Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Exciting World of Catalogs!

"We are SO lucky to have been raised amongst catalogs." - Meg Swan (Parker Posey), "Best in Show"

I don't know about you, but I love catalogs.  I love the thought put into them (the good ones, anyway); the sets in which the products are displayed (and that, unless one has a zillion dollars, one would never be able to replicate); the dreaming and inspiration they contain. 

My first experience with catalogs has to be the giant Fleet Farm catalog that arrived every October.  For those of you not living in the Midwest, Fleet Farm is a farm implement/hardware store (around here, dubbed the "Man Mall") that transformed into a holiday paradise from the third weekend in October until the New Year.  My sister Jen and I would pore over it with a fervor heretofore reserved for, well, nothing.  We would very methodically cut out the items we wanted and make our own wish lists, complete with color choice and price (we found out pretty early that Santa was mom & dad).

And then, there wasn't much else.  I don't recall a whole lot of catalogs coming in the mail until I was married the first time, in the mid-Nineties.  And then - AVALANCHE!  This of course coincided with the mid-size big-box stores coming into fashion, like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Garnet Hill and the rest.  For a while I must've been on some sort of list, because every holiday season I'd get probably 100 catalogs.  It became almost maddening.

I got very few catalogs this year; I wonder if stores are cutting back on their printing and mailing costs and just focusing on their online catalogs.  Doesn't this make far more sense, anyway?  Imagine the money a company could save if they never printed/sent a catalog again!

Fortunately for me, there are people who saved their vintage catalogs.  The ones I have pictured are some of my favorites - a 1971 Bennett Brothers (very similar to the old Best & Co. or Service Merchandise distribution centers); a 1972 Radio Shack; a 1961 Loblaws, and a couple pages from an old Sears & Roebuck, date unknown (I will confess that I don't know if this is a true catalog or a reproduction, although the pages are brittle enough to make me think it could be the real thing).

Oh, and check out this mink jacket from the Bennett Bros. catalog - could that possibly be Melody Thomas Scott, or "Nicki" from "The Young and the Restless"?  I could swear it's her.  :D 

Here are some pieces I've done using my vintage catalogs:

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