I'm defending my thesis in about three weeks. I need to purchase some type of business clothing (as a grad student, I just don't have any!) so I headed to Ann Taylor Loft on Penn campus the other day. Granted, I realize this was not the best idea. Ann Taylor has some nice business attire, while Ann Taylor Loft seems to cater to the younger kids with more casual things (that are still kind of dressy to this CA native! Ha!). So, I realize this was my first mistake - any time I try to utilize a business on campus, the customer service is terrible. I usually just chalk it up to college students working part time and not really caring about their job. I was fully aware of this at the time that I chose to look at this store, so you can absolutely blame me for what transpired.
Like most stores in our area, the minute you walk in, someone says "Hi! How are you today?!?!?!" It's not so much of a greeting or a question, it's more of a statement. Like, proving they are there in the store. There is never a question like, "Do you need help finding anything?" So, I start to wander around the store. They have a few things that are potential, so I pick up pants and shirts and a couple dresses in two to three sizes each (more on that later). I've got my hand full. The workers are standing by the "folding table", perhaps putting away clothing...having a loud and involved conversation about Friday night, Jason, a party and "that girl". It takes them several minutes to notice me drowning in clothing (I absolutely could have asked for a dressing room) and one of them offers to get me a room. I continue to shop, grabbing this, that and the other thing, trying to make a business outfit out of what they have. I even pick up some Blanche Devereaux-type billowy, flowery blouses since they're everywhere and I think, "Well, I don't know what they look like unless I try them on." Occasionally, I have looked at something on a hanger and it looks terrible, but on, it looks great. So, I try to be open minded in the whole process.
Finally, I get my stuff and head to the dressing room. I start trying on clothing, and some of it looks OK, some of it not. I usually wear about a size 8. However, I have clothing in my closet that ranges from a 6 to a 12 (my wedding dress? a 14 - go figure!). I'm also short, about 5'3", so I sometimes wear things in petite because the regular size can be way too long (who wants to wear shirts that literally come down to my crotch?) So, I'm pretty much an 8 on the bottom and usually a 10 or 12 on top. The problem is mainly the boobs. I am between a 36-38C in the chest department. I have the impression that, although they appear large on me and my frame, that this size is rather common. So, I picked up dress pants in an 8 and a 10. The 10 was way too big - I looked like I was wearing saggy pants! and the 8s were just a bit too small. They created those "lines" across my hips, which I hate. I tried on another pair, and even though they were marked "petite", they bunched up in the crotch region, which I also hate. I understand that nobody can make pants that fit everyone, but I feel like these are common problems with a lot of my friends.
The shirts were ridiculous too. The Blanche Devereaux shirts? Yup, they made me look like a 65 year old Floridian in the 80s. The dresses bunched up in weird places, or were exceedingly short (I mean, like I said - I'm 5'3" - how could they be short on me?). One of the dresses (although a size 10) I could not even zip up in the back because it smashed my boobs so much. Ugh. Trying on clothes is a drag!
I found a shirt I really liked, white button down, short sleeves with a little ruffle collar around the neck and in the front. It wasn't too low cut, but did have a nice shape. Well, the 10, I could not even button. The 12? In petite, I couldn't button it, and in regular, it extended past my hips - for a shirt that I would tuck in to likely somewhat form fitting pants? Not gonna work!
In the meantime, there is no one in the store. It's a Monday afternoon, and the working girls are gabbing away. At one point, one of them came in to offer help, get me a new size, etc. She did do that, but she never returned after that to see if those sizes fit. I finally ended up packing up my things and heading home - they didn't even spend a minute to say "Bye!!!!!"
To a certain extent, I'm not really what the point of this post is. But, for the record, I occasionally want help at a store. Not all the time, but when I have something in particular in mind, it would be really helpful to have someone familiar with the merchandise to guide me. I realize the days of excellent customer service are long gone. I guess, mostly, I am asking that people actually do the job they are paid for. It's clear these associates are not paid on commission, otherwise, they would have fallen all over me, trying to sell me stuff (I'm not sure if that's what I wanted, either).
I'm not sure if perhaps I was judged on my appearance. I was wearing jeans and a waffle-T that says Jackson, WY. I had on a fleece and a North Face jacket. My bike helmet was hanging off my overly large backpack, and I may have been a little sweaty from wearing too many layers in the Spring. I've often thought about the scene in Pretty Woman where she walks into a snobby store she had been kicked out of previously and shows them she has the money to purchase anything in the store. Of course, she leaves (and that's something that I couldn't pull off, for sure! Ha!). I guess common courtesy and kindness are just missing. I could be like that Facebook guy who always wears grubby clothes, but they would never know.
I guess it's obvious that a company cannot just force their employees to say things ("Hi! Welcome to Ann Taylor!", "Would you like to put your purchase on your Macy's card?", etc) that don't really mean anything. The majority of the time, the employees do not want to help you, especially if they are making $6 an hour at a crappy job. I'm not sure if there is an answer to this, other than retail stores should value their employees more to create a work environment in which people want to work, not just where they show up and stand around all day. Don't get me wrong, I know that working retail is a pain. I realize that customers are demanding, and having a do-nothing at work day might be restful and meaningful. I could have asserted myself - I could have just walked into the middle of their conversation and told them I wanted help. That wasn't beyond me. I guess I just don't want to force people to work if they don't want to.
And lastly, why have clothing makers not caught on to women's different body types? Honestly, I am so tired of trying to find clothing that fits, trying to find an 8, then a 10, then a 12 and being really disappointed because the 12 fits my boobs, but I'm swimming in it everywhere else. I also realize that I am shopping at cheaper places. I honestly can't afford much higher than Ann Taylor, although I would love to use the personal shopper at Nordstrom's for a day. I'm unclear why women's clothing is not more like men's clothing. A waist size and a length? Fine by me (although it would have to have different cuts, for those with a booty like me!). A bra size when shopping for shirts (and then a choice of Small, Medium or Large, or something like that?) Hallelujah! Dresses that come in different sizes on the top vs. the bottom? Stores that do alterations? I know that, likely, at the more expensive stores and the places where clothing costs way more that I would probably find these things. I realize that a nice suit could cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. I'm just unable to afford that right now. And I understand that manufacturing has to be "cookie cutter" to a certain extent, since things are made in such large quantities. Its funny to think about because my Grandma made a lot of my Mom's clothes when she was a kid (even her high school graduation dress) and my Mom hated it. She wanted clothes with the designer labels on it, clothes that didn't look like they were made at home. Now, here we are, 40 year later, and I would love to have someone make me some clothes - especially clothes that were tailored for my body. It's funny how time moves backwards, isn't it?
Wow, so this turned into an exorbitantly long post - sorry about that. I guess I needed to get something off my chest -like these too-tight shirts these damn stores sell!