pdf Download PDF

Better Travel Through Brand Names:
The Couture Grand Tour in Paris Is a Woman’s Town and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

This article identifies the way famous names mediated the relationship between US cultural insecurity and secure consumer behavior by reading Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes alongside US film branding and shopping guides to Europe. In Blondes, Loos establishes a new kind of value based on recognizable brand names such as Cartier and Ritz. Branding and franchising luxury goods resonated with a US desire to democratize high culture, with the effect of rewriting the grand tour narrative as a shopping expedition.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

—Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

The American elite who desire the individual choice of the very best models, the very best hats, the very best handbags...........the best of everything to be in complete harmony with life will find grouped in these pages famous couturiers and creators who will solve the eternal question—Where to Shop in Paris.

—“Where to Shop in Paris,” Harper’s Bazar1

In the opening paragraphs of “Biography of a Book,” her 1963 preface to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Anita Loos executes two [End Page 1] characteristic turns with Bugattilike swiftness. First, describing the scene that inspired her 1925 novel, Loos explains that she and her colleagues were on a return trip from New York to Los Angeles, “for we belonged to the elite of the cinema which has never been fond of Hollywood. There were Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., then at the beginning of his career in films but already a nation’s idol, my husband, John Emerson, who directed the scenarios I wrote for Doug and a number of others” (xxxvii). With this first speedy turn, Loos establishes the film industry’s role in inspiring Blondes. With her tongue-in-cheek description of her traveling party as “the elite of cinema,” Loos begins the parsing of taste and social ranking for which her novel has become famous.

Having dropped Fairbanks’s name to signal that she traveled in company with the silver screen’s crème de la crème, Loos banks her finely tuned prose to make a second turn. In the introduction’s second paragraph, Loos describes the prototypical dumb blonde who made a fool of Loos’s intelligent companions and also became the model for her protagonist Lorelei Lee. While the blonde is generic, taking the indefinite article “a blonde,” which indicates her place as a “type,” Loos herself emerges from this paragraph as the distinctive personality: “Also among us was a blonde who was being imported to Hollywood to be Doug’s leading lady in his forthcoming picture. Now this girl, although she towered above me (I weighed about ninety pounds) and was of a rather hearty type, was being waited on, catered to and cajoled by the entire male assemblage” (xxxvii). Though the figure of a blonde who could be imported or exported in the Hollywood star economy became Loos’s most famous creation, it is Loos herself, appearing in parenthesis, who stands out as iconic. Reminding readers of her smallness, Loos draws to mind her quintessential flapper image—brand Loos—made famous by Ralph Barton’s illustrations.

The Loos brand spanned both literature and film, and Loos’s image and texts circulated in the rarefied stomping grounds of intellectuals and artists as well as the hoi polloi. Loos’s ability to cross cultural boundaries is one of the reasons that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes has garnered new critical attention as modernist studies have moved to examinations of modernisms, with particular foci on middlebrow modernism, modernism and celebrity, and modernism and media studies. Lately, scholars of modernist celebrity, including Faye Hammill, Jonathan Goldman, Aaron Jaffe, and others, have considered the ways in which modernist authors worked within circuits of entertainment and advertising to promote themselves. Timothy Galow, for example, identifies a fundamental shift in the technological and cultural landscape, arguing “the speed with which Fitzgerald’s [End Page 2] and Stein’s names traveled across a continent and the extensive opportunities that fame afforded them were relatively new phenomena in the early decades of the twentieth century” (313). Loos’s celebrity certainly benefitted from such changes. But the case of Loos’s novel, which became a Carol Channing stage play; a Marilyn Monroe vehicle; and, eventually, the inspiration for Madonna’s “Material Girl” video, demonstrates an even more fundamental shift in cultural capital.

Rather than seeing Blondes as “lost among the ads,” as H. L. Mencken suggested it might be when he approved the story’s publication in Harper’s Bazar (Loos, “Biography” xli), I see Blondes positioning itself in relation to the brand education that took place in its original publication venue and as commenting on a larger discourse that taught women how to read high-end labels.2 Many scholars understand the novel as an education in the appropriate appreciation of highbrow culture; for example, Daniel Tracy argues that the audiences of Harper’s Bazar “capitalize on Lorelei’s mistakes . . . by recognizing in themselves the valued culture that she lacks” (116). But an analysis of Lorelei’s shopping trips reveals a novel perhaps more concerned with new measures of taste. I argue that Loos’s deployment of mass cultural semiotic systems, especially advertising, is much more interested in examining new forms of cosmopolitanism than it is in critiquing the bad execution of old ones. Blondes is thus a travelogue for a new era, identifying ambivalently the map of “famous historical names” that allowed brand-educated women to traverse the globe in a post-World War I landscape characterized by the replacement of cultural values with consumer ones (Loos, Gentlemen 52).3 Through her exploration of what I am calling commercial cosmopolitanism, Loos offers an important intervention in modernist discussions of taste and culture through her account of those who achieve a kind of savvy without savoir.4

This article builds on the work of Sarah Churchwell, Laura Frost, and Brooks Hefner, which has clarified the virtuosity of Loos’s balancing act as she walked the thin line between mass culture and modernist high culture.5 More importantly, these scholars demonstrate that the mass cultural arenas in which Loos performed (whether fashion magazine or film) participated in the play with language, image, and semiotics typically associated with high modernism. This essay brings another mass cultural context to the mix, one that harkens back to a long tradition in American letters and yet sits squarely in the middlebrow modernist moment—the shopping guide. Shopping and cultural guides to Europe, including those that appeared alongside Blondes in Harper’s Bazar, shed light on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’s status as a modernist and consumerist travelogue that both engaged with and satirized other guides providing readers a brand education. [End Page 3]

One important context for the Parisian guidebook and for Loos’s novel is thus the grand tour narrative. A thematic mainstay of American literary production since Washington Irving’s travels inspired his popular narratives of encounter between the new world rustic and the manners and customs of old Europe, the grand tour narrative is one of Loos’s many interlocutors. The degree to which Americans appear as innocents or idiots and Europeans appear as civilized or decayed exists on a sliding scale in these narratives: Henry James’s The American (1877) and Twain’s The Innocents Abroad each express something of this ambivalence. What the narratives do share is an underlying assumption that Americans must go to Europe for their cultural education. In Blondes, this imperative serves as Mr. Eisman’s cover for sending Lorelei abroad. And though there are fools aplenty among Twain’s innocents, Twain also asserts the journey abroad’s curative effects on the American diseases of provincialism and prejudice (as indicated in the quotation that opens this essay). But as travel opened up to increasing numbers of Americans in the wake of World War I, writers including Loos revealed that Twain’s hopes were all too utopian.

