My relationship with the dELiA*s catalog was far more intimate than my relationship with its products, which my mother deemed overpriced and impractical and therefore rarely permitted me to purchase. My friends and I cut the catalogs to pieces, using its models and its cutesy-cool ad copy to populate collages and our bedroom walls. When we posed for pictures, we’d do one regular, one goofy, and one “Delia*s” — meaning eyes rolled and cocked slightly to the right and the mouth barely open, or else you’d stick your tongue out in one direction while rolling your eyes in the other. It was a posture that suggested aggressive boredom often experienced by girls who were too cool for just about everything.
Last week the internet began buzzing about dELiA*s impending demise — the company’s stock is about to be delisted from NASDAQ for failing to meet standards and currently hovers at 11 cents a share. “Starting in 1993, dELiA*s encouraged a certain badassery that squared with middle-school girls living across the country,” wrote Alex Ronan in New York Magazine last week. “It was where you went after Limited Too felt too babyish but before you could handle Urban Outfitters.” But, like Urban Outfitters, dELiA*s merchandise was both high-cost and low-quality, which is a tougher sell in the age of Forever 21, H&M and Uniqlo.
“In the case of dELiA*s, girl power was about consumer activism more than anything else,” Caryn Murphy, a history professor as the University of Wisconsin told New York Magazine. “The message was to express yourself, but to do that through your clothes and makeup and room décor.” In its heyday in the mid-90s, deLiA*s was the only catalog aimed squarely at teenage girls and, for girls without a nearby Urban Outfitters or the like, this was the only way for them to access these particular styles. deLiA*s went online in 1998, garnering an exceptional 11 million hits per month. But, as Ronan writes, “Girl Power was a marketing tool made into cliché, and the mom-approved chasteness dELiA*s espoused lost its currency as millennials aged.”
I mentioned offhand to Fashion Editor Lydia and Executive Editor Laneia that I had an old dELiA*s catalog in my closet somewhere from the ’90s because I had a friend who used to come over and write all over my dELiA*s catalogs when I wasn’t paying attention. You know – giving people mustaches, calling a surly looking model a “dike,” re-inserting blemishes that we imagined had been removed by Photoshop 1.0. Your standard teenage nightmare. They suggested that I scan the entire thing as our homage to dELiA*s and so what happened next was that I did exactly that. Click on the first image to enter a gallery of your dreams!