Posts Tagged With: shopping

Some Like It Nude: What I Learned Hawking Bras At Victoria’s Secret

In honor of summer jobs, I’m happy to repost one of my favorite pieces about what you can learn about life and thongs while working at Victoria’s Secret.

Like many people (particularly those who major in the liberal or fine arts), I have had a bevy of jobs. Not careers, mind you, but jobs where I punched clocks for cash. Along the way I have learned some odd yet important skills that find themselves useful in my everyday life.

It was the summer of 1998 and I was an 18-year old working three jobs to fund a trip to Ireland with my new college bestie. I literally drove from teaching elementary kids theatre to sell khakis and practical polos at Eddie Bauer, ending my days with a quick change in the bathroom into a skirt and black blazer to fulfill lingerie needs at Victoria’s Secret. Aside from taking away a loathing of khakis, I learned little at Eddie Bauer, except how to exploit their return policy. Victoria’s Secret was a different animal (I would later work there after college too, calling into question why I interrupted my blossoming career with all that learning). Here are six things I learned. Sadly, none of them are the actual secret.

  1. Most women wear the wrong bra size. Victoria’s Secret taught me not just how a bra should fit, but how to measure to ensure a proper fit. I don’t know that they even do this at VS anymore. They seem more focused on selling sweats, make up, and sometimes borderline raunchy lingerie (crotchless!). If they don’t, find a locally owned lingerie store (every town has one). There will be an older woman there who will measure you. Suck up your embarrassment and let her do her job. Don’t get hung up on the size because no one will know but you. Your clothes will hang better and your back will feel better.
  2. There is no reason to own a white bra or underwear. “But wait,” you say. “What about my white shirts?” Go to your closet and get out a white shirt. Now get another piece of white cloth and layer it under the shirt. Rather than blending, you just get a more intense white, which clearly shows the outline. Same for white under light colors. Unless you just have to have Carnival colors, buy nude (as near to your skin tone as you can find) and black.
  3. Men spend more money when they are uncomfortable or embarrassed. My favorite VS customer was the Shy Guy. This poor guy, after years of his wife claiming he never bought her anything pretty, decided to suck it up and venture into the terrifying world of lace and satin. By the end of my second week I could spot these guys from the back of the store. They would enter and then stop about two feet inside the door, glancing around, sheer horror painted on their features. That was my cue to swoop in: “What can I help you find today?” (Please note the open ended question–I was good at shilling bras.) They would stammer something about an anniversary or birthday. I would smile and ask them questions they didn’t know the answer to: size, shape, fabric. No idea. Shy Guy didn’t know anything except that his wife liked Victoria’s Secret. Some VS associates hated these kind of guys; I adored them. The more clueless the better. I’d navigate them through the store like Sacagawea, keeping them from feeling lecherous. We’d talk about what music she liked, what kind of clothes she wore, and end with the obligatory comparison of women in the store to establish size. Then things got good. Because these guys never realized they could buy just one thing–they figured they had to buy whatever was shown together. You would not believe how easy it is to talk a man into a matching robe or garter belt and stockings. The clincher was my assurance that anything that didn’t fit or she didn’t like could be brought back with the gift receipt. Sold!
  4. People are animals. In the summer, VS runs a Semi-Annual Sale which is code for Grown Women Pawing Through Bins Like Pigs Rooting for Truffles.  Neatly sorted bins would be turned upside down, things strewn all over, unwanted items discarded in the middle of the floor. We’d try to keep it picked up, but it was a losing battle. And forget about keeping the regular price panty tables neat. At the time, VS was using a technique called size and bunch on their tables. While this technique is striking when first done, it goes to hell with one browsing customer (I don’t think they do it anymore because it was so hard to maintain). Now, no matter what store I’m in, I try to return things exactly as I found them. Yes, it’s the sales associates job to fold the jeans and size the racks. But doing it twelve times an hour–they don’t get paid enough for that.
  5. People are animals, part two. Customers have sex in VS dressing rooms. Seriously. Then they leave whatever lingerie they were “trying on” tossed on the floor, usually slightly warm. Seriously. (Hopefully that’s the only parting gift; I had to use a sponge one time.) That’s why most of them have attendants now. Or should. Don’t have sex in dressing rooms. It’s not cool or thrilling. It’s just nasty. And some poor college student who only wants to have Guinness in Dublin with her friend will have to clean up after you.
  6. Most men love their women, no matter their size. I helped a number of husbands and boyfriends (not just Shy Guy) during my tenure at VS. Sometimes the woman was present, sometimes not. I sold everything from size 32A to 38DD, XS to XXL. One thing all of these men had in common was love of their partner’s bodies. There was never a mention of wishing for more or less of anything. My favorite customer ever was a man who wanted to buy something for his wife who had undergone a double mastectomy.  His reasoning? “I know her body is beautiful. Most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But I think I might need something to help me remind her.” I hope it worked.

