Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Galeries Lafayette Summer 1932

Parisian department stores have a long tradition of the pursuit of extravagance and opulence in terms of display and product range. Galeries Lafayette had been trading on Boulevard Haussmann since 1912 and was famous for its central circular atrium capped by a spectacular Art Nouveau glass dome. This catalogue dates from 1932 just as the Great Depression was making itself felt in France - unemployment soared as economic growth stagnated. Fertile ground for the extreme Right, which surged on a rising tide of xenophobia and Anti-Semitism. The point of a department store was to cater to every conceivable customer desire and the 1932 offer extended to over 180 pages of hand drawn illustrations and blocks of descriptive text. Customers based in provincial France could keep pace with Parisian taste using the mail order form to bring sophistication to their doorsteps. Production values were modest with colour confined to the cover and letterpress printing on cheap paper. The range of goods is still impressive with clothing and footwear to the fore - but space was also found for the more obscure items such as communion dresses, baby carriages and reliquaries. The receptive reader would be engulfed by this avalanche of delights, an oceanic vision of plenty, poised to shower its blessings in return for the most modest of financial outlays. 

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