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“But a job in a department store or a laundry gave anyone opportunities to become well versed in the signs of wealth.” To that end Shopgirls studied their well-to-do female customers seeking to imitate their look, which led the business world to pounce on this new type of consumer who sought little but to impress.

But around 1900, more and more women were starting to apply cosmetics.

” But when these single women, stripped from their dependency on fathers and husbands, began to be courted in public, police, politicians, and civic leaders were alarmed.

“In the eyes of the authorities,” Weigel writes, “women who let men buy them food and drinks or gifts and entrance tickets looked like whores, and making a date seemed the same as turning a trick.” After centuries of women’s fortunes being dictated by the men around them, the notion of women on their own gave much of society pause.

“Have you noticed a gentleman wearing spats stopping at Miss Holahan’s counter every day, leaving a spray of lily of the valley? In an odd way, this consumerism marked a form of progress.

“In an earlier era, a girl from humble origins could not hope to look like the wife or daughter of a millionaire,” Weigel writes.

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