The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Diamonds and Pearls

April 25, 2016 | by

From a 1916 Vanity Fair cover.

“How are you?” asked a smiling acquaintance on the street. 

“Well, I’m pretty down about Prince—but aren’t we all?” I said reprovingly. 

“Oh yes,” she murmured. “Of course.” I saw her blinking quickly in an effort to summon tears. “It’s the end of an era, isn’t it?” Read More »

The Wrong Scent

April 20, 2016 | by

From a vintage Bienaimé advertisement.

When I rejoined my husband, the first thing he said was, “I love that perfume!”

“That’s just as well,” I said shortly.

Here’s what had happened: I’d taken refuge from the weather in a shop. Guiltily aware that I wouldn’t be buying anything, I sniffed at a series of perfume stoppers. Some customer in a fishing hat, a pair of white socks with sandals, and a bag with a picture of Liza Minnelli on it was chattering with the saleswoman about the exorbitant price of neighborhood tea and his depression. “Maybe some cologne will help your day,” said the saleswoman. Read More »

The Cheese Guy

April 18, 2016 | by

From a 1930 Italian cheese advertisement.

I used to like buying cheese. You could say it was one of the small, reliable pleasures of my week. I never bought a great deal—usually just a small piece to eat for lunch with some bread and fruit—but I enjoyed the process of tasting and learning and then bearing home the neatly wrapped little waxed-paper bundle.

The cheese guy was nice, too. Knowledgeable without making a big show of it, authoritative without snobbery, and pleasantly detached. It was this detachment, in a way, that allowed me to enjoy the transaction—he never made a big fuss about my being a regular. I felt slightly invisible, but in the best possible way. It would have been awkward if he’d been flirtatious or overly friendly. And he never made me try more cheeses than I wanted, which I thought was nice.  Read More »

Always Right

April 11, 2016 | by

New York City subway, May 1973.

The other day I noticed something for the first time. “Please allow all customers off the train,” said the recorded voice over the subway sound system. Customers. Not passengers, not riders: customers. 

What did it mean? Something bureaucratic, obviously—but philosophically? Had the transaction at last been stripped of all artifice? Had the civic connotations of public transit been cast off in favor of naked commercialism? Or was this a simple acknowledgment that we’re paying for the ride—and that, in the way of all American customers, we are always right? Read More »

The Sweet Smell of Success

March 31, 2016 | by

Perfume ad, ca. 1920.

It all started about a month ago. A close friend was celebrating a big birthday, and I planned to buy her a set of nice lotions and potions in a pricey scent I knew she loved. So I looked up the address of the shop, walked across the park, headed uptown, and entered its ritzy, expensively perfumed confines. The man standing inside didn’t look up.

“Hello,” I said.

He ignored me for an uncomfortably long moment, then looked up and said, “Did you want something?” Read More »

Arrangement

March 14, 2016 | by

From a late nineteenth-century French advertisement.


The French are known for how they wear scarves. That’s such a cliché that it hardly merits repeating. But like so many clichés, it’s rooted in truth. And today I was reminded of that.

I was at a clothing store in Paris. While I sat on a low bench and waited for a friend to emerge from the dressing room, I watched women of all ages try on scarves and wraps in front of a nearby mirror. Each woman tried on her scarf differently; some draped, some wrapped, some poufed the lengths of fabric into tall, proud collars. Several tried more than one effect, seeing how the cloth behaved. But one thing they all had in common.Read More »