In 1920s literature, the ugliness of the ugly American on holiday appears in full flower. Humorist Donald Ogden Stewart’s Mr. and Mrs. Haddock Abroad (1924) and Mr. and Mrs. Haddock in Paris, France (1926) target middle-class, middlebrow Americans who stand in marked contrast to the glamorous expatriates Sara and Gerald Murphy whose names appear on the book’s dedication page. Instead, Hattie, Will, and little Madeline Haddock are part of the middle-class crowd Fitzgerald and Hemingway blamed for ruining their more authentic expatriate good time. While the modernist expatriate has what The Sun Also Rises calls afición for European culture, tourists such as the Haddocks complain about European bathrooms, remind the French how things are done in America, and compare the Eiffel Tower unfavorably to the Woolworth building. In “Echoes from the Jazz Age” Fitzgerald, who also dedicated an expatriate novel to the Murphys, identifies the increased number of American tourists in France as a precipitating cause of his idealized era’s end: “And by 1928 Paris had grown suffocating. With each new shipment of Americans spewed up by the boom the quality fell off, until towards the end there was something sinister about the crazy boatloads” (20). Using the language of bad commerce—the tourists come in postwar, boom-inspired “shipments”—Fitzgerald, like his friends Stewart and Hemingway, flips Twain’s hopeful message. Instead, he imagines a dilution of “quality,” though whether this refers to the tourists or Paris itself remains ambiguous. In either case, the expatriate novelist blames a proliferation of bad imports for tainting an exclusive property. [End Page 4]

Changes in transportation may account for the “crazy boatloads” Fitzgerald describes. Following US restrictions on immigration in 1924, shipping lines upgraded what had previously been their steerage sections in order to create rooms dubbed “Tourist Third Class” (Levenstein 235). By 1927, one of the peak years of interwar tourism, of the 322,000 Americans who went to Europe, 40% traveled by Tourist Third (236). Given the hostility aimed at middlebrow midwesterners in the pages of satire as well as highbrow modernist literature, what made Paris accessible to these travelers? How did the tourists who arrived by “crazy boatloads” come to feel so comfortable so far from home?

Women’s travel guides offer one answer. These guides reveal the role consumerism and branding played in such shifting of the nature of tourism so that the shopping tour replaced the grand tour. Whereas the Haddocks and other travelers in grand tour narratives experience unheimlich feelings when abroad, Lorelei makes herself at home wherever she goes. No doubt, this is part of the ugliness of the ugly Americans Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Stewart depict. For expatriate writers who did not themselves feel at home in America, it was likely distressing to see a rising tourist class that, failing to appreciate European difference, replicated its homeland everywhere. Loos’s novel registers this fundamental shift, as Europe becomes increasingly navigable to increasingly ignorant Americans by way of what Lorelei breathlessly describes as “famous historical names” (52).

Much of this brand education took place in travel guides and elite fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazar. These magazines were distinct among women’s periodicals for their focus on the upper-middle class and upper class (Zuckerman 19). As Condé Naste explained, these glossies “rigorously exclude all others” (qtd. in Zuckerman 19). For example, the regular front matter of Harper’s Bazar included social calendars with society events, and the “Where to Shop in Paris” pages greeted readers with a long note untranslated from the French that appeared alongside the ads. While these features reveal the magazine’s assumptions about its readers and their elite education, the magazine also strove to further women’s tastes. Mary Ellen Zuckerman notes that editors “wrote of the tension between giving readers exactly what they wanted and jumping a bit ahead of the audience” (138); just because the readers had some culture did not mean their education was complete.

In the pages of the 1925 issues of Harper’s Bazar in which Blondes first appeared, this jump appears most clearly in relation to French fashion. In addition to the monthly “Where to Shop in Paris” ads, the magazine ran a regular series of “Last-Minute Sketches” from France as well as long feature articles detailing French fashion [End Page 5] innovations that advised American women how to interpret ever-shifting patterns in the sartorial tea leaves. For example, the matter of hats and how to wear them recurs throughout the 1925 issues. These pieces push American women to adapt their grooming habits in order to accommodate new styles from Paris. In “What Price a Crowning Glory?” an essay that appeared alongside Blondes’s first installment, author Marjorie Howard advocates the flapper’s short haircut while also establishing Antoine’s hats as a difficult marker of stylish achievement: “Antoine’s hats are not the hats of the masses; they take ‘some wearing’” (100, 152). In order to wear the desirable hats and distinguish one’s self from the masses, one must push to the front edge of fashion, embracing the bobbed hair required by these challenging hats.

Flapper style and its interpretation by French couturiers brought matters of authenticity, the avant-garde, and mass production into direct conflict. Whether because of its explicit ties to commerce or because it is an art associated with women and thus considered middlebrow, modernist scholars have not been fast to pick up on the connections between fashion and other avant-garde forms. But as Valerie Steele and Mary Louise Roberts have each documented, flapper-inspired trends emerging from Paris were read “as a visual language for the war’s social upheaval and as a visual fantasy of female liberation” (Roberts 661). Similarly, Vike Martina Plock has suggested that British Vogue and Bloomsbury writers had a mutually beneficial relationship that centered on defining modernist style for women.6 However, the 1920s is also a particularly interesting time to consider fashion and its relation to consumerism and matters of authenticity because this was a moment in which ads for tailor-made clothes competed against those touting the values and reliability of ready-to-wear fashion. Thus while flapper style was avant-garde, its mass production threatened to tame it.7 For example, the enterprising shopper might look to the aspirational pages of Harper’s Bazar and then find mass-market knockoffs that replicated couture. Indeed, as Kelly Sagert has suggested, the industrialization of fashion in this period may be partly responsible for the proliferation of flapper style around the world.8

Tourist guides to Paris do not challenge their readers quite as strenuously as Harper’s Bazar, likely because they address a more middlebrow audience. Lorelei and the readers of the Paris guides are not part of an upper class long groomed for trips abroad. Instead, as an exemplary Middle American, Lorelei lacks the education and skills that would seem necessary for undertaking the grand tour, including knowledge of other languages, cultures, or histories. Lorelei’s success on her tour in the absence of cultural education may thus [End Page 6] be understood as the ultimate fulfillment of what travel guides have always promised—easy travel for the underprepared. Authored by Helen Josephy and Mary Margaret McBride and published in 1929, Paris Is a Woman’s Town bears witness to the influence of increased numbers of Americans in Paris: “You have probably heard rumors about the Paris dressmaker’s sliding scale of prices. . . . It is also true that after the war Americans were badly overcharged, but now a least half the big French establishments make a real effort to sell for one price to all comers the year round” (36).9 In addition to suggesting that Americans are no longer exploited, perhaps indicating increased savvy among American shoppers, the fact that the French shops stabilized their prices also reveals postwar France’s capitulation to the norms of American shopping—registering the influence of an efficient American market capitalism that was rapidly expanding worldwide.

