Lena Dunham Wore the Same Outfit 3 Days in a Row, and Ann Taylor’s Loft Is Psyched

Could the brand be ... cool?

Loft has been courting millennials for months, and it just won over the generation's queen—Lena Dunham. The Girls star published a lengthy Instagram post this week about loving a Loft outfit so much, she wore it for 72 hours straight.

"Been in the same outfit for going on three days—Ann Taylor Loft shirt and shorts from a very unexpectedly fruitful trip through their doors," she wrote about a pair of black gingham shorts paired with an embroidered-heart top, racking up 32,000 likes. "Must I now stop making Ann Taylor jokes?"

By the way, "this is not an ad for Ann Taylor Loft," she added. Indeed, no one was more surprised by the callout than staff at the retail chain, which launched in 1998 and simplified its name to Loft in 2010 as Ann Taylor's more casual, affordable sibling.

"We loved it," said Michelle Horowitz, svp of marketing at Loft. "Often, we are at the butt of some comedian's jokes, and Lena has often teased us. We appreciate humor and see the levity in that and don't take it too seriously. We didn't ask her to do this. We knew nothing about it.

"We're also kind of excited the perception is changing, and we've won her over."

 

Been in the same outfit for going on 3 days- Ann Taylor Loft shirt & shorts from a very unexpectedly fruitful trip through their doors (must I now stop making Ann Taylor jokes?) plus Jemima's beaten-up (potentially fake?) Chanel purse she "lent" me 3 + years ago… And a smile… Because summer is upon us and I truly love my job and my friends and the family that birthed me and the one I have made. The past week was so discouraging in certain ways- the ruling in Texas, Kalief Browder's tragic death, the sense that the work our mothers put in for us, marching and shouting, was in vain. But then I see the uproar on Instagram and beyond and I think "with this much passion we are gonna be okay. This much passion can't be tamed, can't be ignored, can't be restrained." This is not an ad for Ann Taylor Loft. This is an ad for hardcore caring (and stealing from friends. Sorry, Jemima.)

A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

It's an interesting turn for a brand that's arguably synonymous with inoffensive "corporate casual" wear, more suitable for cubicle life than a cultural icon's Instagram feed. The brand's button-down shirts and knee-length skirts have made it a punchline for comedy writers ranging from Judd Apatow to Jimmy Fallon to Dunham herself. 

"I don't want to shop at old-lady stores. I don't want to go to J. Jill and Chico's and Ann Taylor Loft," cries Leslie Mann in the throes of a midlife crisis in This Is 40. In a memorable Girls episode, Marnie is shamed for wearing a powder blue Ann Taylor suit to a trendy art gallery interview. And in another, Shoshanna bolts from a job opportunity at Loft when the interviewer offers her the chance to "implement our cardigan story for spring."

Fiction aside, Dunham prodded the brand in real life last year with this challenge for her Twitter fans: Find the "sluttiest" outfit you can at Loft. The joke being, good luck with that.

Rather than get defensive, Loft officials say they're getting in on the joke by partnering with comedians to lighten up the store's image. Since the holidays, it's made dozens of funny videos with Internet personalities from Srsly Grls, Hot Mess Moves and Hello Giggles.

"We don't take it to heart," Horowitz said. "It's always nice to be part of pop culture."

This week, it kicked off the LOL Movie Series with Whitney Cummings, who picked her favorite funny-lady films and is hosting laid-back screenings in New York and Chicago. About 500 people gathered at a pier along Manhattan's East River to watch Sixteen Candles on Tuesday. There was no sales pitch and no fashion show; rather, the brand says it's working to build community. 

These recent efforts—including a collaboration with Brooklyn artist Chris Uphues to create free heart stickers for customers—seem to skew young. But Horowitz said the brand is more interested in appealing to women of a certain optimistic mindset than a certain age.

"It's more psychographic," she explained. "We want to appeal to the person who enjoys finding looks that allow you to be you and who doesn't take life too seriously."

Someone who wears the same $110 outfit three days in a row, including to a meeting with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, qualifies.

"[Dunham's] proud to say she wore this for three days. She's not embarrassed, she's not taking herself too seriously," Horowitz mused. "The fact that she's a cool girl? That's great. Even better."

 

#SundaySelfieWithSenator @kirstengillibrand: a true heroine/down ass chick

A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on