Shopping, like other activities in culture, has a history, which means it is subject to nostalgia. We may know that nostalgia is based on a longing for our lost youth (in the case of shopping, for a time when clothes fit us better) — but that doesn’t keep us from indulging in it.

My own shopping nostalgia revolves around the department stores of my childhood. In the North Jersey suburbs where I grew up in the late 1950s and ’60s, we had Sears and Bamberger’s for everyday use, but for special occasions we went to New York City to the fashionable department stores. My mother, my sister, and I would put on our nicest outfits and take the train to Journal Square in Jersey City, then the Path to Manhattan, where we would visit Saks, Bloomingdales, B. Altman’s, and the other great consumer palaces. Each of these stores occupied an ornate edifice that took up a full city block, and each beckoned with… More…