Handmaid to capitalism’s domesticating effects on new cultural productions, McBride made taming the exotic for American women her métier. McBride is a useful companion to Loos because she so clearly occupied a popularizer’s role in the 1920s, writing regularly for the Saturday Evening Post, as well as magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Woman’s Home Companion. McBride was among the highest-paid journalists and trade book writers of the 1920s (Merrick 74), and it was this popularity in print that she later converted into radio success, becoming “The First Lady of Radio.”10 Paris Is A Woman’s Town was reviewed positively in the New York Evening Post, which lauded the guide book for its practicality (Merrick 83)—an initial success for the writing duo that led to a series of collaborations with Josephy, including London Is a Man’s Town (But Women Go There) (1930), New York Is Everybody’s Town (1931), and Beer and Skittles: A Friendly Guide to Modern Germany (1932). But it was another guidebook to the modern and exotic that represented McBride’s first authorial effort: a book called Jazz, ghostwritten for Paul Whiteman, and originally published in the Saturday Evening Post. Following the folksy style McBride developed in Jazz—“jazz is a method of saying old things with a twist, with a bang” (Whiteman and McBride 119)—the introduction to Paris Is a Woman’s Town opens with a confession: “When we first went to Paris, we were fresh from the Middle West and believed that you had to be formally introduced to all the French shop keepers before they would permit you to buy from them” (v). First, Josephy and McBride relieve some of their readers’ anxieties by assuring them that the authors, too, hail from the parts of the country that Loos’s friend Mencken might have happily lumped together with “The Sahara of the Bozart,” part of an American cultural desert. With Midwesterners as guides, readers can be assured that the book will be practical, not given to airs, and, furthermore, [End Page 7] sympathetic to any cultural insecurity they might feel. In addition to addressing the American traveler’s anxiety, the opening also reveals the middle-class lady’s primary concern when traveling in Europe: how to shop properly. Indeed, of the guidebook’s four chapters, the first is titled “If You Go to Paris to Shop.” At 91 pages, it is one of the book’s lengthiest chapters, only chapter 2, “If You Go to Paris to Live,” surpasses it in length. “If You Go to Paris for an Education” is by far the shortest at 33 pages. The chapter breakdown of Paris Is a Woman’s Town suggests that the guide could unironically adopt as its subtitle Lorelei’s proclamation that “shopping really seems to be what Paris is principally for” (63).

Josephy and McBride’s guide addresses an audience that was secure when it came to finances but not when it came to culture. But more highbrow guides offered similar advice to Americans visiting the City of Light. A Shopping Guide to Paris opens by dispensing with any interests other than shopping American women might have in Paris: “It is our belief that you will derive as much pleasure from the ‘perfect gown,’ a really authentic Louis XIV chair, the gift that will delight because it is the dernier cri, the unique setting of an aquamarine, the glowing beauty of a Gobelin, even the simple perfection of a handkerchief—as keen pleasure from the purchase of these as from the facade of some historic monument” (Bonney and Bonney v). Here, authors Thérèse and Louise Bonney make explicit the new focus of the American tourist, and though Thérèse was herself educated in French literature at the Sorbonne, the two authors diminish the importance of cultural touchstones in the face of more materialistic pleasures. Here they appear to take straight Lorelei’s easy dismissal of European culture. Although the Bonneys claim the values of culture and commerce are equivalent, landmarks of French civilization fall under the vague determiner “some,” while the consumer goods are “glowing,” “unique,” and “perfect.” Lorelei puts her own account of cultural sites a bit more harshly: “the Kunst theater seems to be decorated with quite a lot of what tripe would look like if it was pasted on the wall and gilded. Only you could not really see the gilding because it was covered with quite a lot of dust” (84–85). As Lorelei observes, “they have painted the word ‘kunst’ in large size black letters on everything in Munchen, and you can not even see a boot black’s stand in Munchen that is not full of kunst” (146). While on the one hand, Loos reveals the ignorance of travelers such as Lorelei, on the other, as the examples of gilded tripe and the bootblack’s stand reveal, systems for recognizing cultural value are unstable at best. Less chatty and folksy than Josephy and McBride or Lorelei, the Bonneys nonetheless deploy similar rhetoric. For example, after warning, “the most important thing after your [End Page 8] arrival will be a visit to a beauty parlor” (246), they assure that, “If you speak no French you will probably prefer to go to an American. There is Elizabeth Arden on the convenient corner of the Rue de la Paix and the Rue des Petits-Champs” (247).

Paris Is a Woman’s Town also trades on such assurances. Josephy and McBride imagine an audience that shops with less abandon than Loos’s blonde and is less willing to break new trends than Harper’s Bazar’s implied readers. The guide acknowledges that shopping may be anxiety producing given the self-reinforcing circuit of stylishness in which fashionable ladies wear stylish clothes and stylish clothes are worn by fashionable ladies. The chicken and egg relationship between chic women and important design houses appears thus: “today, the lure of that lovely creature whose name appears on the lists of the world’s smartest or most beautiful women is almost certain to wear a Paris label” (3). In addition to suggesting that the Paris dress acts as passport into the upper crust of American beauties, the synecdochical relationship between the label and garment is key to the type of shopping expedition the guide means to help its readers undertake. After all, as the authors occasionally remind their anxious readers, a pretty frock may be obtained “right here at home down at Gordon Brown’s” (4). The same may not be said of the Paris label. Much of the chapter, then, is devoted to helping the intrepid American traveler discern among labels, or design houses.

Difficult decisions about what to consume when abroad provide the woman’s guidebook its raison d’être. Most of McBride and Josephy’s book is given over to assuring American women that they will do just fine as they navigate Paris, while also insisting that they cannot do so without the guidebook held in their hands: “Incidentally, and lest you get an inferiority complex that would seriously cripple both your power to choose wisely and your bargaining ability, let us assure you that, while the clothes you buy are made in Paris, a good deal of the inspiration for them comes from this side of the pond” (6–7). In moments such as these, shopping in Paris becomes an affirmation of American tastes. In particular, the idiosyncratic stylings of flappers such as Lorelei and Dorothy are described as those most influencing the design houses: “American buyers and fashion magazines help to control French fashion, assisted by our shirty little flappers and sub-debs who wear what they please without bothering about what others think of them” (7). By invoking the effortless stylishness of the American flapper, Josephy and McBride disguise the effortful process they have undertaken in writing their manual. As an example, they note, “the fashion in small off-the-forehead turbans was inspired by the American girl’s habit of wearing her hats teed up on top of her curly bob so that her forehead would show. The French laughed at [End Page 9] this absurdity for several seasons, then Reboux and Agnes began designing turbans that hid one eye and revealed the other, ending by showing an expanse of forehead curving high over one eyebrow” (7–8).

The mention of turbans recalls Lorelei’s improvisational styling and suggests the way in which experiments in fashion may seem at least as authentic and artistic as the “kunst” that travelers cannot appreciate. Lorelei expresses her playful style when she takes up Fanny Ward’s habit of shopping in children’s departments and later when she delights in the possibility of novel developments in self-adornment, such as the new “place” to wear diamonds she discovers when presented with a tiara (36). In moments such as these, Lorelei expresses the kind of authentic style that animates fashion trends at important design houses. Moreover, Loos herself propagated similarly girlish trends among flappers, not only claiming that she was among the first to bob her hair but also claiming to purchase her wardrobe from the children’s section (Hegeman 538). In this way, modernist innovation is not wholly separable from sartorial experimentation.

