Flashback Fashion Friday: What Ever Happened to 5-7-9?

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Editor’s note: We originally published this story about the 5-7-9 stores in 2014. We’ve rewritten it to be more accurate and less one-sided. 

There’s nothing mysterious how retailer 5-7-9 got its name. Back in the ’80s, the shop, which catered to teenage girls, focused its collection on three sizes — you guessed it, sizes 5, 7 and 9.

In those days, the store chain was wildly popular. I was in high school at the time, and I remember seeing a 5-7-9 store in every mall around. With a selection of cheap, trendy clothes, the store was a magnet for teenage girls.

The 5-7-9 Debate: Just for Skinny Girls?

It’s important to note here that sizing has evolved over the years, kinda dramatically. Junior sizes 5, 7 and 9 in the ’80s probably equate to sizes 0, 3 and 5 today.

In today’s world, it seems ridiculous that a store would focus only on the smallest of sizes. For that reason, the original version of this article characterized 5-7-9 as a societal evil for its contribution to body shaming and low self-esteem. We said that girls who shopped 5-7-9 did so proudly, and snubbed their noses at the curvy girls who had to shop elsewhere.

5.7.9 store

The Other Side of the Story

I suspect I’ll get skewered in the comments for this, but I honestly don’t remember 5-7-9 stores being that exclusive. I was in high school from 1986 to 1990, and my memory tells me that sizes 5, 7 and 9 covered a large-ish chunk of high-school-girl population in those days.

Yes, the store excluded curvy girls, which stinks. But the sizing wasn’t so extreme that it only catered to a small minority of emaciated, underweight girls. I was of average size in high school — bigger than I am today by 15 or 20 pounds — and I could wear a 7.

But I never shopped there and thought, gosh, it sure is nice not to bother with all those petite, tall or plus sizes. Nor did I consider it a badge of honor that I was a 5-7-9 customer.

The ’70s and ’80s were rough on girls, for sure. Women in magazines, TV and movies were bone thin, like Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface. Women and girls went to extreme measures to get or stay skinny, and cases of anorexia and bulimia spiked.

In my mind, 5-7-9 stores were a product of that toxic environment — but not the cause or even a contributing factor. And…I’ll duck now in case you’re taking a swing.

The End of an Era

According to Wikipedia, the 5-7-9 brand was owned by Edison Brothers Stores between 1970 and 1999. The holding company was in the business of operating and expanding retail chains. They were good at it for a time, and then they weren’t. Edison Brothers Stores went bankrupt in 1999 and sold off its assets, which included the 5-7-9 stores.

5-7-9 Today, Or is it Rainbow?

While many of the original stores have disappeared, some are actually still alive. 5-7-9 has evolved in both positive and negative ways. The positive is that the stores now carry a full range of sizes, from petites to plus (applause here). On the negative side, the selection is pretty low-end.

The easiest way to get a taste of today’s 5-7-9 is to browse the online store at RainbowShops.com. Rainbow is 5-7-9’s sister store, and the two brands are heavily intermingled. If you try to visit the old website, 579.com, for example, you’ll get redirected to RainbowShops.com.

The only place I could find where 5-7-9 has its own identity outside of Rainbow is an old, unkept Facebook page. Sadly, the page has almost 128,000 followers, but it hasn’t been updated since February of 2017.

Store Locations

If you really want to take a nostalgic trip down the 5-7-9 memory lane, I did get a list of all remaining stores in the continental U.S. from Rainbow’s corporate office. Here they are:

California

224 Second Street Calexico

Colorado

Aurora Mall – 14200 East Alameda Ave Aurora

Georgia

Greenbriar Mall – 2841 Greenbriar Pkwy SW Atlanta
Stone Mt Square -5370 Stone Mountain Hwy – Stone Mountain

Massachusetts

Meadowbrook S/C – 211 Plain St. Lowell

Ohio

Shore Center – 22650 Shore Center Drive Euclid

5-7-9 also has dozens of locations in Puerto Rico. If you do take a trip into one of these stores, come back and let us know how it went!

