Shop Talk redux: Jewish fashion then, now and French


Back in the 1930s, Joan Klein wrote a weekly column about clothing trends called “Shop Talk.” Since what is old is always new again in the world of fashion and I live in Brooklyn where “retro” is the ever-annoying watchword, I think this makes me more than qualified to comment on styles from an era where the words “snark” and “blog” didn’t yet exist.

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(Can you even imagine?)


From the September 20, 1934 column

A one woman crusade to change the ideas of prominent French stylists who design clothes for American women, had a successful ending a few days ago, when Mrs. Lane Bryant returned from Europe with the first Paris creations styled for the larger woman. Size thirty-six and over constitutes a larger woman, and never before has she received recognition at the hands of Parisian couturiers. Mrs. Bryant selected eight models from the best French designers which are particularly suited to women who are not slender. For the first time, French styles, with added ingenious lines that do much to create the visual effect of slenderness, have been brought to America. 

The more things change the more they stay the same. The French still think Americans are fat and refuse to do us the favor of sewing smaller size numbers into our clothing like the Gap does. I recently purchased a pair of denim shorts at the Gap marked “zero” even though I haven’t been that slim since I was wearing braces at my bat mitzvah. (I left the headgear at home for that moment.) It’s called “vanity sizing” and it makes us feel good about ourselves, which in turn gets us to buy more clothing. That’s how capitalism and advertising work.

I never want to discover what size 36 corresponds to in modern day sizes. I have a feeling "le French" would consider me a larger woman.

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