Harper’s Bazar also discusses the adult wearing of children’s fashion as an example of chic independence. Similar to Paris Is a Women’s Town’s dialectal movement between labor and easy authenticity, Baron Adolph de Meyer’s advice reveals what French women buy (ostensibly so that the American woman might do the same), while also articulating the importance of individuality in selection:

New styles, however, must be started by very smart women so as to be admired. . . . For a long while women have thought that small close-fitting hats with a narrow brim were the only headgear a woman, young or old, could wear. Nothing but the cloche was tolerated, yet do such women realize that this famous cloche originally was a hat for children and was at first considered suitable for very smart young women only?”


While the cloche rules with an iron fist, it does so because of initial rule-breaking young ladies. The Baron’s article thus fits well with Harper’s Bazar’s overall mission to appeal to the very chicest of American women by pushing them to become even chicer than the rest of their American compatriots.

In contrast, McBride and Josephy recognize that what is popular for the American flapper may seem too young or silly for their readers, who may not identify with the smart set. In their guides, French brands indicate enduring taste as well as idiosyncratic and cutting-edge newness. In addition to their reassuring insistence on trends’ American origins, they also ascribe to the Parisian dressmaker the [End Page 10] power to metamorphose the flapper’s whims into high style: “The smart French woman is content to rely for accessories upon her pearls and a good-looking hand bag. But the American young woman is a faddist who loves to festoon herself with beads and bangles to match her frock. American manufacturers began to cater to this fashion, then Paris dressmakers followed with their own ideas” (7). Evocative of Coco Chanel’s famous advice to remove one accessory before heading out the door, this passage—ostensibly meant to ease culturally nervous American shoppers—builds up American fashion sense one moment in order to undermine it the next. American girls have creative flights of fancy, but the authors suggest that it takes the French to edit it down to style. However, as demonstrated by flappers’ improvisation, style is also a matter of authenticity, and the gulf between what the guide’s exhaustively detailed instructions suggest and the exemplary French woman satisfied with her pearls and smart handbag reveals that what readers are getting is not the French shopping experience but a thoroughly Americanized experience of shopping in France.

Paris Is a Woman’s Town also assures its readers that even stylish American women have difficulty navigating the choppy waters of French shopping. After suggesting that good shoppers make lists, revealing the Protestant work ethic that carries throughout their pleasure voyage, Josephy and McBride admit, “even lists do not always avail. Norma Talmadge makes a careful list, keeps to it for two days, then throws it away in despair and buys madly, wildly, the rest of the time!” (32). Additionally, according to the guide, Norma’s sister, the star of D. W. Griffith’s 1916 Intolerance (for which Loos wrote titles), has her own troubles: “Constance Talmadge compares choosing clothes in Paris to buying a puppy. You go into the dog store confident that you want one Irish terrier, but when you face the eyes of a dozen little creatures, looking beautiful and beseeching, you are tempted to order them all sent home. So it is with ravishing combinations of satin, chiffon, and lace” (31). Here, the younger Talmadge, who would later become a subject for Loos’s The Talmadge Girls (1978), describes abundant choice as simultaneously desirable and anxiety producing. It seems as cruel to leave behind a new lace and chiffon creation as it does to leave a wee pup homeless. Better, if you are one of the Talmadge sisters, to tear up the list and buy “madly, wildly.”

While too many desirable items overwhelm the sisters Talmadge, lack of choice makes for a far poorer tourist experience, as Lorelei establishes during her own trials shopping for canine merchandise. Although Loos repeatedly uses Lorelei to skewer cultural ignorance, the stylish author also deploys her creation to voice her distaste for the junky tchotchkes placed in the path of Americans abroad. This, [End Page 11] then, is part of the complexity of Lorelei’s shopping, which offers two simultaneous critiques. For example, when aboard the ocean cruiser Majestic, Lorelei and Dorothy come to the unpleasant realization that the ship cannot accommodate their typical terrestrial shopping habits. The ocean cruiser’s shops offer only souvenir knickknacks, nothing Lorelei considers of value. Having won a costume contest on the ship, Lorelei complains,

So Dorothy and I won the prizes. I mean I really hope I do not get any more large size imitations of a dog as I have three now and I do not see why the Captain does not ask Mr. Cartier to have a jewelry store on the ship as it is really not much fun to go shopping on a ship with gentlemen, and buy nothing but imitations of dogs.


While the Talmadge sisters are as overwhelmed by beautiful laces as they would be by choosing one precious pup from an adorable litter, Lorelei here notes that in the absence of luxury brands, one ends up with cheap gifts that are real “dogs.” Without the choice that characterizes the New York shopping scene, Lorelei worries that shopping may lose some of its charms: the sameness and badness of the ship’s merchandise (only stuffed dogs) threatens to short circuit the networks of desire on which Lorelei’s personal economy depends.11 As a stylish woman, Lorelei consistently reinvents herself, which is one way of understanding why the men in the novel never tire of her; as a trendy flapper, Lorelei is always something new. Faced with the overwhelming sameness of merchandise on the ship, however, Lorelei’s typical acquisitiveness threatens to be put out, which is also to say that she may no longer make herself available for shopping expeditions to the men who, in their turn, desire her.12

Nor does arriving on land improve matters much. Though, like the Haddocks and other characters in grand tour narratives, Lorelei doesn’t fully appreciate European culture, Loos chips away at the idea that the mere fact of being European makes culture worthwhile. After a rough start to her grand tour, Lorelei arrives in London. Initially, London seems to share with the ocean liner a dearth of satisfactory shopping opportunities, as Lorelei and Dorothy once again meet with high-priced kitsch. Not one to be taken in by bric-a-brac, Lorelei turns her nose up at London’s offerings and is further insulted by the fact that London’s upper-crust ladies are the ones putting junk on offer. One Lady Shelton tries to sell the girls “some shell flowers she seems to make out of sea shells for 25 pounds” (35). Dorothy responds to this offer by remarking “that in America we use shells the same way only we put a dry pea under one of them and we call it a game” (36). But even the shells in Dorothy’s snide comment [End Page 12] seem put to better use than the ones Lady Shelton attempts to pass off. Through the redundancy of Lorelei’s limited vocabulary, Loos emphasizes the nontranscendent quality of bad merchandise: “shell flowers” made of “shells.”

Unlike the brand names that signal value to travelers, the “famous historical names” of London’s nobility convey very little. Indeed, the girls insist on replacing nobles’ names with nicknames that diffuse aristocracy’s power. Though she has brought a book of “Ettiquette” on her journey, Lorelei dismisses it “because it wastes quite a lot of time telling you what to call a Lord and all the Lords I have met have told me what to call them and it is generally some quite cute name like Coocoo whose real name is really Lord Cooksleigh” (23). Much like the name “Lady Shelton,” the name “Lord Cooksleigh” is false advertising; just as Lorelei learns “Lady Shelton” means purveyor of inferior goods, she as quickly apprehends “Lord Cooksleigh” and “Sir Francis Beekman” (Coocoo and Piggie) translate simply as “men,” and not even men of the best sort. Old titles that once signified value are really phonies, creating a need for new markers of quality. Put another way, while the shell flowers Lady Shelton hawks are something no one wants, everyone wants an Antoine hat because the wearer must be a someone to pull it off. Lady Shelton’s crafts fail in the globalized marketplace the girls navigate, relying on the faded importance of an aristocratic name that no longer signifies as a somebody.

