Live Long and Prosper
February 27, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Saturday is a special day for buying and doing beautiful things. A whole day stretching ahead. It’s a new lifestyle. A man. A woman. Art exhibits. Antiquing. Movies. Cocktails. Shopping. … together. You’re searching for a special gown. You want something different. You find it at Regalia, a fully-lined chiffon and velvet gown with matching hot pants. You know fashion. You’re a member of Saturday’s Generation. —Schenectady Gazette ad for Regalia Boutique, 1971
Recently, Gothamist featured a 1976 60 Minutes story on said “Saturday’s Generation”—a short-lived term for the young people who “walk and glide, trip and mince, and stride” through a Bloomingdale’s of a Saturday, doing and buying beautiful things and picking each other up.
In the segment, Blair Sabol (of the Village Voice) describes Saturday’s Generation in terms that, today, may as well be a foreign language, but that seem to spell out proto-yuppie. “I think of a couple, and they live on the Upper East Side, and they have chrome and glass furniture, and they’ve got the brie cheese, and they’re wearing the Famous Amos T-shirt, and they’ve got the right patch jeans … that’s a very heavy identity.”
Containerlist further elucidated the phenomenon:
It’s 1970. You’re young, you’re bored in your Upper East Side apartment, you have a little money to spend. Bloomingdale’s tried to capture the weekend leisure time of this trend-seeking crowd with their “Saturday’s Generation” boutique, inviting customers to hang out in their curvy, psychedelic, over-the-top model interiors designed by Barbara D’Arcy. The in-store environments featured simulated aquarium living, inspiration from Earth Houses, and a structure called “The Cave”, which was wrapped entirely in white polyurethane. There was plenty of plastic, foam rubber, shag rugs, jagged greenery against soft curves, projected wall images.
Certainly the few Saturday’s Generation label garments available for sale on eBay—presumably from said Bloomie’s boutique—appeared distinctly fashion-forward.
I called my parents to see whether, as hip young New Yorkers in the seventies, they had been familiar with this designation. Had my dad, as a young man, not lived in the Village? And my mother, after all, had been a disco regular—family lore has it that the last scene of Saturday Night Fever was filmed in her apartment after a location scout ran into her in the East Sixties.
“Well, Bloomingdale’s was a known pick-up spot,” said my dad. “But not as prominent as the Museum of Modern Art. I picked up a woman at MoMA, one of the few times I ever went.”
I read them description of the heavy identity that was Saturday’s Generation.
“I guess my boyfriend Steve was part of that,” my mother said. “He insisted we buy a chrome and glass coffee table. I hated it. Famous Amos was one of the first gourmet cookies; before that, we just ate Entenmann’s.”
I was somewhat deflated. I shouldn’t have been; my parents had been similarly unhelpful when asked to comment on the closing of CBGB and the singles bar scene of West Seventy-First Street. “Okay,” I said. “But was this a real phenomenon? Did that phrase catch on? Or was it just a marketing ploy? Did you ever hear anyone use it?”
“I don’t know,” said my mother vaguely. “I was just hanging out with gay men and going to Star Trek conventions. I wore my Andorian antennae to Tavern on the Green when it opened, and a woman approached me in the bathroom and asked if they were a fashion statement, or something medical.”
“I think you’re asking the wrong people,” said my dad.
“But if you watch the last scene of Saturday Night Fever, you can see the coffee table,” said my mom. “Although the location scout insisted on redecorating.”