When Women Ran Fifth Avenue: Glamour and Power at the Dawn of American Fashion (Hardcover)

When Women Ran Fifth Avenue: Glamour and Power at the Dawn of American Fashion By Julie Satow Cover Image
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A glittering portrait of the golden age of American department stores and of three visionary women who led them, from the award-winning author of The Plaza. • "Ms. Satow’s carefully researched book is compulsively readable: I found myself dashing through it like a novel. She portrays the women with verve; we get a glimpse into their lives, as well as a sense of what it was like at each of these retail meccas." —The Wall Street Journal

The twentieth century American department store: a palace of consumption where every wish could be met under one roof – afternoon tea, a stroll through the latest fashions, a wedding (or funeral) planned. It was a place where women, shopper and shopgirl alike, could stake out a newfound independence. Whether in New York or Chicago or on Main Street, USA, men owned the buildings, but inside, women ruled.

In this hothouse atmosphere, three women rose to the top. In the 1930s, Hortense Odlum of Bonwit Teller came to her husband's department store as a housewife tasked with attracting more shoppers like herself, and wound up running the company. Dorothy Shaver of Lord & Taylor championed American designers during World War II--before which US fashions were almost exclusively Parisian copies--becoming the first businesswoman to earn a $1 million salary. And in the 1960s Geraldine Stutz of Henri Bendel re-invented the look of the modern department store. With a preternatural sense for trends, she inspired a devoted following of ultra-chic shoppers as well as decades of copycats.

In When Women Ran Fifth Avenue, journalist Julie Satow draws back the curtain on three visionaries who took great risks, forging new paths for the women who followed in their footsteps. This stylish account, rich with personal drama and trade secrets, captures the department store in all its glitz, decadence, and fun, and showcases the women who made that beautifully curated world go round.

About the Author

JULIE SATOW is an award-winning journalist and the author of The Plaza, a New York Times’ Editor’s Choice and NPR Favorite Book of 2019. She is a regular contributor to the New York Times.

Praise For…

A Cosmopolitan Best Nonfiction Book of 2024
A Town & Country Must-Read for Summer 2024

"A treat for anyone like me who yearns to time travel back to some of those palaces of consumption at the height of their grandeur. But even more revelatory are the stories Satow excavates of the women who presided over three of the greatest and now-vanished New York department stores" --Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

"The latest example of great shopping writing . . . Satow could have focused on the stores alone, with their array of delightful bygone details. But by following Odlum, Shaver, and Stutz, she posits that women, in shaping retail, invented the American fashion industry. . . the worlds they built were largely forgotten, until Satow revived their legacies." --The Washington Post

"Ms. Satow’s carefully researched book is compulsively readable: I found myself dashing through it like a novel. She portrays the women with verve; we get a glimpse into their lives, as well as a sense of what it was like at each of these retail meccas." --The Wall Street Journal

"Julie Satow celebrates the savvy leaders who made Bonwit, Bendel’s and Lord & Taylor into retail meccas of their moment. . . Clever . . . [Odlum, Shaver, and Stutz] are a force” --The New York Times

“A fascinating excavation of the midcentury woman . . . whose designs and ideas reinvented American department stores and consumer fashion.” --The Chicago Tribune

"Incisive" --The New York Post

"Julie Satow . . . sheds a spotlight on the three women who changed the shopping landscape in the country . . . Amid the floors of chiffon and other luxuries is drama with Salvador Dali, spying, and divorce. Need we say more?" --Town & Country

“Masterful. . . An essential read for anyone who loves New York history and the stories of complicated, brilliant women, Satow’s book is enthralling from start to finish. She brings the glorious department stores of the past to vivid life while offering compassionate, nuanced portraits of those who ran the show.” —Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Spectacular

“Deliciously detailed and impeccably researched, a gripping and glamorous examination of the women who were the life force of what remains a beating heart of American culture: the department store. An exuberant read! I truly loved this book.” —Denise Kiernan, New York Times bestselling author of The Girls of Atomic City and The Last Castle