Famous aristocratic names may also fail to signify in the new marketplace because they cannot be consumed by anyone with the combined buying power and taste to consume them. Or, as the new emphasis on commercial brands that Loos explores reveals, the distinction between brand logic and labels such as “Kunst,” “Lord,” and “Lady” is perhaps less clear than cultural arbiters might like to think. Putting the metaphor of consumption literally, Lorelei tells Dorothy that her relationship with a poor noble won’t go anywhere by challenging her friend to try to eat his crest. While the crest has become a failed, or even inverse sign of value in the novel—as likely to come up empty as a Coney Island clamshell—at least commercial brands promise a modicum of satisfaction. To take the most consistent example of brand quality in the novel, Lorelei only feels at home in London when at the Ritz, which is “delightfully full of Americans” (33). As she leaves London, Lorelei remarks that she “can hardly wait to see the Ritz hotel in Paris” (50).

But Lorelei needn’t have worried about counting on the Ritz in Paris; the city offers precisely what she has been seeking, a veritable smorgasbord of recognizable luxury brands. When Lorelei finally arrives in Paris, she discovers her shopping heaven: [End Page 13]

when Dorothy and I went on a walk, we only walked a few blocks but in only a few blocks we read all of the famous historical names, like Coty and Cartier and I knew we were seeing something educational at last and our whole trip was not a failure. . . . So when we stood at the corner of a place called the Place Vandome, if you turn your back on a monument they have in the middle and look up, you can see none other than Coty’s sign.


Turning their backs on a monument to French history, Lorelei and Dorothy recognize names that require no translation. Lorelei, who understands nothing else French, including “Robber, which means Robert in French” (63), and “eyefull tower” (55), understands the significance of Coty and Cartier.13 It is worth noting that as proper names “Robert” and “Eiffel Tower” should be similar to Coty and Cartier, but they remain incomprehensible to Lorelei—failing to signify across cultures as luxury brands do. Indeed, Lorelei claims that she and Dorothy “read” all of these names, suggesting the dawn of a new kind of linguistic exchange. For better or worse, Loos demonstrates the means by which a new class of tourists have arrived on the scene armed with new interpretive skills.

After the initial giddiness that comes with brand recognition, however, Lorelei experiences a near existential crisis as her shopping savvy appears to have failed her:

So then we saw a jewelry store and we saw some jewelry in the window and it really seemed to be a very very great bargain. . . . So we went in and asked and it seems it was only 20 dollars and it seems it is not diamonds but it is a thing called “paste” which is the name of a word which means imitations. So Dorothy said “paste” is the name of the word a girl ought to do to a gentleman that handed her one.


The passage proceeds in Lorelei’s breathless coordinating style as conjunctions speed the reader through her horrifying discovery. But, gathering herself, Lorelei ends the passage with a moment of sober introspection: “So it really makes a girl feel depressed to think a girl could not tell that it was nothing but an imitation” (53). Noting that cheapness abounds in France as it did in England, Lorelei delivers her most famous observation: “a girl has to look out in Paris, or she would have such a good time in Paris that she would not get anywheres. So I really think that American gentlemen are best after all, because kissing your hand may make you feel very very good but a diamond and safire bracelet lasts forever” (55).14 As Churchwell suggests, “The [End Page 14] ability to distinguish the real from the counterfeit—and to achieve the real—is the basis of power in Lorelei’s world” (151). The equation of authenticity and power makes exotic shopping experiences particularly dangerous and in need of domestication, which is Lorelei’s and the shopping guides’ constant project. While Paris is a place where American girls have to “look out” or risk coming away with nothing worthwhile, Lorelei knows that this danger can be tempered by the presence of American men. Importantly, Lorelei does not propose that American women need to return home; instead, they just need to find American men, who might also be said to have familiar, if not famous, names. In Lorelei’s logic of metonymic affiliation, American men are not just brand shoppers, they come to work like brands themselves—staying at Ritzes, they signify value. And because they can be found anywhere, they also embody the logic of franchising. Be it “American” or “Cartier,” the imprimatur of a famous name protects American consumers far from home.

Additionally, famous American names help establish a feeling of familiarity for the woman abroad. Elizabeth Arden ran a number of ads in Harper’s Bazar that traded on this principle. The 1925 issues feature multiple ads for the cosmetic giant, with a given issue often containing both a full page promotional as well as a small boxed ad among the many notices for design houses in the “Where to Shop in Paris” section. “The moment you arrive in Paris,” reads the header of a small advertisement for “cleansing and stimulating” beauty treatments (40). Suggesting that travelers should treat themselves to an Elizabeth Arden facial on gaining foreign soil, the ad promises both dermatological health and a moment to establish secure footing with a familiar brand.15 Lorelei’s Ritzes and Elizabeth Arden’s global beauty empire both make the American at home when roaming distant lands, assuring her that her consumer choices are correct because they are familiar.

As the Paris pages of Harper’s Bazar reveal, the simultaneously textual and visual nature of brands produced the cosmopolitan consumer experience Lorelei finds so delightful. Frost’s article on Loos’s intertitles is instructive here. Noting that Loos’s comedy films treat “texts as concrete images—as material combinations of letters,” Frost argues that “Loos did not just coax people how to read; she taught them to view words as images” (296). Although the implications of this phenomenon stay in the realm of highbrow modernism for Frost, brand recognition also relies on the idea of language as image. The red leather box with gold cursive spelling C-A-R-T-I-E-R means the name of a jewelry company, but it also means diamonds in any language. Cartier’s cursive letters guarantee a level of quality across linguistic boundaries, preventing misunderstandings such [End Page 15] as Lorelei’s encounter with paste jewelry. Decipherable by speakers of all dialects, the brand thus becomes the ultimate instantiation of language as image, a kind of capitalist Esperanto.

Though Lorelei’s search for American men and Ritzes everywhere shows her provincialism, it also marks her as the type of would-be savvy shopper being produced by new kinds of consumerism. We can see this process at work in Harper’s Bazar, which taught American women the famous names by which they might navigate a global shopping tour. Part of the magazine’s elitism, the monthly message in French appeared alongside ads that offered an education to less elite readers, allowing them access to the language of high-end commerce without years of French lessons.16 Vionnet, which advertised its location on the Champs-Élysées, had a distinctive image and font, as did Myrbor (“for the woman who seeks an expression of personality in her gowns” [“Where to Shop” 47]) and Joseph Paquin. For the regular reader, even one who couldn’t read French, looking at the “Where to Shop in Paris” pages educated her in French fashion brands. The commercial cosmopolitanism allowed by brand names confirms the fundamentally cozy and comforting nature of ads, which Jennifer Wicke describes in her groundbreaking study of advertising and the novel: “Vanished human relations of exchange and barter are compensated for within advertisement (thus the many ‘old friends’ in advertising where most real purchasing situations are impersonal)” (16). This interpellation reaches hyperbolic heights when Lorelei turns her back on the Place Vendôme and feels the pleasure of recognizing friends from back home—chums she perhaps first met in a high-end magazine’s pages.

