it’s called respect

We had a lovely Saturday in the District, and I spent it in a lovely manner: lounging, catching up on my magazines (I’m perpetually behind with Vanity Fair), and browsing one of my favorite neighborhood vintage shops. The owner is fabulous and the selection is brilliant: really diverse – you can find both kimonos and 1950’s day dresses – and curated in a way that makes you want to spend hours letting your eye skip from netted hat to crocheted handbag. The customers… less so.

Maybe it’s because my mother insisted on raising me with a modicum of manners or because I have abnormally strong attachments to garments and the folks that make them, but I was appalled by the behavior of a group of women in the store. My age, of course, which is disheartening. It seems like my generation is totally devoid of any judgement or self-awareness. In this jewel box of a store they were loud, took up about half the place, and openly derided some of the clothes. I wanted to smack them. Instead I channeled that energy into buying a splendid 50’s madras dress that is actually a jumper (with wide pleated legs) disguised as a dress.

But the experience made me think about a couple of golden shopping rules. You give what you get, so put your best foot forward. Almost everything has to do with approaching the people and place with a respectful attitude.

1. The people. Someone found, styled, folded and designed everything that you are looking at. And they might be standing there with you. So smile, ask polite questions, and if you don’t like something, it stays in the internal monologue. It’s a good practice in general.

2. The clothes. Everything at that store is destined to be bought by someone, even if it doesn’t appeal to you. So don’t leave it in a rumpled heap in your dressing room. And don’t finger everything with your greasy post-brunch fingers. Especially not silk. It’s like being a guest in someone’s home: try to leave everything as you found it (except the Madras jumper: take that home with you).

3. The customers. Shockingly, there are probably other people in the store with you. And they probably don’t want to see your lower back tat or hear about how you haven’t showered in three days because you spent each night with a different random hook-up. And they really don’t want to hear that as you are placing delicate garments on your unwashed body. Talking loudly with your girlfriends about your latest exploit is what brunch and wine bars were made for. So save it.

4. Edit. Do you need to try everything on? Probably not. And if you do, maybe try things three at a time. Let others have a chance to play. If the shop owner hands you something to try and you’re not super enthused with the result, use something like “this would look great on someone really tall, but isn’t so much for me” instead of “this is frumpy, I don’t like the color, and it makes me look like Oprah on a bad day.”

5. Do Unto Others. For reals. Treat people and things like you would want them to treat you and your things. You learned this in kindergarten. It still applies. And always will.

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