Catalog Lit: Free People and Paris in the 20s


I got my copy of the Free People holiday catalog this afternoon. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Free People is a clothing company owned by the same corporate entity that owns Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. Where Urban Outfittes sells cheap, mass produced clothes to individualistic students who aspire to hang out in indie rock bars and Anthropologie sells dramatically overpriced mass-produced clothes to individualistic 30-somethings who aspire to be art teachers and / or residents of French Indochina, Free People is something else entirely. I'd tell you what that something else is, but I've never been able to figure it out. Best I can tell, its luxe / slutty hippie aesthetic, hefty price tags, and extremely young models aim it squarely at wealthy high school students whose parents let them host keggers in the basement but who also take singing lessons and eventually wind up at Oberlin, or maybe Antioch.

So this new catalog is a doozy. (I'm unable to post pictures because of some super-sophisticated flash, but here's a link.)  Its togs for holiday parties are divided into sections dedicated to specific decades. Each section has a paragraph underneath it identifying the characteristics of the era the clothes hope to embody. Although their conception  of the 1970's is the most perlexing and factually inaccurate (someone needs to tell the resuscitated corpse of John Bonham that the 70s were the Summer of Love and "the golden heyday of peace, and love, and rock n' roll"), it's their description of the 20s that's the dumbest. They write:

Paris in the twenties -- a magical place and a magical time. Where the "Lost Generation" found itself and found is voice in Left Bank cafes and cabarets. Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Pable Picasso, Josephine Baker and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Freedom, jazz, and love and joy.

Love and joy, crushing anxiety about war and industry -- same thing, right? On the opposite page: a fourteen year-old in a $500 maxi dress and a mauve poncho.

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