About This Blog

About This Site

The goal of this blog is to create an easily browsable archive of vintage Banana Republic Catalogs for collectors and resellers, as well as to celebrate and document the history of Banana Republic of the 1980s. You can browse the catalogs individually, or browse by clothing type (Women’s shoes, Men’s Pants, etc). Hopefully this makes it easier to find the proper names of a garment and understand it’s place in the BR timeline. eBay sellers are encouraged to use the site to research items and are free to use catalog scans to illustrate this auctions. I have chosen not to watermark my images, but I would ask that you include a credit and link to the site and the Found It on Abandoned Republic badge. 

My story is this: I loved Banana Republic clothes when I was a teenager. That made me a bit of an outsider among my peers, though my close friends (drama club dorks) shared the enthusiasm if not the wardrobe. I was never comfortable with teen fashion in the 80s, it all seemed pretty ridiculous to me. Of course, to a lot of other people dressing like a background extra from Raiders of the Lost Ark was pretty stupid too. Nonetheless, the aggressively retro style and pretensions of adventure and romance that Banana Republic traded in was right up my alley. I visited the BR store each time I left New Mexico for a larger city. San Francisco, Washington DC, New York and London stores all got a visit from me. I wish I had kept the clothes of course, but styles change and things get tossed. 

I picked up my first catalog from my father, who actually WAS the adventure traveller I would never be. He lived in the Alaskan wilderness while I grew up in the suburbs of a New Mexico town. The illustrated Banana Republic catalog was particularly attractive to me as a young artist. So distinctive and beautifully rendered, I’m still kind of astonished they pulled it off as much as they did. 

It’s been eating away at a little corner of my brain ever since, because what I am is a collector and amateur archivist. So when I came across a giant collection of catalogs on eBay I decided it was up to me to put an archive together.

For the record, I still shop at Banana Republic, I like their clothes and have no problem with them being a high-end GAP. My attitude is not “BR used to be great and now it sucks and it’s so generic and boring”. That may be true, I’m no fashion expert and don’t care to be. But clearly, classic BR was a product of its time and was bound to change into something else. It would have been nice if the Ziegler’s had been able to retain creative control and manage it’s evolution, but that’s corporate America for you.

If you are an artist or designer who worked for BR and would like to share your work and experiences with us please get it touch.

It was a grand day when 35 vintage Banana Republic catalogs arrived at my house. That same week I picked up a vintage BR shoebox to keep them in and a Bi-Plane gift box I have big plans for.

 

13 Comments

  • Jeff O'Connell on June 15, 2016

    Excellent work! I too was a BR fanatic and owned tons of their stuff. Can you explain what happened to their line of goods and are any still available? I remember one day there was the old BR and then one day poof! There are a lot of things I’d buy again if I could find them.

  • Verna on August 2, 2016

    What a neat blog- I was refered over here from a Vintage Bath and Body Works Tumblr. I can’t wait to read more of your site! I love it when people have such a passion for things from their youth!

    Take care!

  • ZieglerFanBoy on February 7, 2018

    You’ve made a massive contribution to a certain subset of late Boomers and early GenX, this is priceless. The memories are thawing and trickling in and it’s astounding. Thank you so much for all your hard work. Superb!

    Gurkha shorts high school/college ’83-’85
    British Drill pants high school/college ’83-’85
    wore these a ridiculous amount
    several other forgotten favs will surface from further perusal

    • Robyn Adams on February 7, 2018

      Welcome, ZieglerFanBoy! Thank you for he comments, I am glad you have found us!

      Sounds like you were a well dressed (if not a bit geeky) young person!

  • emptym on July 3, 2019

    Great website! I was a teenager in the late 80s and loved BR then too. One of my favorite shirts was an orange and red cotton button down. Very Southwestern (I grew up in Las Vegas, NV). Had some Gurkha shorts too. I used to read the entire catalogue. Was glad to get the book that compiled some things from the catalogue (Ballantine Books, ’86).

  • Nancy S on September 11, 2019

    I set out to find the Mattress Ticking shirt I wore freshman year and here it is … I remember the Jeep and the dried grasses (or something) in the storefront at the mall! The original BR was a pretty cool idea, I think … nice site 🙂

  • Jimmy on October 23, 2019

    Worked at the Stanford store for a few years from 1983 onward. But I was a catalog addict from years earlier in Hawaii where I grew up. Would love to grab some of those older items now. I will say that the years working at BR gave me a schooling in quality clothing that unfortunately has made me a quality clothes snob to this day. Good website.
    Aloha…JJ

    • Robyn Adams on February 18, 2020

      Thank you, JJ! I’m jealous you got to work there! The Stanford store was one of the earliest!

  • James on February 18, 2020

    Thank you for all this work! I first walked into a BR store in about 1985 in South Coast Plaza, a film maker in my late 20’s just returning from Afghanistan. The Zeiglers had it figured out. It wasn’t just the styles but the wonderful fabrics, the feel of quality, and the personal connection with the goods. I lived not far that store for a few years before moving to the Mideast (with my BR clothes and bags!). Seeing these catalogs brings back great memories.

    I still have my original Correspondent’s Bag which has accompanied me around the world, since supplemented by a Billingham, both of which have been worn to tatters and only recently retired (I’d love to upload a pic). And I still use my original Low Profile bag. (Actually I bought two. I’m glad I did.)

    It seems this is a labor of love for you, and we old devotees appreciate it. I was gratified to read in the Zieglers’ book that Dan Fischer, the Gap owner, later regretted forsaking the Zieglers’ vision, it appears, for both financial and aesthetic reasons.

    Warm regards,
    James

    • Robyn Adams on February 18, 2020

      Thank you, James, it is indeed a labor of love and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your memories!

  • Peter Gise on April 17, 2020

    Hi Robyn – I discovered Banana Republic when the semiconductor company I worked for sent me to Singapore to train some of the engineers in our manufacturing facility. I needed some all cotton clothing for the tropical climate and the only game in town was the Republic. I picked up some short sleeve safari shirts and cargo pants for my trip.
    I am now retired and have taken up photography. Your website brought back many memories of return trips to their store at the Stanford shopping center but alas it is long gone. But by the wonder of eBay I located the very first version of the photojournalist vest which is now in the mail!
    Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories during these trying times.

    • Robyn Adams on April 26, 2020

      Thanks for sharing, Peter! What a great testimonial for the old BR! Take care and stay safe!

  • Stephanie Moore on May 16, 2020

    I like you loved the wardrobe of the old banana Republic. I saved to get a particular dress which I’m not to wear to school. I was in high school at the time moving towards college.

    I was blindsided by the change. I still can’t get over it. I don’t like unfortunately the new banana republic. I guess I love the Kitch the original. I think there was a place for it To continue. Oh well things do change.

    If I ever become a millionaire “ not gonna happen because I’m a teacher” I think I’ll re-create it as a workspace for my creative endeavors. Glad this site is here.

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