What about you, Cakesters? What have you learned from your odd jobs?



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Four Reasons Not to Shop With Me

If I invite you shopping, tell me No. Seriously, consider yourself warned. If you invite me, that’s a horse of a different color. I’m the best when we’re shopping for you. My advice is sound and my taste fab. Plus, I’ll help talk you out of impulse buys that aren’t going to enhance your life and in to impulse buys that are absolutely meant to be. When you invite me, I’m a rock star.

But if I invite you, which means we’re shopping for me, it’s going to be a long day. My buddy Charlotte wrote a great post on the Baraza bemoaning the shopping experience as a woman. She was speaking my language, man. Unlike Charlotte, my issues with shopping aren’t just about fit. I have an entirely different set of quirks that transforms trying to find anything into one of the trials of Hercules.

  1. I know my body and my style. This first one may sound like a good thing, but it is not if you are a person easily frustrated. I don’t care what the trends are, I’m dressing for me. I know precisely what cuts, fabrics, and colors look good on me. Actually finding those in one garment is almost impossible. When I do find them (and my shopping buddy thinks the end is in sight) I still have to consider that . . .
  2. I live in my clothes. Once I’ve found something that is the right cut, style, color, and fabric, I have to look at other things. Such as, is it washable? Will paint/spaghetti/snot/coffee and whatever else I or my kids spill come out in my washing machine? Is it tumble dry? If I bend over to pick up something in my classroom, will everything stay covered? Do I have a cardigan that can be worn with it? Can I just wear normal bra and underwear with it? If I meet a new dog and have to sit on the floor to pet it, will it withstand fur and sitting cross-legged? If the answer to any of these is no, then it’s not going home with me.
  3. I try but don’t buy. Chances are, to make you feel better since you’ve been dragged along on this shopping nightmare, I’ll try something on. But it’s only an effort to give you false hope because in the dressing room I will start to see all the flaws (in both myself and the clothes). And I won’t show you what I try on because you’ll feel obligated to tell me, “I love it!” out of desperation as your blood sugar drops and you realize we might never find anything I’ll wear. Then, sometimes I will show you and you’ll love it and I’ll love it. We’ll head to the check out but never arrive. Somewhere between the dressing room and register, I’ll talk myself out of it, convince you and me that it isn’t that good a deal or the color isn’t as great as we thought, or it isn’t worth replacing something in my closet with it (one of my shopping rules–when I buy something new, I have to be willing to replace something already in my closet with it). It’ll go back on the rack and you’ll start texting random acquaintances, begging them to call you with a fake emergency to get you out of the shopping shame spiral.
  4. I have very specific tastes. My initial shopping goal may seem easily attainable: I want a new pair of black ballet flats. Easy. Most stores have some kind of black flat. Piece of cake, right? Wrong! I won’t wear pointed, or too matte, or too shiny, or wedge, or too round, or anything with big bows or knots, but I might wear little bows, and how will it look with jeans and skirts, and gross it has that elastic back, and those look like loafers (I don’t care if they’re in style), and on and on and on. It’s exhausting. I hate that I’m so picky. And ten stores later, you will too.

If you need a shopping buddy, I’m your girl. It’ll be like something out of Clueless. If I need a shopping buddy, I should take my kids who make me so desperate to get out of store before then level the place, I’ll grab the first thing I see and throw it at the cashier.



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