Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Eugenia Paulicelli

Subject Categories

American Popular Culture | Arts and Humanities | Business | Fashion Business | Fashion Design | Jewish Studies | Labor Relations | Sales and Merchandising | United States History | Women's Studies


Department stores, Benjamin Altman, consumption, fashion, mass production, labor history


We live in an age of fast fashion. Clothing is produced in greater volumes than ever before and the lifecycle of each garment keeps getting shorter and shorter. Many items are manufactured to be worn only one time and then thrown away—as disposable as a cup of coffee. There is much to be learned about our current fashion ecosystem by looking into the past. Beyond the garments themselves we must understand the larger historical and sociological context in which these articles of clothing were produced. How does the shopping environment shape the buying habits and fashion trends of an era? How does that system inform the worn identities of the individuals operating within it? The experiential quality of department stores has been eclipsed by consumer demands for faster, cheaper, and more convenient products, but e-commerce has yet to find a way to deliver the delicious and tactile experience of shopping. Did the mass culture of the early 20th century prefigure the fashion industry as it exists today? Can ethical business practices co-exist with modern fashion?