When Women Ran Fifth Avenue

When Women Ran Fifth Avenue by Julie Satow

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for When Women Ran Fifth Avenue:

Turns out women know how to sell to other women. Who knew?!

Quick synopsis:

The story of the women who ran department stores in the mid-1900s.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Department stores used to have nurseries so the kids wouldn’t ruin a great shopping day.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Le Bon Marche in Paris is credited as the first department store when it opened in 1838.

My Take on When Women Ran Fifth Avenue:

To say that I am not the audience for this book would be a massive understatement. 13 years of Catholic School, and then right into the Army after that, means fashion is my ultimate weakness. I know my belt should match my shoes or something. I digress. Julie Satow would need to do a lot of work to make When Women Ran Fifth Avenue appealing to my brain. Somehow, she did it!

Satow follows the career paths of three main women of fashion in New York throughout the early to mid-1900s. Each woman gets her own part biography and then a look at the changes she made to the fashion industry but mostly focused on their specific employers at the time. Interspersed are some smaller chapters on different people and topics related to the fashion industry but not the overall narrative. Satow writes all of this quite well by never leaning too hard into any one thing. Some of it is biography but also business, fashion, and personal relationships.

Another interesting aspect is Satow’s willingness to tell the whole story. There is a version of this book where it is marketed as a celebration of feminism with inconvenient details papered over. Satow doesn’t hide from the fact that one of her main characters disavows her business career later in life. It makes the narrative more interesting and lets the reader draw their own conclusions when given the whole story. Needless to say, (but I will anyway) Satow did the impossible. She made a fashion book even I could enjoy.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and the publisher.)


A great book even for a fashion idiot like me. Buy it here!

If You Liked This Try:





Leave a Reply