in part to celebrate losing all of my high school baby weight; essentially on the never-ending hunt for the body-con dress version of every clothing item.

They were obviously my go-to "club pants," but I wore them everywhere: to my a.m. classes, the grocery store, and in literally every and any other scenario where wearing super form-fitting, high-waisted nylon pants would be wildly inappropriate. Needless to say, I've already said my goodbyes. —Tanisha Pina, associate market editor

American Apparel black mini dress

The Spaghetti Strap Mini Dress

I will not go into too much detail about the times that we spent together, but let me just say this to you now, Dress That Doesn’t Exist on the American Apparel Site Anymore but whom I will refer to as Honestly Pretty Slutty Black Spaghetti Strap Minidress That I Can’t Believe I Wore Without Tights: thank you.

While I was busy being a lonely 19-year-old new Manhattanite, you gave me some of the best, weirdest nights I’ve ever had. And now that I am five years older and happier but also way less cool, I still wear you as a nightgown. But only in my bedroom. Literally at this point in my life it’s even too much boob for the couch. — Rebecca Jennings, associate producer