Stephanie Lehmann presents ‘Astor Place Vintage’ at Bookmark Shoppe in Bay Ridge

Century 21

for The Brooklyn Paper
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For women, it’s not easy wearing the pants — or selling them, either.

A new novel called “Astor Place Vintage” is about two women who try to make it in the fashion business — one wants to be a buyer at the Manhattan department store Macy’s while another is an entrepreneur who opens a vintage clothing shop in the East Village — but they’re separated by a century.

In the book, the two characters Olive Westcott and Amanda Rosenbloom come together when present day Amanda finds Olive’s journal from the turn of the century.

Author Stephanie Lehmann’s book is the focus of a reading at the Bay Ridge bookstore Bookmark Shoppe, and the shop owner Bina Valenzano says it will be a great opportunity to talk about professional women in society — past and present.

“What I did find interesting was how men behaved towards women in 1902 happened exactly the same way in 2012,” said Valenzano, who is herself a small business owner, referring to how both women in the book struggle with financial dependence on men.

In chapters that switch between the two women’s perspectives, two stories with similar themes are unraveled. The unfortunate Olive loses her father to a car accident, leaving her nearly destitute. Though her goal is to become a buyer at Macy’s, no one will hire her, so she sneaks her way into a sales position at the Seigel-Cooper department store in New York City, determined to work her way up without depending on marriage — a mean feat in 1902, when Victorian ideals of society were still popular.

Amanda’s story involves a man she depends on for financial support as she is pushed out of her retail space in the city. The problem is, he’s married.

A kind of “Julie and Julia,” the novel connects the stories of two women in different eras, but instead of the culinary world, Lehmann’s book weaves a story through the city of New York, which is a prominent character. The author’s fascination with the city is apparent, as the book contains old photographs of spots such as Herald Square, and Astor Place.

The first photo in the book is of a Madison Square taxi stand, with two women in elegant dresses wearing defiant expressions on their faces, walking side-by-side in 1900.

Stephanie Lehmann at Bookmark Shoppe [8415 Third Ave. between 84th and 85th streets in Bay Ridge, (718) 833–5115,]. June 27, 7:30 pm.

Updated 10:12 pm, July 9, 2018
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