 

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  • Serena

    Sadly, my memory of this store was not a happy one. Probably in 1984 or 85 when I was 13 or 14, i saw something in the window that caught my eye. I was 5’3″ and probably 125 to 130 lbs. I tried on the largest size in that item and it was too small. The sales associate was down right sniveling at me as I sheepishly put the clothing back where it came from. What a horrible experience for a young girl!

    • Serena,
      That’s awful. Body-shaming is never ok, and it’s so especially painful for young girls.
      Catherine

  • hougirl91

    There is now a store named 3-6-5 that appears to have taken its place.

  • It’s sad to see from this article that thin-shaming is so alive and well. The 5 7 9 Shop was the only store where I could buy age appropriate clothing in my teens. And such cute clothes. I was tiny; not because I was trying to fulfill some enforced ideal of the perfect woman – I was born that way. Yes, though a myriad of overweight women will tell you otherwise, many women are born and stay small and thin their whole lives with no effort at all – born that way. And with more and more of stores given over to plus size clothing it has become increasingly difficult for small woman to buy clothes. Nobody would dare suggest that there shouldn’t be specialty stores catering to plus size woman. But god forbid tiny women should be afforded the same consideration.

    • Jan

      I lived in Hawthorne Ca- the 5-7 and 9 store was in Inglewood- very nice then!! I was tiny- bought my prom dress there- I just Loved that dress- it was so classy and fit great! Thank you for the memories ❤️

  • Danielle

    I worked at 5-7-9 from 2006 to 2008 in metro Detroit, we carried size 00, 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9

  • Rosemary

    This store was around in the 1970’s, and it wasn’t for “skinny” girls. Most girls in High School wore those sizes. It was rare in the late 60’s or early ’70’s to see high school girls in sizes larger than a 9 back then. Those were “average” sizes, not skinny! Skinny was a size 3 back then. Was one of my favorite stores. Miss it.

  • Squirl

    I miss this store so much!!!! I am 4 ft. 10. Inches tall. I weigh about 105 lbs. This was the only store I could find pants that fit me. Now the stores in my home town closed. I think because of this body shaming thing. How dare a company provide clothing for somebody with a different body type. How dare somebody be born so small. Now when I go shopping for pants I have to.find something that mostly fits, take it home, cut it up, let it out, take it in, basicly taylor my own clothes. And.while.It is functional they usually turn out just a smidge askew and funny looking. It takes me hours to get a pair of pants ready to wear. Its aweful!!! I miss the days when I could walk into a 579 store and walk out with a pair of pants ready for immediate wearing. Crying that they are disappearing!!!!! 579, if you are out there… Please come back!!!!!

  • Crazycat

    I remember 5-7-9 being a neat little clothing store. I shopped there, and I’ve never really been considered petite.

  • Jill

    5 7 9 seemed to be the only place I could find anything to fit me. A 00 now probably doesn’t exist as to how it did for me in the 90’s. What people call a 00 is so different these days. The fit is,way off from back then! My Mom shopped there is the 70’s too. Imagine the size difference then! I wish I could find that store near me. I am still very tiny and can’t find pants to fit. I have 2 pairs of dress pants that stI’ll look great that I got at 579 and they are the only dress pants I am able to wear. I wish other stores would realize small people do exist and carry small sizes. I really miss this store. I can’t seem to find much on this brand on any site like ebay either. I miss you 579!!!

  • Andrea

    I want to thank all the ladies who’ve commented on this awful, skewed, one-sided article! This store was the best thing that happened to my self-esteem as a tween!! This was clearly written by someone who saw the name of the store, never bothered to talk to the young girls (I repeat “young” girls) and women who shopped there, and just made an assumption because the sizes didn’t go higher in the double digits. This store was the best thing that ever happened to me, and it opened in St. Louis, MO in my freshman year in high school (80’s). I had such low self esteem because the fashion industry ignored this large group of young girls and women who were too big for 7-14 girls, but could not fit size a size 5 regular in Juniors. The jeans were all oversized in the butt, hips, and waist (jean trends in the 80’s were tight-fit), and skirts (trend was tight-fit) didn’t fit the waist and jolted out in the back where your butt was like an American Flag! I actually almost cried (with joy) when my mom took me to the mall and I saw this store that had a size 0!!! It fit every part of my body, and I felt like I wasn’t playing dress-up anymore in women’s clothes or avoiding being teased for something ill-fitted. I realized that I wasn’t the only one out there (although I felt that way at the time), and when I saw grown women shopping there, I knew that they were relieved that someone noticed them and filled the gap. This store faded because eventually the rest of the insensitive stores caught a whiff that we existed, and started caring those sizes. Now they have all the bottoms with these adjustable waists, but that still doesn’t account for the hip and butt area being baggy. I wish they were still around because now I have a daughter with the same issues, and luckily I know how to navigate her through it. The stores these days slipped away from carrying as many 0 and 1 sizes, but we rely on Rainbow, Forever 21, and others, but those aren’t made with great quality, so you have to be careful washing and drying.

