I had to buy an outfit for a formal occasion. I am not good at formal occasions, my wardrobe style being more old hippy or 'doctor martins' plus jeans. Anyway to rectify this we made the expedition to the nearest shopping mall...
The first time we visited a shopping mall, about twenty years ago, I dubbed it a 'Cathedral to Capitalism'. Probably not an original epithet, but it served. Even the floor plan of the particular shopping mall was vaguely Cathedral shaped. And since then certainly of a Sunday more people seem to be crowding the shopping aisles than local church aisles - and of course at Christmas time the queues are longer for the shopping mall car parks than the nearby religious establishments.
Then I thought the title rather unfair to Cathedrals and Christianity [although not Capitalism] so over the years 'Temples to Consumerism' has replaced the term. And other thoughts have also occurred to me. Around the mid 19thCentury municipal parks began to appear which gave the 'ordinary' [I really dislike that word] working family the opportunity get a least a taste of the 'country' in the industrial cities - especially as the working week began to have at least a few more hours leisure. Sunday afternoons were a favourite time for 'parading' in parks, if possible in best clothes. And of course were good places for courting couples on Saturday and Sunday evenings!* Now it seems as if the 'parading' takes place in shopping malls and the best clothes are worn to buy other best clothes - if 'best' clothes still exist.
Looking on the 'net at the official sites for these shopping malls they also appear to have taken over the 'status' of a village. The particular one we visited this week has very many restaurants from fast food to silver service, a bus station, a train station, chapel, cinema and of course about 200 shops! What was missing there was the sort of 'camaraderie' one feels when wandering down a small village street - in fact wandering wasn't really an option, it was more 'go with the flow', and with such a large catchment area from which to draw its custom it is rare to see a face one knows.
Also on this mall's website was a mini questionnaire with tick boxes to vote:
What will you be doing this Summer?
Day at the seaside 
Going shopping 
Day at a theme park 
Going shopping doesn't seem a summer specific activity to me.
So my shopping trip has raised all sorts of thoughts about the difference in leisure in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Oh and the outfit? Didn't do too well really. I tried a really formal dress on and although it fitted and looked OK it just was not 'me'. As youngest daughter said, I am 'not really grown up enough for anything like that'. So I came home and ordered a simple flowing dress in two different sizes from the online shop where I get most of my clothes, they arrived today and the one that didn't fit has gone back already. Sorted.
*There are lots of lovely social history books on the subject, copies of many of which reside in my study although the particular one from which I wanted to quote has of course hidden itself today.