Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Shopping Nostalgia

Most of us miss shopping.
We could get nostalgic...

And go back 350 years. I've been reading a book that discuses the origins of western shopping culture: Joan DeJean's How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City. She uses her understanding of French word origins, Paris history and close examination of images from 17th-century France to give us insight into the invention of the sidewalk, the park bench, the city guidebook and the luxury shopping destination.

She spends time looking at this print from 1678. Two very fashionable people are in a Paris store that sells accessories and fabric. Is one a clerk? Hard to tell when the salespeople dress as well as the rich customers.

Fabric is draped attractively to show off pattern repeats
 (probably silk brocades and embroideries) .

Rococo designs with a lot of scrollwork seem to be la Mode
(French for fashion.)

DeJean believes this is the earliest image of a fabric store, although there are earlier pictures of shops selling accessories.

La Galerie du Palais by Abraham Bosse, 1636

This etching forty years earlier shows how fashion changed since the days of Vandyke collars. Once luxury shops began vending la mode clothing style began to change faster.

Fancy collars, fans and gloves were sold by male and female clerks.
Books are in the department on the left.

1688 Selling Lingerie in a Boutique

DeJean makes a point about how French boutiques
like this lingerie store were "manned" by women, an
equality other countries did not import.

Another image of a shop selling both fashion accessories (lace?) and books. The Palace Galleries in the Palace Royale (a public square) were a shopping arcade---the first mall?

The Gothic style windows are visible in the courtyard in the center here.

The French "created a new urban amusement: we call it 'going shopping.' " She quotes from a contemporary account: Paris "abounds with opulence and wealth...paradise for the rich and hell for the poor [with] an infinite number of shops full of beautiful things you were dying to buy."

I liked many things about this book. She moves easily between French and English and translates all her French phrases into idiomatic English. I've been reading French history books this year and few authors do that. They assume you read French with flair. I can read it but I continually miss the subtleties of the idioms. Word origins explain a lot about culture and she's quite good at French and English. It's a great historical guidebook to France and urban culture. After reading it you'd notice the sidewalks on the Pont Neuf that you would otherwise have taken for granted.

See a preview at Google Books


  1. Ordinarily I'm not much of a casual shopper, but now I find I do miss it! This book sounds fascinating.

  2. I don't miss the actual shopping**, I miss the *idea* of being able to pop in the car and go to stores with no worries. Not just about my mask and remembering to distance, but everyone else's mask and distancing. Never mind wondering what the next shortage on the shelves will be.

    ** except for quilt fabrics!

  3. Hi and thank you for the giveaway! This book looks AMAZING! The first thing I plan to do is drive to may favorite civil war quilt shop and SHOP in person. The next day, go to my second favorite shop and so on. I also look forward to the days I can sew with my quilting friends again, miss that so much! thank you

  4. What a refreshing thought, that the English would be there, translating into whatever the French are trying to tell us, but alas, we do not understand French. The USA is so big, and each state speaks English, but Europe is cut up into different countries, with different languages, all packed into a small space of land! Unlike people living there we do not have to learn another language to understand each other.

    Am so happy to testify about a great spell caster that helped me when all hope was lost for me to unite with my ex-girlfriend that I love so much. I had a girlfriend that love me so much but something terrible happen to our relationship one afternoon when her friend that was always trying to get to me was trying to force me to make love to her just because she was been jealous of her friend that i was dating and on the scene my girlfriend just walk in and she thought we had something special doing together, i tried to explain things to her that her friend always do this whenever she is not with me and i always refuse her but i never told her because i did not want the both of them to be enemies to each other but she never believed me. She broke up with me and I tried times without numbers to make her believe me but she never believed me until one day i heard about the DR. EMU and I emailed him and he replied to me so kindly and helped me get back my lovely relationship that was already gone for two months.
    Email him at: Emutemple@gmail.com  
    Call or Whats-app him: +2347012841542