True stories with a twist!

BEYOND FASHION

She is an upbeat woman in an upscale store. She whirls over to my side the moment I enter her department. “Hi. My name is Princess. How may I help you?”

“I’m looking for something to wear to a fall party.”

“This is the perfect time,” says Princess enthusiastically. “Our fall line just arrived and you have first choice at the new styles. I’ll be happy to work with you. What’s your name?”

As Princess assigns a dressing room to me she scavenges the back room for some dresses for my to approval.  I notice her style of addressing customers. She uses “sweet names” like “darlin”, “sweetie” and “honeybunch.” She sprinkles her comments to me with those endearments as we work together.

Princess is an attractive young woman in her early 30s, beautifully dressed in the season’s latest trendy “look”, and fastidiously groomed and accessorized. Her stiletto heels fascinate me. “I would last about 35 minutes at this job if I had to wear, stand and walk on heels that high.”

Princess considers herself a “fashionista”. “I love to keep up with the latest trends in fashion.” She puts together colors and accessories that make an outfit stunning, interesting and individual.

She peppers her comments with little tips like, “Take the jacket from the black tie tuxedo suit from a few seasons ago and wear it with a great pair of jeans.” “Scarves are fashion’s wonder. There are so many ways to twist, turn and tie them.  Here: let me show you a few tricks.”

As I try on different styles she is vocal in her opinions. “I would NEVER sell you that!” and  “That blue one looks great on you.”

This experience is becoming fun. Her little pointers are welcomely surprising.

What energy she has: “Wait a sec; I’ll be right back”, as she dashes downstairs to the jewelry department to return with a few necklaces. “Now I’ll show you how to change your look from conservative to funky. ‘

“Hold on a minute,” she says again, and runs out of the dressing room: this time to bring shoes to make the outfit sensational.

“Nobody looks good with bare feet,” she admonishes, as I stand in the dressing room in my bare feet.

Princess tells me with pride that she is the “highest seller of Spanx in the store. I tell my customers that they have to keep the lines of the clothes smooth and get rid of the bumps, lumps and rolls. All of my mature clients have them. Spanx erases them; poof! They’re the first article of clothing I put on every day!”

“Let me get you something cold to drink”, she says and rushes out to bring me an icy bottle of Perrier.

She rattles off stories about customers, as I’m changing from one outfit to another.

“I have a customer who insists on squeezing into a size 8 dress when she clearly is a size 12.  And one who came into the store in such an agitated state that I steered her straight into a lounge, brought her a drink and calmed her before allowing her to see any clothes.

I am enjoying the attention and advice about my quest for the perfect fall outfit, and Princess’ expert advice about adding the right shoes and jewelry. All she cares about is making me look my best.

Suddenly that mood changes. She pulls a chair into the dressing room and sits down. Gone is her aura of professionalism. Gone is the fashionista with all her tricks and advice.

I am suddenly in the presence of a woman with a man problem. And she seems determined to reveal her situation rather than revealing a new, stylish me.

Princess has been dating Robert for 2 years. He wants them to marry this year. “But he is so serious,” she wails. “I love him but I’m not ‘in love’ with him.”

“I like dressing up, going out with my friends and staying out late at night. I want to have fun.”

“What are your ideas about marriage?” I ask, begrudgingly being drawn into her dilemma.

“Oh, I know about marriage. I read all the popular magazine articles and I take the quizzes to help rate relationships. And I love movies about love and marriage. Did you see the latest Tom Cruise movie with Cameron Diaz?”

Hearing the Princess version of judging a lifetime commitment by way of magazine articles, quizzes and Hollywood depictions of marriage make me realize that I cannot give advice to this fairy tale believing saleswoman. She is either terribly naive, or there is a lot more to this story than I know. And I don’t want to know: I just want a new fall outfit.

So I thank her for her help, pay for the outfit and assure her that everything will work out fine.

I leave the store, vowing to enjoy my new cocktail suit at the fall party.

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