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ch a pter 4 El buen tono and the World of Goods O n January 10, 1882, the first issue of La Moda Ilustrada, a fashion magazine published in Madrid, included an advertisement for a gift shop called El Buen Tono. “Mr. Alvarez Vivigo, owner of this prestigious store,” read the commercial, “wants to report the display of a large and varied inventory of men’s ties appropriate for the season, all sorts of wedding presents, greeting cards, bronze decorations for ladies’ boudoirs, deluxe cigarette holders, wallets, toiletry bags for ladies, card cases, opera glasses, purses, shell cigarette cases with gold and silver incrustations, canes, umbrellas, fans . . . and a multitude of rich and capricious objects that can compete with the best available in other gift shops of this capital.”1 El Buen Tono gift shop was located at 20 Arenal Street, in the heart of Madrid’s commercial district, and it is not a coincidence that both the shop and the editorial offices of the above-mentioned fashion magazine shared the same address. El Buen Tono, a distinctive name emblematic of the sort of store it aspired to be, carried a selection of fashionable clothes, elegant objects, and decorative bric-a-bracs that epitomized the material universe of the hombre fino and mujer fina. The advertised items held symbolic meaning, as they signified social status and a certain lifestyle. They were part of the variety of objects considered necessary acquisitions by those who strove to be identified as members of bourgeois polite society, a society characterized—unlike any other before it—by its attachment to the consumption of goods. As has been pointed out by Douglas Goodman and Mirelle Cohen, “middle class culture is consumer culture, since the spread of modern consumerism was the consequence of those social groups struggling to rig themselves out with the paraphernalia of gentility during the nineteenth century.”2 92 • The Rise of Middle-Class Culture in Nineteenth-Century Spain This chapter expands on the preceding chapter’s study of the origins and expansion of modern consumer culture in Spain during the nineteenth century. So far we have considered the making of the bourgeois home in the context of the dissemination of the ideals of domesticity. Now we will delve deeper into this story by looking at the role of garment consumption, fashion, and the history of retailing as central aspects of the nineteenth-century bourgeois world and Spanish incorporation into modernity. Consumer Culture and the “Consumer Revolution” in Spain Scholars studying the origins of modern consumer culture, or modern consumerism, agree for the most part that modern consumer society emerged in western Europe before the Industrial Revolution and contributed to its advent. Current debates center on the determination of the when, the why, the how, and the where, and seek the appropriate terminology to define the complexities of this historical process. Regarding the “when,” there seems to be a general consensus in identifying the early modern period with the inception of modern consumerism. While the consumption of objects is fundamental to human nature and has existed from the very beginnings of the history of humanity, studies show that after the sixteenth century Europeans began to produce, exchange, and possess objects like never before. This modern form of consumption differed from the past in that it was more widely shared by social groups and was not exclusive to the upper classes. The early stages of this process were linked to the expansion of the international markets with the commercialization of colonial products such as sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa, and calicoes. In the second half of the eighteenth century, the first consumer societies rose in determined regions of Europe, and over the course of the nineteenth century modern consumer culture expanded to most of the Western world. The explanation of the “why” and the “how” of this rise in consumer demand has generated more controversy. In a very general sense most scholars accept the linking of consumer culture with the growth of Western capitalism beginning with the age of European expansion. The development of commercial economies in early modern Europe brought about a consumer apparatus evident in the explosion of shops, the increasing use of new marketing techniques, and the availability of credit and new affordable commodities. The shopkeeper and his methods established the first interactions of the new consumer society.3 But El buen tono and the World of Goods • 93 the growth of commercial activities has also been interpreted as a symptom or consequence...


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