Subourbon Mom


Dress for Success

Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “Dress for the job you want.” Well, I am a firm believer in dressing for the help you want when shopping. If you dress like a tired mom in stained sweat pants and unwashed hair, see how many sales people come up and offer to assist you. You’ll be leper in the middle of J.Crew, all alone somewhere in the sale section. However, if you dress in a way that says you’re ready to buy, and that you have the money to do it, things are vastly different.

A few of weeks ago, I dressed for a day of shopping at the mall, in my good skinny jeans and a sweater that covers up those saddlebags that no amount of leg lifts will eliminate. I even had makeup on because, let’s face it— women dress for each other when they shop, not for the men. Sorry guys, but it’s true. At the clubs it’s a different story—we’re all about you (just keep nodding and smiling, ladies—they don’t know!).

The first stop that day was Lowes, a store I feel lost in the minute I step through the doors. The signs are hung too high, and nothing is organized the way I would do it. Who puts storage stuff behind the gardening stuff? It should go somewhere in the house section.

But I digress…so I walked in, feeling like a delicate daffodil among the burly men prowling the aisles. There were a couple of other women there, too, and I’m sure they were doing something admirable, like fixing the drywall in their kids’ playroom. But I was heading to the mall afterward, and had dressed for the Nordstroms dress section, not the Lowes drill press section.

Eventually, I found the enormous storage box I was looking for. A male employee about my age (we’ll just smile and call it 30) said he would carry the box to the checkout counter for me. Flexing his muscles, he marched the box past two lines of at least 6 irritated people, and opened a new register just for me. I could feel resentment drilling into my back from the other customers. I never did get his name to give to the manager, but maybe that was a good thing. I think he might have gotten in trouble.

A week later, I had to go to Lowes again to make a return. Again, I was looking decent—ok, maybe it’s a subconscious thing—I dress well when I know I’m going into the giant man cave. I made my return, and immediately tried to exit through the ENTER door.

I walked into it.

That’s right, I walked into the door at Lowes.

I stood there for a moment until my menopause brain eventually noticed the backwards ENTER letters. To my shame, as I turned to go out the actual EXIT, a male employee came over and said, “Here, ma’am, let me help you.” He pushed open the ENTER door for me, like I was Cleopatra, and I waltzed through as if nothing had happened. Maybe it was pity for my blatantly blonde moment, but I’m telling you, dressing for the service you want really works.

Now, if I had watched someone like me walk into the ENTER door, I would have rolled on the floor laughing.

The only store I have found where this strategy doesn’t work is Wal-Mart. No matter what you look like, what language you speak or what expression you have on your face, the employees always treat you the same—like cattle going through the chute. But in a way, that’s ok. There’s no pressure. I can go in there at 7:30 a.m., wearing my ridiculous sequined Christmas tree shirt that I break out once a year for the program at school, or I can be in a cocktail dress getting a last minute hostess gift (i.e. cheap bottle of wine), and I get the same treatment.

I’m anonymous, and I love it. Wal-Mart may be a lot of things, but it is definitely the great equalizer.

Every woman wants their Pretty Woman moment—they want to walk into a store that previously shunned them, and get fawned over when the sales people realize she’s now the real deal. If you want that moment, I suggest starting off small, like in a Lowes or Home Depot. Dress in your “I’ve-lost-all-hope-stay-at-home-mom clothes one day,” and then in your Spanx, good shirt and jeans, and supportive bra, and see what happens.

And don’t forget to say as you leave, “Big mistake. Huge. I have to go shopping now.”




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