Sunday, March 30, 2008

Retail Therapy - now and then

I had a delightful retail experience this weekend, (there's a book recommendation coming, just wait for it). Out for dinner with another Dewey on Friday evening, I passed a clothing shop on my way home that was closed for the night, but had enticing sale signs posted on some beautiful clothes in the front window. Popped in on Saturday morning and bought this little dress/top which I'm absolutely crazy about - not least because it packs without wrinkles (essential as I look ahead to an upcoming two week stint on the road). The store has an interesting name, The Embellishment Room, (2025 Yonge St. between Eglinton and Davisville). They sell only imported clothes from Europe and curiously enough, they only carry one size - medium.

Now, I'm usually a medium anyways, but the proprietor urged me to try on everything as a French medium is different from an Italian medium etc. And she was absolutely right. Several of the tops I tried on were too small; others too large. This was just right, so obviously it had my name on it. And the prices are pretty good as well. The dress also "embellishes" the colour scheme of my newly decorated bathroom. Not that I feel the need to colour co-ordinate my wardrobe with my towels, but I'm just craving anything these days that has that fresh, apple-green look of spring - such a happy colour.
It was inevitable that I'd be buying clothes this weekend. In the midst of reading a pile of fall manuscripts for our upcoming sales conference, I've had to take a break and catch up on some extra-curricular reading. Emile Zola's The Ladies' Paradise is set in a large department store in Paris and proves that fervent consumerism is nothing new; this novel was published in 1883. I'm only a third of the way through but am really enjoying it so far. Octave Mouret is the owner of the Ladies' Paradise, one of the prototypes of the department store we know today, and he's full of ideas for expanding, dreaming that eventually his store will take over an entire city block. His business philosophy is to make up in volume what he loses by selling his goods very cheaply - even taking a loss in some cases - in order to put all his competitors - the small, family-run specialty stores - out of business. Sound familiar? Denise is the naive, small-town girl who comes to Paris to support her brothers and goes to work for him as a sales clerk in his ladies wear department.

There are some very interesting gender issues that arise in this novel - again, not so distant from stereotypes found in any shopping chicklit novel of today. It's all about consumer seduction - in this case of bored Parisian society women who need to keep up appearances:
"Get the women," [Mouret] whispered to the Baron, laughing impudently as he did so, "and you'll sell the world."

But there is also a sinister motif of dead and decapitated women that runs through the story. Mouret's department store owes its origins to his wife's money - the same wife who was killed in an accident on the construction site. And check out this description of one of the shop windows:

"Against this chapel-like background, the coats were bursting with energy; the great velvet overcoat trimmed with silver fox suggested the curved outline of a headless woman, running through the downpour to some festivity in the mysterious Parisian night."

There is the repeated promise that Woman will get her revenge. I wait with delicious anticipation.


Anonymous said...

Hello from Westmount! I looooove that dress of yours, it is absolutely fabulous! Any chance there was another one in the store? (i promise not to wear it at a Dewey Divas event!)

Maylin said...

Oh, yes there were several more. And it also came in orange and black. I should have put the price in the blog post. How much was it? $29.99! Can you believe it?