Before there was Walmart, mothers actually bought quality clothing for their children. When my brothers and I were little, our mother generally took us clothes shopping at the Jack & Jill Shop on Broad Street. We went to Weiss Shoes next door where they carried Red Goose Shoes when we needed shoes, although I know they sold shoes at Jack & Jill's as well. I know this because I remember very clearly the little painted wooden chairs where children sat as they tried on shoes. The chairs were painted to look like brightly-colored seated clowns, so when you sat in a chair it was as though you were sitting in the clown's lap. Those chairs creeped us out. Because as children know, clowns are innately creepy. At the same time, we were fascinated by them, and we crawled along the row of four or five of them from lap to lap as our mother shopped and chatted interminably with the shop owner. She was a talker.
The winter I was five or six years old, I needed a new coat to wear to church. My mother had promised me that I could pick it out myself, and I was thrilled at the prospect. We walked downtown to Jack & Jill's, and I picked out a purple wool dress coat. I don't remember anything else about it, but it was very purple. I loved it. It turned out to be not at all what my mother had in mind. "How about this one?" she asked me, holding up a somber tweed coat with a black velvet collar. "It has some purple in it," she said, pointing to some little nubs of color in the fabric. So much more appropriate to wear to the hoity-toity Congregational church where we attended, but never belonged.
More than fifty years later, I still remember a small girl's disappointment in the choice she wasn't allowed to make. But you should see the beautiful purple suede jacket I wear now.