Women had certain expectations that they had to uphold when out in public, one being that a lady should never stop and look in store windows. However, as the decades progressed, the community formed around clothing gave women more freedom than they had before. This increase in freedom and mobility was created by department stores. With department stores came ready-made clothing. 
During this time middle-and upper-class women were moving from the home into the public sphere. There were more opportunities from education and public involvement than ever before. In 1876 the first department stores began to open. These department stores were more than just a place to purchase goods; they offered a “place for women to be in public without the expectation of a chaperone.”1 These shops were designed to make feel women as comfortable as they did in their own homes. The interiors presented a home-like atmosphere and they were mainly staffed by women. The prices of the goods were fixed so women weren’t expected to haggle. Proper etiquette from this time forbade women to linger in the streets and it was improper for “women to stop and look in store windows, handling merchandise and even carrying packages.”2 This all began to change when department stores opened. 
Department stores invested to make the interior of the stores as similar to the home as possible so women would be comfortable there and purchase merchandise and even spend the day socializing with friends. Over time stores began to put together big window displays, and thus created the hobby of window shopping. In the late nineteenth century it became socially acceptable for women to meet up with friends in the streets and linger as they examined the store windows. Women now had a socially acceptable reason to be on the streets and were less likely to have their morality and social statues questioned as a result. 
Initially women were not marketed to as they were not viewed as consumers to the merchants. But as more goods came in from around the world because of industrializations, the merchants needed new consumers; which is where they began to market specifically to women. 
With the growth of department stores, ready-to wear clothing became more and more popular and easily accessible. Before department stores, if a woman wanted a new dress she either had to go to a dress-maker and have it made or make it herself. But with the evolution of ready-to-wear, a woman could go to a department store and buy a dress already made. 
Before ready to wear became popular in the 1870s, only rich women could afford to purchase new clothing and everyone else had to make their own mostly from recycled clothing. But with the growth of department stores, fashion became more accessible to more people since the clothes in the department stores were cheaper than if someone had it made specifically for her. 
Department stores and ready-to-wear helped close the fashion gap between the classes. Not only did department stores give woman a place to meet with other women and be in a safe place to spend their day, but it also made fashion and clothing more accessible to more groups of people. Department stores changed how women existed in the public sphere.
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