For sixty years, everyone from college girls and trophy wives to exotic dancers, cross dressers, and various breeds of curious men have frequented the Massad’s lingerie store, located at 15th and Columbia in Tulsa.
The store is a square of wall-to-wall lace, glitter, and feathers. Dorothy Gaither, long-time employee of Massad’s, has a story for every corset and fishnet in the place. Gaither says she’s worked at Massad’s for 25 years, though she adds, “I’ve been saying 25 for at least three years now.”
“This is our best-selling corset,” she said as she produced a tiny white one. “Real tight, makes your tummy flat and your waist little. There’s drawstrings in the back, and these tabs here are for garter straps.”
Floyd Massad, son of a Lebanese immigrant, opened the store in 1950. He shocked local prudes by putting a few uber-sexy pieces in the front window, and soon became the go-to shop for all things frilly—much of which he made himself.
“Mr. Massad is very talented,” Gaither said beaming. “He made some bathing suit cover-ups and some long-sleeve pajamas, but mostly he liked to make really sexy things.”
She pulls out a Massad’s original bikini bottom with a carefully-placed line of stitching that causes the suit to scrunch up between a person’s cheeks. “You’d be surprised, but that really makes your seat look better. But you have to get used to it.”
Massad set up his sewing station next door to the store and worked tirelessly on creating costumes and lingerie with his signature “MASSAD’S OF TULSA” tag sewn into them. While most of it is designed for women, he also made several pieces designed for men, including thongs and g-strings.
“Even the pieces that are for women,” Gaither explained, “are not necessarily bought by women. I can’t tell you how many times a man will come in here with a vague request for ‘something for his wife.’ After asking questions and watching them, I’ll realize they’re shopping for themselves, but I don’t say anything. I just ask, ‘Is she about your size?’ and help him find something just right. I think people really appreciate how comfortable we make them feel while they shop.’”
A quick Internet search proves her right. Various reviewing websites host stories of anonymous customers praising the store for their customer service. One person posted, “I am a Tulsa Crossdresser and have shopped at Massad’s for all my sexy outfits and shoes. The staff is always very helpful. They have wonderful panties, bras… Everything I need.”
Another poster shares, “I went there once with a buddy of mine who was there getting some kind of saucy outfit for his wife (supposedly)… A very attractive sales woman came over to help us and wanted to know his wife’s bust size. Since he didn’t have the numbers, she motioned to her own bosom and asked if she was bigger or smaller in comparison.”
Another story tells of a woman trying on lingerie in the middle of the store, rather than in the dressing room. Gaither laughs at the stories, admitting that most of them are probably true.
“We’ve really seen it all,” she said. “Just today a guy came in here with bright red lipstick on, looking through the undergarments. He told me he’s going through a tough time, a divorce and all, with kids involved. I’ve been here so long, a lot of the drag queens know me and trust me. They’re some of my favorite customers.”
Gaither does recall one unwelcome guest, however. “A guy in a woman’s wig kept coming in here for a while, just walking around looking at the ceiling, then leaving. Finally, he came back on Christmas Eve one year, and pulled a gun out of his dirty blue coat, and pointed it right at me. Mr. Massad gave him all the money in the register, which was terrible because it had been one of the best days we’d ever had. He took all the big bills and left us the dollar bills. Then he left without hurting anybody, just talking really rough. The police never found him, or never cared to find him, I don’t know.”
Since Floyd Massad retired on January first, his son Ted has been running the store, and plans to close it on the 15th of May.
The fond memories of the shop will live on, if only online. “I can remember when Massad’s was at 15th and Lewis because it seemed like there were a lot of fender benders happening in front of their window,” one poster shared. “Not your typical long-john and bloomers sort of store.”