    • Aimee Martinez

      I totally agree!! I was a twiggy teen with bird legs and no boobs. I could never find anything “trendy” in the girls department and the juniors department was always way too big. My mom would drive several hours to take me to a mall that had a 5-7-9 Store. I was always made fun of for my scrawny size and It was awesome being able to dress like the other girls my age. I now have a teenage daughter that has the same problem and I found this article while doing a search for a 579 Store. Nobody should be shamed for their body size or shape, including those that are smaller than average!

  • I worked at 5-7-9 (Next to The Buckle) in Fairview Heights, IL in about 1993 – 1994 era. I am 5″7″ and weighed about 140-145 at the time in a size 9. We had sizes ranging from 00 – 9, I am currently reminiscing of when I was slimmer and immediately thought of my employment at 5-7-9, I used to fit in a size 9 when I was first married and working through college. To make a long story short, I also worked next store at The Buckle and their sizes were comparable. How sad that your article implies that the sizing has changed since then and that the store encouraged something it did not. 🙁
    We had trendy music, matching shirts/shorts/belts/hair accessories etc.
    I remember this so fondly.

    • Andrea

      Thank you Karen. The store changed my life as a tween with low self esteem, and finally finding clothes in a size 0 to make me feel good.

  • Jason

    Very wrong article I managed one for 4 years 2004-2008. We carried sizes 00, 0, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9

    • Amy

      Jason is correct. It was my favorite store at the time. I wore a size 00 – 0 and never had to alter any of the clothes I bought. I’m now a size 0 – 1 and have trouble finding cute things to wear. Wish they would bring the store back. 🙁

  • Hattie

    Despite your nasty comments, sizes 5-9 would not possibly fit someone who was underweight, even in the 80s. Not unless she was at least 5’11” in height.

    I have a BMI of just under 22, otherwise known as the DEAD MIDDLE of the healthy range, and I wear 4s and some 2s these days. In 1980s, that would be a size 8-10, AKA a size 9 if I fit Juniors. At my smallest, still a healthy weight, I was a size 4, which is between a 3 and a 5 in Juniors sizing (depending on hips or waist).

    Girls in 0s today would all be healthy weight (unless 5’11”)…and so would most 00s. In fact, with fewer than 3% of women of any age medically underweight to any degree, catering to the underweight would be a losing proposition to almost any business. That’s why only the high fashion, designer brands carry clothing in that size–to keep the clothes-for-models cache–while underweight women without large pocketbooks end up shopping in child’s sizes.

    A size 5 is like a size 4 with a larger waist. Juniors have the bust and hips of the next size down in misses but with the waist size of the next size up. Juniors sizing is for girls who aren’t very curvy. It doesn’t “run small”.

    I have never worn juniors clothing. By the time I was tall enough and big enough to be out of kids’ clothes, I was way too curvy–meaning a big difference between waist and hips–to fit juniors clothes. My hipspring varies from 10-12 inches. Junior fit is usually 7 inches, while misses are 9.

    However, most preteens and teens fit juniors clothing better until at least age 16, if not older. The target age group for the department is 10 to 20. A HEALTHY BMI for a 10-year-old girl is 14-20. A healthy BMI for a 14-year-old girl is 15.8-23.4. A HEALTHY BMI for a 16-year-old girl is 16.8-24,5. A HEALTHY BMI for an 18-year-old starts at 17.5 and goes up to 24.9. This means that the vast majority of healthy girls can fit into the range of 0-9 that the store carried for the time that they were actually juniors builds, understanding that juniors 0s in the 90s (0s weren’t carried in the 80s–size inflation already taking hold!) were mostly bought by younger girls who wanted to dress older.

