A few weeks ago I had to acquire a new Outfit to wear for a Special Professional Occasion (SPO). Shopping for Outfits is one of the few things that inspires me to procrastinate, and I put off my shopping trip for as long as possible. It is probably best that I procrastinate about shopping, though, because if I went early, my tendency would be to make a feeble effort at some stores and then leave without getting anything, and then I would just end up shopping at the last minute anyway. With my typical method, procrastination actually saves me time; or at least that's what I tell myself.
This particular SPO involved my giving a Speech in front of a scientific group that is overwhelmingly dominated by men. This Speech has been given by someone every year for nearly a century, and although I am not the first woman to give it, I am one of very few. The reason I mention this is that it describes the environment of the speech, my feeling of not really fitting in with the rest of the group, and my uncertainty about what to wear.
So I went shopping, and I ended up in the type of store (and/or the type of sector in a department store) in which the saleswomen take an active interest in the customer's shopping activities. I don't mind this, but I found that in most cases my ideas about what I would want to wear differed greatly from those of the women assisting me. Perhaps I should have just acceded to their possibly superior sense of fashion, but most of the items that they suggested I try were too something (too frilly, too beige/pink, too sleazy, too ugly).
After I had rejected her suggestion of a low-cut blouse that looked to me like lingerie, one saleswoman said: Why don't you tell me about the special occasion that you're shopping for, and that will help me help you better.
So I said: Well, I have to give a sort of speech to a big group of scientists, most of whom are older men. It's kind of a traditional, formal event, but not too formal.
Saleswoman: I'm sorry, I can't help you at all. Maybe you should just wear black.
At the next store, after I rejected a suggestion of a cranberry silk crepe short jacket with merino cami (note: I could not have written that sentence before my shopping expedition), the saleswoman asked me to tell her about the places I would be wearing this outfit, so she could help me decide. This time I tried a slightly different angle:
FSP: Well, I'm going to a dinner for some distinguished scientists and I'll be giving a speech, so I'm trying to find something professional yet comfortable but not too businesslike.
Saleswoman2: Is it like what you'd wear to a wedding?
Saleswoman2: A funeral?
Saleswoman2: How about this black dress?
So I found something (mostly black) eventually, and felt happy about that until I realized I needed New Shoes to go with it.
FSP @ shoestore: Do you have this shoe in black?
Shoesaleswoman: No, these only come in toasted pinecone. This is a really stylish color. You can wear these with almost anything.
FSP: I need to wear them with a black outfit.
Shoesaleswoman: Are you going to a funeral or to Europe?
10 months ago