A New Job in Retail Therapy

It has not been easy finding suitable employment or even work that I was doing before.  In fact, it has been downright difficult, disappointing and disheartening.  One of the employment agencies I use put me forward for a temp position as a PA in a construction company.  The agent felt very positive about putting me forward as I am very qualified for that type of position as I have worked in the construction and design industry and my last position was as a PA in an Architect’s practice.  I was told a few days later that I was overqualified.  My agent and I were dumbfounded.  I was perfect for the job.  Is it possible that someone could be too perfect?  It was a temp job for goodness sake.  You go in, do the work, and then leave.    It didn’t make any sense to either of us as my agent told me that out of the three people she put forward, I was the most suitable for the position.   My mind was boggled. I always wonder what goes on in people’s heads when they make these decisions.

After virtually giving up on looking for a full time job and deciding to focus on selling my house, I have landed a part-time job as a sales assistant at a local ladies clothing store.  The up side to this is that I have some work that pays more than jobseeker’s allowance, it is less than two blocks from my home (therefore, no commuting fees), I get a clothing allowance and a 40% discount, and the people that I work with are lovely women.  It may not be what I was looking for, but I am incredibly grateful to have this job.

In any event, I am learning new things.  I have learned that there are many women who are not happy with how they look no matter how much you tell them that they look great.  There are women who stick with the same colour or style of clothes because they feel safe in them.  It makes them feel invisible.  I met a woman who looked fantastic in a pinky/red dress that she was trying on.  ‘This colour isn’t too young for me is it?’  ‘No, it is really flattering on you, much better than the navy.’  ‘I don’t want my daughter to say that I am trying too hard.’  ‘You look fantastic.  Besides, what do teenagers know?’  ‘You are right about that.’  This woman was petite and very slim and she still lacked confidence in her appearance.  She had a great figure.  She didn’t realise until I pointed it out to her that it was ok to make the best of her assets as long as she didn’t do it all at once.

It seems that it doesn’t matter what size or shape we are, no-one seems to be happy with what they have.  The thin one wants bigger boobs and straight hair.  Another thin, but mature woman is not happy that her bust has gotten bigger now that she is getting older She told me she hated how she looked.  (She looked great to me.)  The one that just had a baby is not happy with her extra curves even though they will eventually disappear and she has a beautiful face.  Instead of showing off her cleavage, she wants to cover up everything in the largest size possible.

I have tried on nearly every garment in the store at some time or another.  Most of the dresses and skirts do not suit me, too long or not the right cut – same with the trousers.  I don’t have a perfect body and I am learning how to dress for my shape.  I keep trying on things until I find something.   My colleagues are honest with me.  I eventually managed to find a few items to buy with my clothing allowance.  There is something for everyone and the clothes are for normal women.

There are some lovely colours available this season.  Americans are very big on colour and are usually accessorized to the hilt.  We could be wearing jeans and a shirt, but then will add a scarf or funky necklace, interesting shoes or boots, add a handbag, jacket etc. We will look like we spent hours on ourselves just to go to the supermarket.  I don’t think English ladies are used to wearing colour, or wearing the right colours for their skin tone.

There are many TV programmes about how to dress for our shape and looking good with the correct make-up and hairstyles.  Trinny and Susannah have done a lot for women in this respect.  They started the trend.  It is amazing what the right cut and colour can do for a person and their self esteem.  It doesn’t matter what size you are.  All that matters is that the clothes flatter and fit you well.  Look at Susan Boyle now!  She just needed a bit of advice.

My heart sinks a little when the women come into the shop and they try on something new and flattering, and then go back to the comfort colours and styles that don’t really suit them.  It is almost as if they don’t want to look good.  I don’t understand it.  We don’t have to look frumpy as we get older.  We don’t have to look like mutton dressed as lamb either.  We can look trendy and elegant.  Why don’t these women want to stand out and look good rather than trying to blend in with the bland?  I’m not saying that all women do that, but too many do.

I am wondering if something happens to our brains once we have children or get to a certain age.  Whatever happened to the sexy woman that she was before the kids came around?  How do you think she got the kids in the first place?  Maybe it has to do with many women having children in their 30’s and 40’s and how they now view themselves.  Don’t they know that 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40?  Do they not keep up to trend with the fashion magazines or are they too busy with the house decorating magazines or are too busy reading baby articles on how to keep up their energy after childbirth in your 40’s?

I am not saying that we should be obsessed with the way we look.  I just don’t see anything wrong with making an effort with our appearance.  After all, we are a part of other peoples’ scenery.  We should make the best of ourselves and what we have.  We should also like who we are and what we look like in the moment.  No one is perfect.  Looking good can be a start to really feeling good.  If you don’t like your tummy, there are many ways to disguise it and put attention on another part of your anatomy – same with your bum and other parts that you don’t like.  If the woman is already in the store looking for new clothes, then it would make sense for her to purchase garments that actually make her look good and suit her.  Not all sales assistants are only concerned with selling.  Some of us actually care about the clients and want to make them happier leaving the store than when they came in.

In the last two weeks that I have been working, I have heard so many negative comments from the women about how they look.  I am shocked every time.  I feel that I must say something encouraging in order to help these ladies feel good about themselves.

I took the first part of a counselling skills course a couple of years ago as I thought I might like to get into counselling and because quite a few people have told me that they thought I would be good at it.  I did really well on the course, but I realised that I really didn’t want to sit and listen to other people’s problems.  However, I did learn a lot about communication and empathy and I really do like helping people.

Perhaps I should have completed the second part of the course and gotten the certificate.  I hadn’t been thinking outside of the box.  Retail therapy now has a whole new meaning in my eyes.

3 thoughts on “A New Job in Retail Therapy

  1. Hi, Arlene,
    So glad to hear you landed a job; I know that has been troublesome to say the least.

    You are right on about everything in this post: women are way too hard on themselves in terms of their appearance.

    The women who shop in your store are lucky to have you there. 🙂


    1. Arlene

      Thanks Skye,

      It is certainly an eye opener for sure!

      If the ladies leave feeling better than before they came in, my job has been done. x

  2. sophie

    Hi Arlene
    Those customers are lucky to have someone to guide them in their choice. And not someone who’s just keen to make a sale and a commission. Ah the comfort zone… our best friend and worse ennemy bundled up together, for better and for worse.

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