Daily Archives: November 18, 2008

When to help

I wrote a few weeks ago about my experiences while out shopping, I described a fellow shopper who was trying on a beautiful coat. She did as we all do on such occasions, button up the coat and stand in front of a mirror, twisting this way and that to try and see the back before walking up and down the floor to get the ‘feel’ of the garment. In a high class store there are normally several mirrors strategically placed to allow us a proper back view of any garment. Alas the shop where I was that day had only the one mirror and it was on the shop floor and not in the fitting room. The assistant was pushing hard to sell the coat by telling the woman how much it suited her; perhaps it was the first hope of a badly needed sale that day, required to fill a target.

The coat would have looked well on me but I had no interest in, or intention of, buying it. I was at least eight inches taller, a slimmer build and thanks to my mother’s bony pointed finger poked in my back on a regular basis to remind me to stand up straight, could carry off the style. The little lady now sporting it was a victim of middle age spread; she was not fat but very well insulated from the cold and any thought of a waistline just a memory. The coat almost touched her ankles and fit where it hit! Alas around her waist area it sat at the back like a concertina and she was unable to see this. A size larger might have helped but it was the only one available in that style. The friend she had with her was not much help either; she seemed totally bored with the whole thing! Her only suggestion was “You could move the buttons”. Moving buttons is not as simple as it sounds; it can change the whole line of a garment and if not done professionally it can ruin an outfit!

I wanted to scream! This type of selling is a major FAIL both for the customer and the establishment! When the customer got home she would realise the coat was ill fitting and it would be relegated to keeping the wardrobe warm! She would blame the sales lady for the bad advice and never darken the door of the shop again. I hovered for a few minutes and realised that the woman wanted it to fit; indeed she willed it to fit, I knew that my intrusion would not be welcome so I bit my tongue and went on my way.

I have in the past spoken up and it was appreciated. Once I watched a woman, again much shorter than I am, try on a picture hat. From the gaggle of girls around her I realised she was a ‘Mother of the Bride’! One of the girls had a dress & coat ensemble draped over her arm. The hat was identical in colour and it had a very large brim and MOB was wearing it plonked on top of her head like an upturned flower pot! Perched like that the hat was all wrong, it made her look like a mushroom! It would hide her face and ruin the photographs. Not being able to resist I spoke up. I verified that she was ‘Mother of the Bride, and reminded her that she would be the second most important woman on the day of the wedding. As the hostess for the day the guests would want to hug and kiss her as she greeted them. Frequent collisions with the headgear would cause it to take flight and half the day would be spent trying to retrieve it.

I suggested wearing it at an angle to leave one side of the face free and visible for the photographs. Willingly she tried that but it was still not right. Hats nowadays are made in standard sizes and this was far too big for the woman’s small head. I suggested a different style with a half brim, something she had not thought of. Worn at an angle it looked well, showed off her soft face and good hair and the girls were all delighted. I also told her to take the hat to her hairdresser well in advance of the wedding so that they could discuss how best to cut and style the hair for the big day. It is not always a case of cutting the hair; there are times when it needs time to grow to the best shape.

I have one friend that I dislike shopping with. Once she enters a shop she must purchase something, usually clothing. It does not seem to matter to her whether the item suits or even fits her. Walking out of the shop with a carrier bag seems to give her a buzz. Several years ago she asked me to help her pick an outfit for a formal winter wedding. I agreed only if I was allowed to speak my mind and not just tell her something was nice, when it clearly didn’t suit her. I should have gone with my gut instinct…

My friend was at least 10 years further along the road of life than I was, about my height and heavy set. She did have some nice outfits in her wardrobe along with some very BIG mistakes. Perhaps she had come across the sales lady above!

We set out early one morning she knew where she wanted to go; I was driving so distance for her was no object, short journeys always happened when she used her car. We duly arrived in her chosen town and the search began. We looked, she tried and I gave my opinion. “It looks fine at the back, but it pulls under here” or “I like the line of the top but the skirt is way too long” and “That colour drains and ages your face, what about that turquoise?” – are some of the suggestions I made. At lunchtime we were not much further on, so we headed for refreshment.

An hour later refuelled and ready for the fray we began once more. We did see several outfits suitable and flattering for my friends shape and colouring, but alas she would not put them on. By mid afternoon I had stopped giving advice since my friend didn’t really want to hear it. Two outfits were purchased before we were finished, a navy velour pants set, suitable for lounging about the house and a flirty little cocktail dress more suitable for a summer’s evening. Neither of these outfits was suitable for the forth-coming wedding and I have never seen them since.

She suggested heading out another day but thankfully I was not available. An outfit was purchased and she showed it to me about a week later. It was a heavy machine knitted two-piece in a rather washed out colour blue, with a v-necked tunic top and long straight skirt, very suitable for daywear. The only decoration was a six inch band of a Fair Isle pattern around the tunic top at waist level. A couple of weeks later she bought a picture hat to wear with the suit in Sinamay, that fine straw that you cannot get wet…. for a winter wedding in Ireland!!!!

So what would you do?