Monday, August 22, 2011

The message of clothes

I had the opportunity to do a lot of thinking about clothes today. I have lost some weight in the past year--to the point that my clothes are quite baggy--so I decided to go do some shopping, hoping to hit some clearance sales. Clothes were on my mind.

Since my shopping buddy got married and moved away last weekend, I was shopping alone, so I had lots of time to think. My first thought on the message of clothes came when I was wandering through Banana Republic, ungreeted and completely unbothered by the people working in the store--none of whom were familiar faces--while they assiduously greeted everyone else who came in and told them about the sale. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and completely understood why I was ignored. I looked schlumpy. My two-year-old, too-big shirt and too-big cropped pants made me look more like I belonged on the "People of Walmart" site than at BR.  I wandered around the store for about five minutes, unaccosted,  and then left without seeing anything that even tempted me to try it on.

Next stop was the Land's End store at Sears. Again, ungreeted. Same was true at every store that I went into except J.C. Penney, where every employee you pass must greet you on pain of death. At Aldo I thought I was truly invisible. I even held a shoe for about a minute while the two people working conversed with each other a couple of feet away, until I left, at which point one said, "Thanks for coming in!" Whaat?!

So all of this was fresh in my mind when I saw, first, the woman in the skintight translucent white jeggings, low-cut shirt & platform shoes dragging the toddler through the mall. (Her outfit didn't say "MOM.") Then I saw the two women in scrubs complaining about the styles at Macys being boring and having no-style. (Unlike their scrubs? Sorry, when you wear scrubs in public I think you're either lazy or germy.) Then, as I was driving to my next stop I saw the kids leaving one of our local high schools on the first day of school, and remembered how carefully my friends and I chose our clothes for the first day. You knew that you were making that first impression for the school year. I was somewhat depressed by the array of long, baggy athletic shorts with sports sandals and flip-flops on guys, tight low-cut tops and the infernal jeggings on girls, and a general air of unkempt, I-don't-give-a-rip emanating from the students. Most of what they were wearing wouldn't have been allowed by the dress code at my public school--which didn't allow the much-in-vogue preppy, knee-length, corduroy walking shorts with matching tights when I was in high school--but, aside from that, it was lounge and recreation wear, not clothing for any activity of importance.

My last stop was my favorite clothing store. I haven't been there often in the last eight months because my life has been crazy. But I knew that I  would find something there to complete my thus-far-frustrated retail therapy. I used to know everyone who worked there, but last fall the entire staff turned over and there were no familiar faces today. So, schlumpy me walked in in one of my few non-Chico's outfits. I was soundly ignored. Completely. It wasn't until I walked up to one of the women with my arms full of clothes to try on that anyone paid the slightest bit of attention to me. And she turned me over to the other person who was working. Oh, honey, your numbers for the day wish that you hadn't done that.

It really was interesting. Usually I dress for shopping. Today I didn't. I wore my comfy, too-big clothes and my Birkenstocks. (Which any observant salesperson would have noticed were new. And adorable. Seriously.) I know clothes send a message. But I really wonder, when I'm out and about, how many people understand or even think about what their clothes are saying. My clothes today said that I either didn't care to, didn't know how to, or couldn't afford to dress in a flattering manner. I recognized that. I kind of knew it when I left home, but it was also part of the reason I needed to shop.

So what's the conclusion? I don't know. I just had to write it all down.


Jane said...

BTW, I know that for some people money, time, etc., make worrying about how they look a completely frivolous pursuit. This isn't a criticism, it's more just a musing. Except on women who wear white jeggings. =:o

Susan said...

I can't afford to, and even if I could, I wouldn't know how to. I think that has instilled in me an attitude of "I don't care to." And I don't like that about myself.

At least I'm dressing appropriately professionally for work (so they tell me on my reviews). My hair isn't spiffy, and the make-up is non-existent (or 25 seconds worth of application). I'm trying to figure out whether I should tweak my priorities (cooking, reading time with Maggie for school, etc) to make more time for being presentable. So far, I'm not compelled to do it, but I think I ought to.

Jane said...

Hmmmmm, If you WANT to, I'm feeling a fun shopping trip/makeover coming on when I come up to Wisconsin. :) And you always look age & vocationally-appropriate and clean, which I think are the most important. (That's why the skany-looking woman with the toddler got to me so much!)

I don't wear makeup anymore, and I miss it, because--again--I know it sends an "I don't care message," not an "I have such horrible rosacea and allergies that I will pay for it for weeks if I try to wear so much as blush." And I do care. Probably more than I should.

Susan said...

But Jane, I'm freaky tall. Finding things I can wear is not as simple as going into a clothes store and seeing what they have. That's why I tend to take whatever hand-me-downs I get that fit that will
be appropriate,
go with other things I have,
not be a style or color I hate,
not go out of style too soon,

Elephantschild said...

See, I notice details, because I'm a freak. So, someone might, on the surface, look like they didn't care, but I would have noticed those brand new Birkenstocks and would have noticed they weren't a standard color. I would have spotted your Vera Bradley handbag, added that to your new Birkies and pegged you as upper middle income. And not ignored you. But I'm a detail freak, as I said.

Carol D. said...

Hi Jane, I too have experienced being ignored by salespeople and if I am dressed in a decent way I still assume they have judged me too big, too old, too un-hip.

But, what I really wanted to tell you is that I too have horrible makeup allergies that manifest as extreme itching on my eyelids and have had to go make-up free for long periods. I have had patch testing at the dermatologists office that didn't reveal all of it and done lots of internet research. Currently, I am using Jane Iredale makeup with good results. You might give it a try sometime.

Beautiful wedding!