By: Gabriela Yareliz
I clicked on one of the thousands of marketing emails I receive in my old law school email that I still very much use. It was Magnolia’s Holiday Collection. There was something about the layout that reminded me of the old school catalogs. Maybe, also the holiday theme. I got a weird emotion that I can only guess is nostalgia. As I looked through the images, I was put in the holiday spirit, and my mind imagined these delightful trinkets and furniture items in an imaginary future home that right now only exists in my mind.
Growing up as a 90s kid– I can’t really emphasize the power catalogs had in my childhood. It may sound materialistic, but I was obsessed with them. I spent hours reading through them, cutting out the pictures and making collages– it wasn’t really about the stuff but about my imagination and the stories being told through them— the backgrounds, the expressions. I waited for them with anticipation as if they were feature magazines. My love for catalogs was steadfast and unwavering. Among the most memorable were: the American Girl Doll catalog, American Girl Clothing (they had an amazing clothing line for girls for the longest, and it is now gone. These were amazing); dELiA*S catalog (mohair fuzzy sweaters? Yes!); Victoria’s Secret catalog (remember when they sold sexy office suits and swimwear?); Free People and Anthropologie (these were exotic and followed a theme– they often had prose sprinkled throughout); Pottery Barn Kids; West Elm; and then, the mini department store mailings that came twice a week from places like JCPenney.
Catalogs offered us some aspirational images– it was like a window into how others lived and how you could live. We gathered style ideas to imitate, decor inspo and that’s probably how we learned to pose.
Catalogs are still a thing for some places like Venus, Talbots and Chico’s. When I flip through them, I smile. I remember the earmarking and circling of the letter of the item you liked. Sweater on page eleven, letter ‘D’. With the dominance of the online world, I am not sure if catalogs will always remain among us. We certainly don’t place orders by mail or phone. Now, just as Magnolia proves, we have online galleries we can scan and scroll through. Every site has its own gift guide. That said, while catalogs may not always be with us, the feeling they left us with will always remain. I often walked away inspired; my head full of stories and my heart ready to strike out on its own creative spree. Scissors on the floor, after cutting one up. All out of tape.