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The Shopping Culture


For nearly a year now, I’ve been writing our magazine’s Shop Talk department. I’ve traveled all around the Valley, interviewing the owners of the newest, trendiest boutiques to pop up on Google maps. These stores offer upscale, stylish — and sometimes pricey — merchandise. Their atmospheres are incredibly elegant, but cozy at the same time, providing us with fabulous shopping options (and relief) outside of the hectic department stores at the mall and pretentious shops in SoHo (if you dare venture that far south).

In addition to their similarities in content and appearance, there’s another quality I’ve noticed these places have in common: The storeowners (yet another coincidence — they’re usually a pair of women in their thirties) tell me that their core customers are mothers and daughters. Interesting. From my experience, mother/daughter shopping was a significant — if not vital — aspect of growing up. Ever since I began playing with Barbie, my mom has taken me on shopping expeditions. While my brother and father played golf and watched football, we would shop. I always thought of it as a great time for bonding (and for scoring heaps of clothing I couldn’t dream of affording). And what fun it was! Warm days strolling through Woodbury Commons searching for brilliant discounts; relaxing afternoons browsing the local shops; and even the frantic evenings running through the mall trying to find that perfect dress at the last minute — these shopping trips are times that I’ll always remember, times in which we’d catch up on gossip, laugh in amusement at strange trends, and just genuinely enjoy being with each other.

So after reflecting on these memories — and the influx of new shops targeting mothers and daughters — I’ve decided shopping is no longer done out of necessity: It’s officially a pastime. Maybe that’s because people have more disposable cash now, or perhaps it’s that the people in the retail industry have done a remarkable job of democratizing fashion. While Europeans of seemingly all classes and occupations (I’ve been to more than half a dozen European countries, so trust me on this one) have had a grasp on fashion since… well, forever, Americans (in general) have been more sluggish to do so. But I do declare, the average American has now caught on — evidenced by the reality that kin are choosing shopping as an activity, or form of entertainment, rather than as a necessity. According to Sharon Zukin, author of Point of Purchase: How Shopping Changed American Culture (Routledge, 2005), while we shop because we must — because we can’t provide ourselves with all of the things we need to survive in the modern world — we also shop as a way of being with other people, a way of taking part in society, and sharing values and traditions. In other words, Zukin says we shop to create meaningful lives.

I definitely agree with Zukin and this idea of how shopping has shaped our culture. As one who, on any given Saturday morning or Thursday afternoon will hit the stores with my mom or a close friend — even when I don’t need anything in particular, but because it is fun and a way of bonding — I can attest to this belief that shopping is social. And the Hudson Valley region is the quintessential example of this evolution of an American tradition, all of its new boutiques as proof.

So what do you think? Do you shop because you just need clothing to put on your back? Or because you enjoy the experience and have now worked it into your rotation of entertainment alternatives? If it’s the latter, then be sure to take a look below at some of my favorite Hudson Valley hotspots that you (and Mom) will just love.

89 Partition St., Saugerties

New Paltz

Indigo Chic
286 S. Main St., New City

Madina Park
946 Route 376, Wappingers Falls845-223-6103
My Sister’s Closet
1385 King’s Highway, Sugarloaf

80 Main St., Cold Spring

Simplicity Boutique
31 Lake St., Monroe


Woodstock Trading Post
7 Tinker St., Woodstock


Next Boutique
17 W. Strand St., Kingston


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