“These women were the business powerhouses and advertising savants you never heard of. They understood how to elevate style, capture the public’s imagination, and make money at the same time and in a man’s world. If you liked Mad Men then you’ll love When Women Ran Fifth Avenue.” —#1 New York Times bestselling author Kate Andersen Brower, author The Residence and First Women

“American history at its best.” Laurence Leamer, New York Times bestselling author of Capote's Women

“In When Women Ran Fifth Avenue, Julie Satow shows how a trio of forthright female retailers transformed New York’s grand old department stores into dynamic, modern emporiums, and, in turn, vitalized America’s burgeoning fashion industry. A delightful spin through 20th-century Manhattan, and a fitting tribute to these formidable and long-overlooked business leaders.” --Dana Thomas, author of the New York Times bestseller, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

“By taking us inside the gilded department store revolving doors in When Women Ran Fifth Avenue, Julie Satow transports us to an era filled with designers, artists, and celebrities. In this fascinating and glamorous trip back in time, we are introduced to the women behind the scenes who made it all happen — changing the way we shop, dress, and pursue careers.” --Kate Storey, New York Times bestselling author of White House by the Sea

"Satow traces the arc of the American woman over the twentieth century as she worked to break down barriers, open up new avenues of work and self-realization and, yes, dress the American public in style. Satow illuminates how it took glamour, grit, and girl power to bring about America’s new era of fashion and commerce." --Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of Finding Margaret Fuller

"A tour-de-force" --The Washington Independent Review of Books

"If anything, the title undersells the full scope of women’s influence on American fashion. Satow shows how females occupied every strata of the US sartorial landscape, particularly in the half-century from the 1930s to the ‘80s" --Bloomberg

“Ms. Satow has done remarkable and exhaustive research, detailing not only these women’s accomplished business acumen, but also their often difficult private lives, making for even more engrossing reading. The book, though totally factual, reads almost like a novel, with its intertwined stories of not only these three women, but other female industry designers, buyers, socialites, and tastemakers.” --East Hampton Star

“Sparkling . . . When Women Ran Fifth Avenue is a love letter to a lost New York.” --ShelfAwareness

"Illuminating" --Kirkus

"An engaging history that feels right at home in the age of influencers." --BookTrib

"Her ability as a fact finder is matched by the personal touches that convey the women’s feelings and their struggles in a world almost completely dominated by 'superior' males. .  . The era of the women that Satow has brought to light might otherwise have been forgotten, so she is to be commended for offering their portraits and substantial capabilities to a new generation." --BookReporter

“Satow charts the discovery of American designers, the birth of ready-to-wear, and the rise and fall of the department store as the palace of American retail . . . Satow writes with verve . . . She has a great eye for amusing and revealing details. She also tells the larger tale of the world that led to the rise of the department stores and to their downfall.” --AirMail

“Julie Satow intertwines the personal and the political, the financial and the aesthetic in this portrait of an iconic era of American history. Its lively character studies, delicious pop culture scenes, and thorough research illuminate the women at the very center of a contradictory moment: at once traditional and liberated, hopeful and tough.” —Julia Cooke, author of Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am

"Julie Satow dives deep into a forgotten era to unveil the gilded world of modern American department stores. With a historian's precision and a storyteller's charm, she brings to life three formidable women who not only shaped an industry but also defied societal expectations. Satow's narrative unfolds with revelations so striking they'll make readers gasp. We are reminded of the tenacity and vision of women at the forefront of commerce and culture. It is history at its most captivating, replete with glamour, rivalry, and ambition." —Laurie Gwen Shapiro, author of The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary to Antarctica

"A fascinating . . . deep dive into the culture and rise of the female executive and shopgirl at legendary stores" --The Montecito Journal

"A fun, informative, and highly fascinating read" --The Marco Eagle

Product Details
ISBN: 9780385548755
ISBN-10: 0385548753
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: June 4th, 2024
Pages: 320
Language: English