One of my favorite authors is humorist Jen Lancaster. She is hilarious. In addition to reading all of her books, I follow her on social media sites. Yesterday, she had a funny post about receiving unsolicited advice from the sales person when buying a tee-shirt.
Part of what makes Lancaster so funny and utterly relatable (seriously, I want Lancaster in my circle of friends) is that she is outspoken and makes no apologies for who she is, including being a conservative republican and overweight. Her weight creeps into her stories quite frequently and is part of her persona. The clerk that sold her the shirt was giving her advice on how to stretch it out to make it fit and of course Lancaster took it to her writing with a snarky comment.
I felt Lancaster's pain, as of course it was entirely inappropriate for the clerk to make a suggestion, especially while selling her the shirt. However, it was some of the comments that Lancaster's fans made in response that irked me.
Many women posted that they feel offended and put off when a thin salesgirl helps them. Many mentioned only wanting plus-sized clerks working at plus-sized stores. They went on to mock skinny women and the thread continued as if it was okay to attack a body image different than yours. It seemed like each negative remark bolstered the mob mentality.
Now, I realize that overweight people have had to endure a lot of teasing and cruelty. I am sure many feel stares and giggles from other shoppers or even from sales clerks. I am not minimizing that, however, I find it just as repulsive for the reverse to happen. It's simply not okay to mock anyone for their weight or to pass judgement.
I've never been skinny or fat, I fall smack in the middle. I'd like to lose a few pounds, but it's not a big deal. I've never worried much about weight and have always been able to shop wherever I like and I'm comfortable in my skin. Maybe this makes me incapable of understanding the problem. However, I have often sought the advice of people who did not look like me with fantastic results.
Example, a few years ago, I needed a last minute dress to wear to a party on the Warner Brothers Lot. I went to an Express in Orange County. Two of the salesgirls tried to help me, bringing in a parade of dresses, all of which just were not quite right. Then, a male sales clerk started to help me and every single dress he picked out was perfect. I bought three. It didn't matter that he was a guy, same as body shape does matter, because a sales clerk that really knows and loves their job will be able to pick the outfit that bests suits you.
It's the same thing with my favorite Bobbi Brown make-up artist. She looks nothing like me. She is African-American with enormous, beautiful eyes. She knows the perfect colors to go with my pale skin and how to make my tiny, beady eyes stand out. It has nothing to do with her looking like me, she is just great at her job and I go back to her for her expertise. Same as I go back to the guy from Express, even though that location is out of my way.
I recently spent slightly under five months selling clothes at Nordstrom. One of the department store mottos is that they seek salespeople with "A Passion for Fashion". Admittedly, I applied thinking that I could learn to be passionate about fashion. Nope. Not only that, although I am great with customer service, I couldn't throw together a great outfit if a gun was being held to my head. I don't have the ability to read customers and direct them to a proper outfit for their body type, personality and occasion. I can't do it, but I worked with many people who do have that ability. They're great at their jobs and love to help people out.
This ability transcends their own personal body types. It transcends the department that they worked in. There are women working in the Men's Department who know how to pick out a great suit and thin women working in plus sizes, who know that a properly fitting outfit can be a big confidence booster.
If you harbor a body image prejudice, I challenge you to go shopping with an open mind. The person best suited to help you, might not look a thing like you. If you happen to find a talented sales clerk, hang on to them, you may spend a lot on clothes, but you'll save a lot on having to hire a personal stylist!