In addition to assuring travelers that they will receive a level of quality on par with, if not surpassing, what they might expect at home, well-established brands such as the Ritz serve an important signaling function on behalf of the tourist. Staying at the Ritz announces the tourist as the kind of person who stays at Ritzes, much as chic clothes are worn by chic women. Though Josephy and McBride spend many pages helping their readers navigate the wilds of French shopping, they admit that simply staying at the correct address takes much legwork out of the process: “If you are registered at one of the smart hotels, the Crillon or Ritz, for instance, you won’t need any introduction at all for many of the houses. Your choice of French residence is supposed to be a guarantee of your credit, if not of your taste” (5). For the well-heeled traveler, luxury hotel brands act as passport to exclusive fashion houses. Despite the cutting remark that high-end French residences may better guarantee a pocketbook’s depths than the pocketbook owner’s tastes, brand affiliation appears to render middlewomen such as McBride and Josephy less and less necessary. [End Page 16]

For Lorelei, “Ritz” translates as all the best things in life: “Because when a girl can sit in a delightful bar and have delicious champagne cocktails and look at all the important French people in Paris, I think it is devine. I mean when a girl can sit there and look at the Dolly sisters and Pearl White and Maybelle Gilman Corey, and Mrs. Nash, it is beyond worlds” (52). The humor here echoes that in Lorelei’s discussion of the London Ritz (which is delightfully full of Americans); in this moment, the divinity of the French hotel quickly becomes Americanized as Lorelei performs one of her typically humorous clarifications and “all the important French people in Paris” metamorphose into film stars and other American celebrities.

But to a degree, Lorelei is right, even when sounding wrong. Although her focus on the Dolly sisters appears to be another moment of Lorelei’s ignorance, it is in fact this latter group, rather than “important French people,” with which she wants affiliation. Staying at the hotel puts Lorelei both literally and figuratively into the company of the segment of American society that vacations at Ritzes—in this case, recognizable celebrities, women whose names were as well known as that of the hotel in which they stayed. Harper’s Bazar understood this as well and also traded on famous human names as well as fashion brands during the period.17 In 1920 former Chicago Daily News editor, the promisingly named Henry Sell, took the magazine in an increasingly slick and stylish direction. Contributing to the slick look that came in with Sell’s editorship was the use of full-color bleed pages and semicandid photos of society figures (Zuckerman 115). For example, the March 1925 issue of the magazine features photographs of the “Smart Folk” at the beach, on bikes, and on the golf course (“Snapshots” 62–63), including Harold S. Vanderbilt (63), Gertrude Conaway (63), and Mrs. “Jack” Rutherford (62). Much like the Ritz, the fashion magazine bolstered its own status by the famous names that appeared within it.

It was this type of brand logic that allowed Loos’s mentor D. W. Griffith to market his pictures as a luxury cinematic experience and Loos to become a cultural force in her own right. The motion pictures—and Griffith’s motion pictures, in particular—exemplify the new cultural-commercial power Loos explores, as billboards replace monuments and Pearl White and the Dolly sisters replace “important French people.” From the novel’s beginning, even before Lorelei and friends begin making a film, her sense of what’s right and best comes from the cinema. When Mr. Eisman, “The Button King,” worries about business because “the country is really on the verge of the bolshevicks” (19), Lorelei imagines that only a Hollywood big shot could properly handle such an invasion: [End Page 17]

I mean if the bolshevicks do get in, there is only one gentleman who could handle them and that is Mr. D. W. Griffith. Because I will never forget when Mr. Griffith was directing Intolerance. I mean it was my last cinema just before Mr. Eisman made me give up my career and I was playing one of those girls that fainted at the battle when all of the gentlemen fell off the tower. And when I saw how Mr. Griffith handled all of those mobs in Intolerance I realized that he could do anything.


Intolerance (1916) was one of the Griffith pictures for which Loos wrote, but Lorelei’s focus on Intolerance may be ironic. The film was one of the industry’s first box office disasters, but it also signifies in at least two additional ways.

First, as Lorelei rightly notes, the film is a masterwork of coordination: Griffith managed four storylines, massive sets, and hordes of performers. The opposition Lorelei creates between Griffith on the one hand and “bolshevicks” on the other also has a metaphorical logic: Griffith’s picture allegorizes the massive scale and efficiency with which American capital was beginning to churn out its products, cinematic features among them. Indeed, like Elizabeth Arden’s omnipresent beauty culture, American films had also infiltrated the European marketplace as a part of the US Open Door trade policy ushered in by the 1918 Webb-Pomerene Act.18

Second, a Griffith film was a very particular type of product, and the choice of Intolerance as a representative Griffith film registers Loos’s ambivalent attitude to the branding of cultural products. On the one hand, Loos’s time with Griffith spanned the transition from shorts to more expensive—one might say, luxury—feature films. Griffith had capital to spend on Intolerance in 1916 because of the status that had been accruing to his name, most famously from his 1915 The Birth of a Nation, a film that helped cement the viability of high prestige roadshow pictures.19 On the other hand, in naming Intolerance, Lorelei reveals that while she registers the importance of such brands as Ritz and names as Griffith, her discernment goes no deeper. The novel thus reveals that the brands and famous names by which new tourists make their way also threaten to become hollow signifiers, much like signs declaring “kunst.”

Loos’s worry is borne out by the shopping guides. In these pages, a string of celebrity names, including Loos’s, light the path of Parisian shops. For example, the Bonneys introduce readers to Talbot by way of Hollywood’s biggest star: “Gold and silver repeated in the unique evening caps with their daring moderated by tulle veils, silver repeated in the charming ivory satin and black lace ensemble [End Page 18] just selected by Mary Pickford” (38). Josephy and McBride also detail the shopping experiences of the famous throughout their guide. Accounts of celebrity shoppers serve to bolster the guidebook’s brand education, as familiar celebrities with particular associations affiliated with their picture personalities help American consumers navigate exotic French labels: “Perhaps you’d like to know a little about the shopping methods of famous women before you formulate your own,” the authors suggest (26).20 While Gloria Swanson “designs many of her own gowns and has them made at the smaller houses,” Mary Pickford “takes a thermos bottle of warm milk and her own dressing gown along when she sets forth for a day of trying on” (26) and “Anita Loos, pint-sized author of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ has to have everything made to order” (29). Through these anecdotes, Joesphy and McBride draw on what consumers already know well—celebrity names—in order to introduce them to what they know less well, French ones. The descriptions of celebrities’ shopping habits confirm readers’ senses of the stars: glamorous Swanson has things done her way, while wholesome Pickford brings equally wholesome provisions for her expeditions.

