Sunday, August 9, 2015

Wardrobe Analysis

I got a new position at my retail job. I’m now the mannequin wrangler and graphic sign hanger! Ok, the official title is “Visual Merchandiser,” but that just forces people to ask what I do, so my wording saves time. I value efficiency.

This job means many things to me. Full-time hours with benefits are huge for my psyche. The pay raise is good for my wallet. There is even the bonus workout of schlepping ladders and rolling staircases through the store, then climbing them. I’m hoping to have the legs of an Olympian for ski season.

This position required a couple changes. The schedule sometimes has me arriving for work at 6 am, something I never imagined in my most hellacious corporate nightmares. Come holiday prep time, there are overnight shifts to decorate the store. There have also been wardrobe tweaks needed.

In office jobs in previous career chapters, my wardrobe was suits, dresses, or dress pants, paired with heels. There was a year-round sweater or jacket, because luck always dictated my assigned desk be directly below the Arctic air vent. Colleagues sweltered a few feet away while I silently chanted, “Shivering burns more calories.” Yes, I looked it up.

Mobility needs of cubicle life were limited to reaching for a pencil or the phone, and the most strenuous physical event on the average day was walking back and forth to the rest room, coffee machine, conference room, or copier. High heels are fine when one is parked in a chair most of the day.

My return to retail resulted in a wardrobe shift. The reality of standing for four or more hours and a once broken, still slightly numb leg that sometimes swells in the process ruled out most of my sit-in-a-chair-all-day footwear.

There were additional considerations. Customer service desk wardrobe evaluations included tests to check if shirt seams might shred a la The Incredible Hulk when reaching over the counter, or if a neckline provided the person on the other side of the counter with a full view down my top.

Sales floor wardrobe analysis focused on needing to bend, stoop, and squat to fetch items from the floor and restock low shelves. I learned the hard way which pants bore the potential of exposing butt cleavage and/or ripping open at the back seam. Long skirts got stepped on when walking; short skirts had other flashier issues.

Obviously, I don’t find dressing for work to be particularly easy. Maybe I over think it (along with almost everything else).

As mannequin wrangler and ladder climber, my wardrobe has morphed again. Almost immediately, clothing was analyzed through a different lens.

High heels are clearly out, as are soles that could skid when I’m precariously perched on one of the many ladders, or atop the three elevated displays holding full sized mannequins, or on the shoe cabinets.

Pockets are critical to my sanity. There are small parts involved in hanging graphics and it’s a really long walk from parts of the store and through the stock room, up 21 steps (yes, I counted), then to the furthest corner to fetch some critical one-quarter inch component.

Delusions of the fashion industry mean all ten pairs of my nice pants lack pockets. Some feature the bulk of welt pocket trim without the utility of an actual pocket. Sans pockets, I’ve dropped a handful of sky hooks from the metal ladder I don’t fully trust and perforated my sweaty palm with push pins while climbing the rolling staircase to tack up posters measuring 162 inches. Ahem, I mean “graphics.” And yes, “push pins.”

Ladder time is where I learned that if my pants (pockets stuffed with push pins, sky hooks, and ceiling clips) are a little loose, I can jam the handle of the push pin banging rubber mallet into the waistband, freeing my hands to schlepp a 10, 12, or 14 foot long graphic up the ladder in one trip. Yes, this comedy routine is usually a solo performance. 

The beauty of carpenter pants with hammer loops and plentiful pockets is now brilliantly, belatedly obvious. I wore them in high school because, at the time, they were fashionable, but their true functionality went completely untapped. Too bad denim violates the company dress code, or carpenter's pants would be my “go-to” pant.

A change from my new baseline of dust-colored, androgynous khakis paired with a usually boring shirt and neck-saving, sensible flats would be nice. Maybe a fashionable non-denim carpenter’s pant or a farmer’s overall in a dress-code compliant fabric. Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, Jennifer Lopez, can you help me?

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