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.
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.
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:
224 Second Street Calexico
Aurora Mall – 14200 East Alameda Ave Aurora
Greenbriar Mall – 2841 Greenbriar Pkwy SW Atlanta
Stone Mt Square -5370 Stone Mountain Hwy – Stone Mountain
Meadowbrook S/C – 211 Plain St. Lowell
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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