In addition to making American shoppers feel as though they are in good company, celebrities put French fashions into more familiar American contexts, once again, requiring no specialized knowledge from the would-be luxury consumer. The shopper need only know her celebrities, not her couturiers. For example, McBride and Josephy note, “Patou was one of the first Paris dressmakers to show sports clothes as something apart from the rest of a collection. . . . The Dolly Sisters and Ruth Elder are among the many celebrities who wear Patou originals” (20). They also warn, “Lately there has been a rumor that modern art will influence Lanvin to forsake the period frock, but she continues to dress such romantic types as Mary Pickford, Raquel Meller and Yvonne Printemps, darling of the French legitimate theatre, so probably the report is exaggerated” (16). The power of the star persona in familiarizing difficult fashion can be seen when Josephy and McBride wager Pickford’s romanticism against Lanvin’s possible modernism. Even if Lanvin ventures into modernism (which the house did, featuring bolero jackets with kimono-inspired sleeves [Kawamura 439]), Pickford’s choice to wear Lanvin’s designs casts the sleek and occasionally severe dresses in a new light. Pickford’s ability to remain precisely herself even when wearing avant-garde clothes has the effect of domesticating Lanvin, making the house approachable by American tourists. Put another way, the knowledge that familiar American celebrities wear these designs assures American shoppers that their decision to follow the label is supported by women whose famous names they trust. [End Page 19]

As aspirational manuals to becoming a “woman of the world” (Josephy and McBride 14), shopping guides and magazines stage the way US consumer processes were exported to old Europe, allowing American tourists to feel everywhere at home. For her part, by creating a heroine who replaced old cultural touchstones with brand names as signals of value, Loos predicted a commercial cosmopolitanism not insignificantly tied to Hollywood’s famous names. And though she pokes fun at Lorelei’s cultural ignorance, Loos also establishes luxury chains as sites of quality and associates deteriorating European culture with pretension, dustiness, vulgarity, and kitsch. A celebrity culture vulture who moved from Griffith’s heavily branded pictures into her own name as a symbol of quality, Loos would become a vocal defender of Hollywood’s cultural productions in her tirades against the censors who attacked her 1932 Jean Harlow vehicle Redheaded Woman. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Loos locates the roots of such censorship in staid attachments to old signs of value (kunst and crests) seemingly incapable of adapting to a new world. Sharp on both sides, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’s satire offers a cutting account of both European culture and its replacement by a commercial culture that was simultaneously American and cosmopolitan.

Katherine Fusco

KATHERINE FUSCO <kfusco@unr.edu> is the author of Silent Film and U.S. Naturalist Literature: Time, Narrative, and Modernity (2016). Her work has also appeared in Camera Obscura, Studies in the Novel, and Adaptation. She teaches at the University of Nevada, Reno.


1. I will be using the original one “a” spelling of the magazine now known as Harper’s Bazaar.

2. Sarah Churchwell uses this quip from Mencken as title and inspiration for her essay on Blondes, in which she reads the novel’s appearance in the magazine into Loos’s ambivalent relationship to selling herself as a female author. While Loos was certainly ambivalent about being a woman author, particularly as her marriage deteriorated, the evidence suggests a more positive relationship to high-end fashion than Churchwell would have it.

3. Indeed, the connection between Blondes and ads in Harper’s Bazar runs deeper than Mencken’s offhand comment might suggest. In “Biography of a Book,” Loos quotes Carmel Snow, the woman who would become editor of the magazine in the 1930s in order to demonstrate the novel’s popularity: “By the third month [the novel appeared], ads for men’s apparel, cars, amid sporting goods began pouring into the magazine. This was the first time men had ever read the Bazaar—the newsstand sales doubled, then tripled. James Joyce, who had begun to lose his eyesight, saved his reading for Lorelei Lee” (xli). Further evidencing the way in which celebrity modernists operated like brands in their own right, here Snow quickly connects ads for men’s goods to the brand of a famous male modernist, a series of endorsements, as it were, for Loos’s novel. [End Page 20]

4. I owe the formulation “savvy without savoir” to one of this article’s anonymous readers.

5. In particular, these accounts share a sense of the messy border demarcating highbrow modernism and middlebrow media forms. For example, Churchwell’s “‘Lost Among the Ads’” tracks the way Harper’s Bazar and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes worked symbiotically, one selling the other. Churchwell argues for an ultimate ambivalence in the novel, suggesting that even as the “text of Blondes and the context of Harper’s reproduce each other” (142), Loos ultimately satirizes the Harper’s reader. In contrast, scholars who take up Loos’s film career describe the author’s relation to mass culture as more affirmative. Hefner’s important essay, “‘Any Chance to be Unrefined,’” reminds us that Loos was not primarily a novelist but a successful writer of modernist and subversive scripts, noting that Loos’s style involved textually undermining the image on the screen, a habit that Hefner argues extends to Blondes in the form of Dorothy’s quippy commentary on Lorelei’s actions. See 110. Extending Hefner’s work, in “Blondes Have More Fun,” Frost connects Loos’s novel to her intertitle writing in explicitly formal terms, challenging the distinctions among the high, middle, and low brows of culture that have so dominated the conversation on Loos. See 293.

6. Riffing on Walter Benjamin, Plock argues, “But if, as Benjamin argues, fashion functions—through its disruption and subsequent reinforcement of class structures—as a prominent indicator of social change, it was most certainly women’s clothing that underwent the most visible and radical makeover at the turn of the twentieth century” (88). And it was the fashion magazine that made this transformation visible: “Moreover, Vogue readers would be told that by documenting and by predicting this radical transformation of modish types, the journal had played an instrumental role in producing this altered image of feminine perfection. Reading Vogue, it was insinuated, was synonymous with being modern and au courant with the latest fashions” (89).

7. Richard Martin, for example, has studied the advertising in the middle-brow publication Saturday Evening Post and sees an overall campaign being made in this magazine’s pages on behalf of the ready-made garment. Martin argues, “Fashion advertising in the 1920s was still defining the product, in part because ready-to-wear fashion was still new, but also in part because a proof, an argument, or a conviction was required to sell the product to the consumer” (251).

8. Sagert argues, “Mass production also allowed the working class women to dress in facsimiles of what only the rich would have otherwise worn, and these more affordable fashions allowed these women to change their personal styles as trends dictated” (16). Indeed, though they do not encourage this behavior, Josephy and McBride do include information in their Paris guide about getting knockoffs made and the practice of stealing designs from the couturiers.

9. The Americans attempting to navigate the wilds of European culture in the 1920s were many, and they were not just a select clique populated [End Page 21] by Gertrude Stein and friends. As many as 40,000 Americans were living in the City of Light in the mid-to-late 1920s. See Blower 6.

