Tag Archives: padded bras

The Idiocy of Retail

On one of the writers’ lists, we ended up discussing shopping experiences this week. It began with someone going into Chapters and being asked no less than twelve times in as many minutes if he was finding what he wanted. Most people decided they’d rather have no service than service that killed any joy in shopping, or more in a bookstore, browsing.

I had the reverse experience in Future Shop where the CDs were so mixed up I could find nothing. The store wasn’t that busy but when I looked for a clerk, he was watching TV. I didn’t buy anything there.

Service has always had its ups and downs. You either have overly helpful clerks who don’t know when to give you space (like the overattentive waiter) to those that are too busy chatting to each other or fixing makeup or watching TV to actually do their jobs. And then there are the ones too clueless to hold the job: they don’t know their stock or as was the case in Calgary at a restaurant, the waitress didn’t know what alcohol was besides beer.

There are the clerks who are truly helpful. They’re visible but they don’t crowd you. They stay alert and notice when you start to look around for help or have that bewildered deer in the headlights look. It seems rarer these days. I’m more likely to go back to a store that has good service and have walked out of stores with no service or bad service.

Like at The Bay. I was looking for skirts and carrying a couple on hangers as I walked around. It seems one was touching the floor and this clerk with no manners came up and said, “You’re dragging the skirts. You’ll ruin them,” and wrenched them out of my hand. Where was the mud? She could have said, “Can I put those in a room for you,” but she didn’t. I turned around and walked out. When I tried to find The Bay’s address/email online so I could write a letter of complaint, could I find anything pertinent or even a customer service line? Nothing. This way The Bay is assured of only having good reports. I didn’t shop there for many months because of the rude behavior. After all, there are plenty of stores.

I might just be a crank but I do expect to be treated with the same attentiveness I would give someone if I had those jobs. And I have, in the past. I’ve been a waitress. I’ve been a store monkey.

Another aspect of idiot retailing is the lengths stores will go to help perpetuate a myth. The myth of the ideal body. Women are supposed to be caricatures of the ideal female. We’re supposed to have large puffy lips, large but not pendulous breasts, narrow waists and boylike hips. Botox will give you the lips and implants will give you the breasts. But should you want the cheaper way of getting the larger bustline, the stores have helped. I’ve not changed in inches but I now wear a C cup because it is far more desirable than a B cup. Bras are also padded in a variety of ways to increase the illusion of bustiness.

Le Chateau has taken sizing to ridiculous heights where no one wants to be seen as wearing large. You’ll be lucky if you find a large in the store but you’ll find medium, small, extra small, extra extra small and extra extra extra small. WTF? I’ve bought an extra small and still found it too big. Petite is better in their books where a small would probably equate to a size 10. Even stores that have numbered sizing have changed it. A size 8 is now larger than it once was. I find that depending where I shop, I can wear anything from a small (or extra extra small) to a large, or a size 3 to a size 12. Perhaps everything should just be a free size these days because the numbers don’t matter.

Starbucks takes this in the other direction. No one wants to pay five bucks for a small coffee so the small is a tall, the medium is a grande and when they ran out of words in common English usage for large, they went to venti. What’s that, Italian? So there is a small English, a medium French and a large Italian. When it comes to food we want grande, super size, mega large, but when it comes to fitting ourselves into clothes we want petite and super extra mini small. Unless you’re a man. Maybe shoulder widths on jackets have expanded as well for those manly, super hero broad shoulders.

But as one person pointed out on the list, there is a plethora of interesting names for condoms including iron grip and super strength. The sizing is hidden but there is never a small.

May all your shopping experiences have medium attention from the clerks and the prices be super extra extra cheap and the bargains be mega uber mondo grande.

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Fashion Camouflage

Throughout humanity’s history, we’ve used clothes for camouflage. I’m not talking about camo gear and leaf markings on your face to hide in the shadows while carrying out some special ops espionage. Although that is the most blatant aspect of camouflage it’s not the most prevalent.

Besides the basics of keeping ourselves warm, we started to wear clothing for a host of other reasons. Ritualistically, masks, accessories and robes were donned to imitate a spirit or element or to make oneself pure or sacred in the eyes of the gods. Along the way standards of modesty and morality came in to play. Genitalia are a vulnerable area on most creatures, and for humans many other connotations are attached, such as virility, power, immortality, continuance of family. Religious aspects and beliefs, as well as just hiding something mysterious and scary (a woman’s womb has often been related to the underworld) combined to cover the genital areas first.

In African countries, other warm climes, and throughout periods of history, women’s breasts were not always considered erogenous, and therefore did not need covering. A period of Elizabethan dress had the decolletage so low that the nipples were visible. But that is more revealing than camouflaging.

Yet, we’ve used camouflage to enhance our bodies for a long time. Elizabethan men wore pads of horsehair to give the right line to their calves under their hose, as well as padding to form the preferred peascod bellies. And then there were those codpieces to make the genitals look way larger than they were. Women wore corsets to slim their waists, or bustles on the backs of dresses to enhance the womanly shape. Shoes of varying heights have been worn to convey status or make a person taller.

We do the same today. Slimline jeans with no pockets to show off the curves and line of a woman’s leg and hip. Padded and uplift bras to make the breasts look larger, men’s underwear (and chaps) that may shape and define the genitals or butt, (some of this for gay culture but not all), tuxes or other James Bond jackets for that sophisiticated, I-have-plenty-of-money look.

Makeup, since at least the Egyptians, has also been used for enhancement or to comouflage plainness, blemishes, birthmarks, or whatever reason was required. Wigs and toupees have been worn for many centuries as status symbols, to change one’s looks, to make it look like a person had hair. It’s not a new thing and most people do look better in clothes because they cover up all sorts of imperfections. Fashion can highlight a person’s good points, change the line that the eye follows so that a person looks taller, broader, slimmer, bustier, etc.

Until we hit the day that we have our own heat generating forcefields, have tossed vanity and modesty to the side and do not need possessions or adornment, I think humans will continue to dress in a myriad of fashions, as well as camouflaging what is not seen as the current trend and fashion for bodies and looks. The realm of phsical changes has its own history, but that’s for another day. We may yet hit again a look where flat chested, twiggy and adrogynous shapes are considered sexy and then the padded bras and fitted clothing will disappear…for awhile.

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