Material Girl by
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I don’t remember ever having catalogues in our house growing up. I can’t imagine my mother buying anything without being able to look at it, feel it, and (if it was clothing) try it on. And living in the New York metropolitan area, anything we might ever want could be found at a store that was not too far away.

The maternity clothes in the local stores were too cutesy, as if they wanted to make the mother-to-be look like a little girl.

So I didn’t start thinking about buying from catalogues until I was pregnant, and all the maternity clothes in the local stores were dreadful. Generally in pastel colors, most commonly pink, and with little puffed sleeves or lace and frills. Too cutesy. It was as if they were trying to make the mother-to-be look like a little girl herself. I needed clothes I could wear to work. Suits or dresses like all women lawyers wore, but ones that just didn’t have a waist to them.

I was able to find appropriate lawyer-type clothes in catalogues, such as the ones in the Featured Image. (Bows at the collar, like the one on the gray dress, were very popular for professional wear in the ’80s.) Of course once I ordered from one catalogue, they all came pouring in. I got many nice outfits, some I was even tempted to wear after I was no longer pregnant.

Then when I had growing kids, who often didn’t want to go to stores and try things on, I discovered catalogue shopping for kids. Land’s End was especially good, because they had a very liberal return policy with no expiration. Your children could wear clothes for a few months, and then when they outgrew them, you could send them back and exchange for a bigger size. At some point the company must have caught on, and scaled back their return policy, but still, they had great quality clothes which could be handed down from one child to the next, to the next, without getting worn out.

There was a time that our mailbox was constantly filled with catalogues, and there didn’t seem to be any way to stop them. But eventually they stopped coming. I don’t know if it was specific to us, because we weren’t ordering anything, or whether companies just weren’t sending out catalogues any more because you could see all their merchandise online. Somewhere in my house there is still a credit from Land’s End, from returning something I ordered and didn’t like, but I have no idea where it is. Whenever I find it, I look forward to ordering something from them.

Now, I confess, I do sometimes buy clothes and other necessities from Amazon, just because it is so easy, and they almost always arrive the next day thanks to Amazon Prime. I don’t want to make Jeff Bezos any richer, but there are times when I just can’t help it.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    First off, Suzy, thanks for choosing a song title title that even I remember. I think that it and “Like A Virgin” were played by DJ’s at every Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah I went to in the 80’s.

    And your story also resonated as it follows the “arc” (if you will) of my own catalogue/online experience. With two exceptions.

    First, how did you ever manage to stop getting catalogues, especially without trying? My wife has filled in all sorts of forms and websites in an effort to do so and they seem to have the same effect that the Sorcerer’s Apprentice had on brooms.

    Second, I admit to being an Amazon junkie, much as I hate being one for many reasons (including Bezos). Is there a 10 Step program out there for it?

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, I wish I’d known you back in the 1980s when we were both having kids. I agree with your assessment of pregnancy clothing 100%! All the frills, bows and florals and I was in software sales (primarily a male-dominated industry). And being so small it made it particularly difficult for me to find clothing. My joke was, “No one expects to find a knocked-up 12 year old”. Maybe not so funny, but given my size and the look of the clothing, it was the best I could come up with. It never occurred to me to look at catalogs. I borrowed a few things from a friend and had about three dresses that were work-appropriate.

    I agree about Land’s End, but more for myself than my kids. I still like their summer catalog for bathing suits and covers for myself. And Amazon has become unavoidable, unfortunately. None of us wants to make Bezos any wealthier, but it is the go-to place for everything these days.

  3. Marian says:

    I remember my coworkers lamenting those awful maternity clothes in the 1980s, Suzy, so I’m glad you found some in catalogs. I just received a Land’s End catalog in the mail, because I ordered something online that was actually for my mother, who is now smaller than Betsy and has trouble finding clothes. I had to return it, but they still have some good stuff. Unfortunately Amazon is too convenient to give up, and they have everything, so a big order from them should arrive at my doorstep tomorrow.

  4. I love the maternity dresses in your photo Suzy, somehow I don’t remember where I bought my maternity clothes those many, many years ago!
    And altho I too don’t necessarily want to make Bezos any richer, Amazon is a lifesaver as is Instacart and so easy.

    I actually I love catalog and online shopping because I find some stores too intimidating with all their separate designer departments.

    When I was a young girl my neighborhood Macys had all the dresses and all the sweaters and all the blouses in my size IN ONE PLACE! Remember?

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    I admittedly don’t live near any great retail outlets, and rarely shop for clothes, but the last time I went in person, it was terrible. Having the opportunity to check out the merchandise in person just confirmed it was all awful design and quality. Some of the online stores are more reliable.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I think we have all succumbed to Amazon’s allure, especially since the pandemic. I love that you found maternity clothes in catalogues. I remember how awful the department store choices were. There was a way to register to have my name taken off a catalogue mailing list. It would work for a while, and then they would all return whether I ordered things or not. Kind of like FB ads today. I never click on them, but I think they can tell I looked because I keep getting more of the same.

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    I have actually mellowed a bit in my view of Bezos.

    Well, maybe not in my view of HIM per se, but I’ve come to think that among billionaire plutocrats, most are far worse. These people are like allergens; they may be annoying, or make you sick, but in the end you can’t escape them. And Amazon really is good at getting stuff to people!

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