10. Indeed, McBride was so popular and well-regarded that in 1933 she was able to entice four First Ladies (Taft, Wilson, Coolidge, and Hoover) to be interviewed for a piece on the Girl Scouts. See Merrick 89–90.

11. Indeed, we might understand Lorelei as the ancestor of Dreiser’s eponymous Sister Carrie, who, as Walter Benn Michaels has claimed, possesses desire “exceeding and outstripping any possible object” (376).

12. Susan Hegeman describes the economic play in Blondes particularly persuasively, carefully describing the novel’s economy as based on an equivalency among “sex diamonds-education,” whereby “the possession of sexual attraction and the possession of diamonds are relatively synonymous” (544).

13. The column at the Place Vendôme commemorates Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz, a battle that effectively ended the Holy Roman Empire.

14. This line formed the basis for the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the musical version of the novel starring Carol Channing as well as Howard Hawks’s Marilyn Monroe vehicle; it also features prominently in Madonna’s “Material Girl.”

15. These ads and page numbers are from the February 1925 issue; the recurring features appeared in largely the same format throughout the year’s issues.

16. This type of education clarifies Lorelei’s one shopping error; she gets into trouble not because of the misrecognition of a French word, but because of her misunderstanding of the English term “paste.”

17. Loos, as a celebrity author, knew the benefits of extending commercial branding’s logic to artistic reputations, a practice she had seen in action by her proximity to picture personalities. Indeed, as modernist scholars have ably demonstrated, a number of Conrad’s modernist compatriots, including Stein and Fitzgerald, took up the logic of branding in their self-promotion in order to make their names signify quality to a broader audience—something Conrad’s name clearly fails to do for Loos’s heroine. For example, Timothy Galow cites Stein’s instruction to her agent to “make her rich and famous” (324).

18. The imbalance of trade between the US and France eventually provoked the French to respond with quotas on the importation of certain goods, one of which was the American motion picture. See Ulff-Møller 45 and 57.

19. Even before this transition, Loos was discriminating about the studios for which she wrote. Beauchamp suggests that Loos was one of the first writers to “shop” her scripts: “It was during the time her father [End Page 22] was managing a San Diego theater that Anita watched the one-reel films screened between the live acts. She quickly discerned a difference in their quality; the ones labeled Biograph were almost always superior” (11). And so it was to the best brand that Loos sent The New York Hat (1912), the short film that put her into contact with many of the famous names that would accompany her throughout her career: Griffith, Pickford, Barrymore, Marsh, and Gish.

20. For a full account of the formation and influence of the picture personality, see Richard deCordova’s excellent Picture Personalities.

Works Cited

Beauchamp, Cari. Introduction. Anita Loos Rediscovered: Film Treatments and Fiction. By Anita Loos. Ed. Beachamp and Mary Anita Loos. Berkeley: U of California P, 2003. 1–8.
Blower, Brooke Lindy. Becoming Americans in Paris: Transatlantic Politics and Culture Between the World Wars. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.
Bonney, Thérèse, and Louise Bonney. A Shopping Guide to Paris. New York: McBride, 1929.
Churchwell, Sarah. “‘Lost Among the Ads’: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the Politics of Imitation.” Middlebrow Moderns: Popular American Women Writers of the 1920s. Ed. Lisa Botshon and Meredith Goldsmith. Boston: Northeastern UP, 2003. 135–64.
deCordova, Richard. Picture Personalities: The Emergence of the Star System in America. Champaign: U of Illinois P, 2001.
de Meyer, Adolph. “The Parisienne Goes Shopping.” Harper’s Bazar Jan. 1925: 66–75.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. “Echoes from the Jazz Age.” The Crack-Up. Ed. Edmund Wilson. New York: New Directions, 2009. 13–22.
Frost, Laura. “Blondes Have More Fun: Anita Loos and the Language of Silent Cinema.” Modernism/modernity 17.2 (2010): 291–311.
Galow, Timothy W. “Literary Modernism in the Age of Celebrity.” Modernism/modernity 17.2 (2010): 313–29.
Hefner, Brooks E. “‘Any Chance to Be Unrefined’: Film Narrative Modes in Anita Loos’s Fiction.” PMLA 125.1 (2010): 107–20.
Hegeman, Susan. “Taking Blondes Seriously.” American Literary History 7.3 (1995): 525–54.
Howard, Marjorie, “What Price a Crowning Glory?” Harper’s Bazar Mar. 1925: 100+.
Josephy, Helene, and Mary Margaret McBride. Paris Is a Woman’s Town. New York: Coward, 1929.
Levenstein, Harvey. Seductive Journey: American Tourists in France from Jefferson to the Jazz Age. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998.
Loos, Anita. “The Biography of a Book.” Loos xxxvii–xlii.
———. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. New York: Penguin, 1998. [End Page 23]
Martin, Richard. “Fashion in the Age of Advertising.” Journal of Popular Culture 29.2 (1995): 235–54.
Mencken, H. L. “The Sahara of the Bozart.” The American Scene: A Reader. Ed. Huntington Cairns. 1920. New York: Knopf, 1977. 157–68.
Merrick, Beverly G. “From Ghosting to Free-Lancing: Mary Margaret McBride Covers Royalty and Radio Rex for the Saturday Evening Post, Woman’s Home Companion, and Cosmopolitan (1925–1935).” American Periodicals 9 (1999): 74–96.
Michaels, Walter Benn. “Sister Carrie’s Popular Economy.” Critical Inquiry 7.2 (1980): 373–90.
Plock, Vike Martina. “‘I Just Took It Straight from Vogue’: Fashion, Femininity, and Literary Modernity in Rosamond Lehmann’s Invitation to the Waltz.” MFS 59.1 (2013): 83–106.
Roberts, Mary Louise. “Samson and Delilah Revisited: The Politics of Women’s Fashion in 1920s France.” American Historical Review 98.3 (1993): 657–84.
Sagert, Kelly Boyer. Flappers: A Guide to an American Subculture. Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2010.
“Snapshots of Smart Folk at Palm Beach.” Harper’s Bazar Mar. 1925: 62–63.
Tracy, Daniel. “From Vernacular Humor to Middlebrow Modernism: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the Creation of Literary Value.” Arizona Quarterly 66.1 (2010): 115–43.
Twain, Mark. The Innocents Abroad. 1869. New York: Signet, 1966.
Ulff-Møller, Jens. Hollywood’s Film Wars with France: Film-Trade Diplomacy and the Emergence of the French Film Quota Policy. Rochester: U of Rochester P, 2001.
“Where to Shop in Paris.” Harper’s Bazar May 1925: 44–48.
Whiteman, Paul, and Mary Margaret McBride. Jazz. New York: Sears, 1926.
Wicke, Jennifer. Advertising Fictions: Literature, Advertisement, and Social Reading. New York: Columbia UP, 1988.
Zuckerman, Mary Ellen. A History of Popular Women’s Magazines in the United States, 1792–1995. Westport: Greenwood, 1998. [End Page 24]