In answer to my own question, I think “exposure” had a lot to do with it. My earliest shopping expeditions I remember were with my Mom and were days I treasured. We took the #4 bus down Fifth Ave. to 34th St., people watching all the way which was a favorite sport. We began our treasure hunt at Ohrbach’s which had all varieties of discount clothing. I think much of it was displayed (really dumped) in large bins where you had to fight the other ladies and pull out scarves, hats, and underwear without really seeing what you had. You took your merchandise to a less crowded section to examine it and decide if it was to be kept or thrown back in to the bin. We usually kept some of the things, proud of our bargains.
Next stop was B.Altman only 1/2 block away which was many categories more upscale than Ohrbach’s. After perusing around there we were hungry and ready for lunch. We saved ourselves for Lord and Taylor’s, a mere 3 blocks away because we loved their restaurant The Birdcage best.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on upper Fifth which required a bus up Madison. We often stopped at Schrafft’s for an ice cream soda. This is where the best stores I adored were located: DePinna, Best and Co., and Saks. What fun to see the fabulous items where quality and style reigned. My Mom introduced me to the world of taste. We couldn’t afford to buy most of the things in these high end stores, but she showed me how to appreciate what they had and mimic it in the less expensive establishments. It was a challenge, fun, and I loved it. For example, every New Yorker knew about S. Klein’s on the Square which was on 14th St. and had great bargains. Alexander’s in the Bronx on Fordham Rd. and Loehmann’s on Jerome Ave. were all of our hangouts. Merchandise in these places was also known as “schlock”. Loosely translated it means “crap”! Although much of it was indeed lousy, (and here’s where the skill comes in), interspersed with the bottom fishing stuff were fabulous bargains. These stores didn’t have great displays or individual sales people to dote on you. However, you needed to have an “eye” to sift thru and find the goodies.
Appreciating and exposure were invaluable to an impressionable young girl. Sharing these precious experiences with my Mother will always be ingrained in my memory. She taught me well.
I often think she taught me too well. When I shop, now alone or with a friend and I see something I love I hear my Mom’s voice whispering : “You don’t need it darling. Put it back.”