Have you ever flipped through a department store catalogue, like the Sears, IKEA or Canadian Tire catalogue? Perhaps just before the holidays so that you could suggest a gift idea or two to your parents? About 100 years ago, countless Quebeckers—especially those living in the countryside—would anxiously await their department store catalogues.

In those days, people living in the city could shop at the department stores that were located on main streets, like Sainte-Catherine Street in Montreal, or St. Joseph Street in Quebec City. Most of these stores no longer exist today and have been replaced by others like The Bay and Simons. But perhaps you’ve heard of some of them: Eaton’s, Simpsons, Dupuis Frères, Morgan or Paquet? These were large stores with different departments that sold all sorts of products: men’s, women’s and children’s clothes, toys, food, household items, and more.

Video narration available in French at http://primaire.recitus.qc.ca/sujets/10/vie-quotidienne/3777

But people in rural areas did not have access to these stores. Women usually made most of the family’s clothing instead. They weaved and knit winter clothing using wool from the sheep they raised. Of course, there was the general store, but it didn’t have much of a selection and its clothes weren’t so fashionable. Plus, its prices were higher than those in department stores.

And so people eagerly awaited their catalogues, which would arrive twice a year. These catalogues were published twice a year. Each time they came out, people’s style of dressing would change. The most highly-anticipated catalogues were the Eaton’s and Simpson’s catalogues, which were available only in English. People ordered clothes and footwear, fabrics and furnishings and even small appliances. These catalogues made it easier for people to have access to all these products, which were delivered either by mail or train. Women would also copy the styles in the catalogues to make their own fashionable dresses.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social