“There is much more to shopping in the French capital than merely walking in in American fashion and making a purchase. Shopping in Paris is an art and must be approached with a certain finesse.”
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library owns over 4,000 photographs by American photographer and journalist Thérèse Bonney, (1894-1978), who documented life in Paris from 1925-35. Published in 1929, she and her sister Louise created this guide for the “350,000 Americans who visit Paris every year.” The foreword says, “dozens of books have been written telling you what to see, but we are writing about where to buy, … buying is as important as sightseeing in this enchanting city.” This book is such an important connection to our understanding of the photographic collection; the text demonstrated Bonney’s intimate knowledge and experience with the subjects she photographed.
An American woman shopping for Paris fashions might have felt overwhelmed by the city’s many small boutiques and fashion houses. Thérèse and Louise Bonney outlined in great detail the procedure and etiquette of visiting couturiers and buying dresses and coats, the separate boutiques for hats, gloves, leather goods, and other accessories. These tips made shopping less intimidating and reassured the American traveler that they could be as knowledgeable, sophisticated and as chic as the French woman.
Photographic illustrations of a salon interior and perfume bottles by Lanvin in A cooper Shopping Guide to Paris
Advice on who the top name fashion houses were, the chapters devoted to fashion and accessories, furnishings for (emphasis on modern) interiors, where to eat, buy antiques, and the different department stores were written to help the reader save time and get the best values. This book was adopted for preservation in 2017 by Susan H. Fuhrman.
Elizabeth Broman is a reference librarian in the Cooper Hewitt Design Library and has been researching and writing about the Thérèse Bonney photographic archive for many years.
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