Will you buy any tape
Or lace for your cape,
My dainty duck, my dear-a?
Any silk, and thread,
And toys for your head
Of the new'st and finest, finest wear-a?
-- William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale
I just finished Emile Zola's Au Bonheur Des Dames (The Ladies' Delight or The Ladies' Paradise depending on which translation you read). I was entranced. As a lover of any and all things pertaining to cloth, I reveled in his rich descriptions of silk, lace, wool, etc. The story is set during the French Second Empire, a time when industrialization and commerce were changing the ways business had previously been done.
As I flipped from marked page to marked page in a vein attempt at finding the perfect quote, I realized that the beauty of this novel is the manner in which it sucks you into its interior, similar to the window displays Zola so beautifully depicts of the novel's primary place of location, the department store - Au Bonheur Des Dames.
I could say more on the economics discussed, the interaction of the characters and such, but I think I will leave you with this very small taste:
There was nothing but white: a full trousseau and a mountain of sheets on the left, curtains like shrines and pyramids of handkerchiefs on the right to exhaust the eyes.....
Imagine stepping into such a department store!
The above image is of Emile Zola as painted by Edouard Manet.