    The 5-7-9 stores never catered to the underweight. When they were popular, the vast majority of teenage girls had healthy body weights. Too bad they don’t anymore. I’m dropping my weight back to a fit BMI of 20, and I’m very much afraid I’ll be sized out of most stores at that point, which is absurd.

    • Diann

      In the late 1980’s I was the assistant manager of a couple 5.7.9 Shop in Missouri and the Manager of a 5.7.9 shop in Illinois. I had a 2 year career span with this company and loved every minute of it. I was 4″11″ and very petite. I could not shop at the regular stores because everything had to be hemmed and taken in. My customer was the itty bitty teenager- or the very petite business women. We did sell suits at the time. Our competitor was Petite Sophisticate and then they catered more to the upper end and more business fashion conscience.customer.

      • Catherine

        Diann,
        Thank you for the inside scoop!
        Catherine

      • Andrea

        So right! I was the itty bitty teen! 🙂

    • S

      For the record, I was very underweight and fitting in sizes 5-9 at 5’6″. My hips were and are very wide, regardless of body fat — just how my bones splayed with puberty. The size shaming/size importance definitely didn’t help my eating disorder. Granted, this was in the early 2000s, as I now wear sizes 0-6 and am about 40 lbs heavier than my low weight with anorexia.

      That said, agree with the general response of the comments on this article: 5-7-9 always carried sizes smaller, as well, and those sizes were hardly the “unrealistic” or “idealized” thin. They were the average in a time when obesity rates were lower — it actually makes sense to cater clothing to… well, the average size range?

    • Andrea

      Oh my gosh! You were sooo lucky. We didn’t get the store in Missouri/Illinois metro area until the 80’s. I had to go through 6th, 7th, and part of 8th grade without them :-(. It was so devastating, and not fun going to the mall with my mom and every teenager loves going to the mall. But, when they came out….mall time!!! yeah!

    • Jesse

      I was in my teens in the 80’s and used to shop there all the time. I was at my tallest 5’7″ and weighed about 125. I could easily fit into the size 3’s back then.

  • Liz

    I was in high school in the 1960s. There were 5-7-9 stores in my area and they carried clothes for petite (under 5’4″) young women. My best friend and I were 5’2″ and 5’3,” she wore a 5 and I wore a 9 and we loved that store!

    • Andrea

      Oh my gosh! You were sooo lucky. We didn’t get the store in Missouri/Illinois metro area until the 80’s. I had to go through 6th, 7th, and part of 8th grade without them :-(. It was so devastating, and not fun going to the mall with my mom and every teenager loves going to the mall. But, when they came out….mall time!!! yeah!

  • Dana

    You are wrong. When 579 opened it had 0 1 3 as well. It did not, never has catered to just 5 79 sizes.

    • Nancy

      Totally agree. Shopped there always back in the day. Did think it started further back than the 80’s.

      • Joyce

        Dana, you are correct. ..they had other sizes. This was my daughter’s store when she was in high school. The only store that had clothes that fit her. She was a size 00 then 0…she loved this store. ..no alterations. ..I loved it to as a mother. ..no more shopping around trying to find clothes to fit her.

      • Melody Camp

        You are SO right! Back in Jr. High School (1965+), I was a teeny-tiny and 5-7-9 was a God-send with clothing styled beyond the “little girl” styles that were the only clothes that came close to fitting we skinny girls — 5-7-9 served a much needed gap that retailers, back in the day, failed to address!

      • Debbie

        579 was around in the 1960’s and had the trendiest “mod” clothing.

    • Sandra

      Actually it also had 10 11 and 13 sizes occasionally… I know because I managed one of the stores in mid 70s and my sister was one of the buyers for the clothes. Great family owned and operated business during the hayday of American manufactured goods… cotton grown in the southern states and made here. That went away mid to late 80s. Awesome store… so much fun!