Clients of lingerie store have included first lady Nancy Reagan and Aretha Franklin
By Dan Schere
The Chevy Chase boutique Sylene, selling lingerie, swimwear and accessories, is closing after 45 years.
Photo via Google Maps
Sylene, a Chevy Chase boutique selling lingerie, swimwear and accessories, is closing after 45 years.
Co-owner Cyla Weiner told Bethesda Beat that she and partner Helen Kestler are closing the store at 4407 S. Park Ave. because the landlord has talked about demolishing the building.
Weiner said they do not want to have to move the store during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m a little skeptical about what’s going on now and it’s not the best time to be moving and sinking money into a new endeavor,” she said. “If COVID hadn’t happened and the building wasn’t coming down and we didn’t have to move, if all these things didn’t all come together, I think we would’ve entertained [staying open].”
Sylene opened in 1975 on Fairmont Avenue in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle neighborhood and later moved to Wisconsin Avenue, Weiner said. Sylene has been in its current location since 1999.
In a press release, the owners said that in the early years, the store served as a place where women could openly discuss their experiences with breast cancer, which was considered taboo at the time. Sylene held an annual mastectomy fashion show in which survivors of the disease who were store clients would pose as models.
Weiner said the fashion shows were often sold out, with more than 100 people.
“People were sitting in the windows. They were sitting wherever they could find a seat. And this went on for many, many years,” she said.
Weiner said the procedures women had after breast cancer were much different in the early years of the store.
“In those years, surgery was not what it is today, where the majority of women get reconstructed. In those years, they had radical mastectomies, which was very disfiguring. They weren’t as open as they were today,” she said.
Weiner said Sylene’s clients have included first lady Nancy Reagan, singer Aretha Franklin, newscaster Connie Chung and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Weiner said she did bra fittings in the White House several times for Reagan. She recalled one fitting when she went to the private residence.
“In those years, they didn’t have the security that they have today,” she said. “I was scheduled to take the shuttle up to New York for a trip when the White House asked me to come. I went down to the White House. They picked me up.
“I had these two huge bags. Nobody ever checked my bags. They took me up to the elevator to the private quarters. I fit Nancy Reagan. I left the bags there. They delivered them back to the store and they took me down to the airport. So things [were] not the way they are today.”
Franklin didn’t come to the store, Weiner said, but sent “one of her people” there when she needed a bra in preparation for a performance at the Kennedy Center. The singer herself later called to give Weiner her credit card number.
“That was kind of exciting,” Weiner said.
Weiner said she doesn’t know when the store will officially close, but merchandise is being marked down starting this month. There are still several months left on the lease, so the closing date is flexible.
Weiner said the possibility of opening another store one day isn’t out of the question, but right now, she and Kestler want a break. Weiner added that she and Kestler want to spend more time visiting their grandchildren in Colorado and California.
“It’s an institution and it’s very bittersweet leaving. But at this point in our lives ,our grandchildren are young and want to spend time with us,” she said.
Dan Schere can be reached at [email protected]