Journal Article

The College Shop: Making, Selling, and Buying Women's Casual Clothing, 1930–1970

Deirdre Clemente

in Journal of Social History

Volume 49, issue 2, pages 331-350
Published in print December 2015 | ISSN: 0022-4529
Published online November 2015 | e-ISSN: 1527-1897 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jsh/shv030
The College Shop: Making, Selling, and Buying Women's Casual Clothing, 1930–1970

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In the college shop, “gushing freshmen” drank “limitless free Cokes” and jukeboxes “play forever without nickels.” These seasonal sections of the ever-evolving department store popped up “all over town during the last weeks of August, like mushrooms after a rain” and disappeared with the first frost. Here, a staff of students sold—and many more bought—casual clothing. The popularity of the shops in the 1930 s reached a fevered pitch in the 1940 s, but in a post-war shopping culture that prioritized diversity of choice and less didactic sales tactics, retailers moved casual clothes out of a specific area and into departments throughout the store. Women young and old followed the college woman's lead and collectively they demanded sweaters, culottes, sports coats, tennis shoes, gored skirts, and the much-bemoaned slacks. Manufacturers and retailers stopped trying to shape or even understand the women's choices; they just obliged. The lifecycle of the college shop gauges changes in American consumerism over time, but it also offers a more complete understanding of clothing as a primary and enduring aspect of the human experience.

Journal Article.  9422 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Gender and Sexuality ; International History ; Social and Cultural History ; Politics ; Race and Ethnicity

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