Monday, September 16, 2019

Mining Gold: Day 5

Liz Taylor and her mom did it
There have been entire books written about How to Shop. The Miracle Guide gives it 22 pages, a daunting number in a 98-page magazine.

Disregarding no mention of online, discount or outlet shopping, advice from 1952 pretty much rings true today.

> Shop when you have more time than you think you need. A mad dash on your lunch hour should be reserved for picking up a scarf or a hankie, not a winter coat. If you are a housewife, take advantage of slow hours during the week. Career girls should embrace the "new late hours" that may happen a night or two during the week. BTW, as late as the mid '60s, when I was a college student and part-time salesgirl in Cleveland, stores were only open late Thursday and always closed Sunday. Just look at us now!

> Don't go shopping when you're feeling blue. The term "retail therapy" wasn't yet coined, but it never works. You will end of hating what you bought because you will remember how you felt when you bought it.

> Always look your best when you go shopping. Get dressed; do your hair and makeup. Not only do you want to give what you try on a fair chance, you want to "impress the  salesgirl or at least get her cooperation...Somehow you always get better service when you are neat and tidy." As a salesgirl myself I've learned to disregard this or realize it's disregarded. Sometimes the customer running in from a workout at the gym ends up spending the most.

> Wear the correct underwear with no safety pins holding things together. Those salesgirls have eagle eyes. It also makes sense to try on strapless dresses wearing a strapless bra. I would say speaking from 2019's vantage point, if you do intend to wear Spanx with something, bring them along. Wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard "this will look great when I wear my Spanx". Maybe so, but just in case...

> Don't get distracted. If you have a blouse in mind, head directly to the blouse department. That's when there was a blouse department, of course. And don't let that pesky salesgirl convince you to get magenta when you really wanted black. "No buy is a best buy if it's a wrong buy".

> Know your favorite store (s). Know where the departments are located. Make friends with a salesgirl (still a good idea if it's that kind of place). On the other hand, don't be afraid to explore new departments or new stores. Many of today's department stores are organized by designer, possibly one of the most frustrating and time-consuming practices in all retail.

> "Buy your hankies at Swanky's." Just because there is a lovely store in town where you can't really afford to shop doesn't mean you can't pick up a thing or two—stockings (that we don't wear), hankies (that we don't use) or name brand cosmetics (that are indeed the same price at Macy's that they are at Bergdorf's). And while you're there, check out the latest styles to see what's new. My friend DeeGee calls this "visiting the museum with price tags." 

Can we stop for lunch yet?

There follows two pages on buying a dress and four on finding a suit, which must have been a staple item in the '50s, two pages on a coat, one each on hats and shoes.  There are two pages on finding your size range from misses to junior to "brief" (the early "petite") to the no-longer available "women's half sizes" (short and heavy). I can condense the two pages on buying bras and girdles to 1) have your bra fitted by someone who has been trained to do it, and 2) be thankful girdles are not holding us in (or down) anymore.

The section finishes with a page on fabrics—what are natural and what are synthetic. The '50s saw man-made fabrics promoted in a big way. Dacron, Arnel and my favorite, Virgin Acrylic, showed up on fabric labels but have pretty much disappeared. We have others though, and it really pays to read the label before you buy. I've found cottons that must be dry cleaned and wool that can be washed.

We will next tackle how to get dressed on Day 6. It's about time.


  1. Such a fascinating glimpse into what shopping was like then! I always looked at shoes, bag and jewelry/glasses when customers came into our shop - you could always tell who had money.

    1. I wonder if those "salesgirls" realized what power they held!