About a month ago I traveled north and east about four and a half hours and ended up in Detroit. To be fair, this was intentional—I was there for a wedding—but, yeesh, that town is grim. Not like Sarasota, Florida grim where you walk around the promenade and realize it is possible for an entire town to be built around the concept of tropical prints, elastic waistbands, and comfortable shoes. Detroit is like your favorite restaurant closing because no one but yourself ever appreciated it. When you walk around the city (And I was in fact downtown. When I told people I had recently been in Detroit, I think they assumed I was staying at Tim Taylor’s.), you look up and see all of this beautiful architecture. Buildings with ornate molding, beautiful brick work, grand entrances, so much of it now decrepit or abandoned altogether. I like to imagine that in Detroit’s heyday, there was a parade everyday at noon and all the women and babies came outside and Henry Ford marched with a giant baton while little newspaper boys threw money and candy into the crowds. And all the men drove around in their American made cars and high-fived each other, shouting, “WE GOT THIS!” But now when you walk along Detroit’s city sidewalks, you’re practically alone save for one or two city dwellers who apparently didn’t get the memo that the Red Wings had an away game.
I wish for that city that someone would come in and really turn things around; someone to take a risk, open an Apple store or something. Move Apple’s headquarters there! Heck, I don’t know! I didn’t go to business school! I’m just throwing out ideas, hoping something will stick because Detroit is one of America’s great cities and we should all be conscious of it’s need for recovery.
Enough about Detroit. This is supposed to be about the dress I wore to the wedding in Detroit. I like to write in ascending order of priorities. I don’t do many fancy things in my life. If I am ever standing in front of a step and repeat it’s probably because I am a 40 year old intern at a PR firm and it’s my job to vacuum the carpet before the important people arrive. One could argue that a wedding is not a fancy special thing for the regular attendee but I counter with free drinks, dancing, lots of toasts, and your date has to be in a suit. When young people complain about going to weddings I give them a similar list. Weddings are fantastic parties and we should all just be grateful we have one less Saturday night where we ask our friends, “So, uh, wanna go to that bar?” and everyone collectively shrugs. The only time I am ever mildly uncomfortable at weddings is when the ceremony takes place in a Catholic Church and it’s time to take communion and I sit politely in my seat while everyone else gets in line and I imagine they’re all looking at me thinking, “Ugh, just participate.”
Since this Detroit wedding was my first of 2013, I convinced myself that it was appropriate, nay, mandatory, that I buy something new. I still had some money stowed in savings from my weekend babysitting extravaganza and there are many weddings yet to come for which this purchase could be reworn. We were leaving Friday morning, so I decided the best time to go shopping was the day before when I also had a million and one things to do like pack and babysit that evening for five hours. I had a scheduled workout at 9 am that morning which brought me downtown, so I had the good sense to pack a regular bra in my purse so I could change at the gym and not a) have to make a trip all the way back to my apartment or b) try on cocktail wear in sports bras. There is an ‘s’ at the end of that word because I wear two and not everything about life is easy. It was a cold and drizzly day that Thursday and, despite the costume change, I was basically still smelly and disgusting. I took the train a few stops north and then walked to the Anthropologie on Chicago Avenue. If you have not been to this Anthropologie and you are a fan of that store, put that on your summer bucket list because it is beautiful and big, and most importantly, it has Megan.
I am a terrible shopper. I love owning new things, I hate looking for them. Have I ever mentioned the time I bought my prom dress the day before prom? The stress of that event nearly killed my mom and I was all “whatever” about it. I walked into Anthropologie that morning, most of me damp from the drizzle, my jeans were sticking to my skin in the bad way and I was wearing this awful raincoat that made me feel like the What Not To Wear cameras were secretly following me and Stacy and Clinton were downstairs making fun of me in the dressing room. I had already been on the store’s website and knew exactly what it was I was looking for—this full skirt with thick black and white stripes and a visible gold zipper in the back that would make me look like a fun, classy young person. I walked through the entire store, and not only did I not find the skirt, but I only found one dress that I tolerated enough to try. I grabbed a pair of shorts so as not to feel like I had completely wasted my time, and went to the dressing room.
In general, I loathe being assisted at stores. Sometimes, if I can tell that, walking into a store, I would be the only patron, I avoid it altogether out of fear that I’ll receive too much attention from the sales people. Even when I am looking for something extremely specific and someone asks if they can help me, I tell them “No, I’m just browsing,” and then curse under my breath at the store for not having exactly what I need. When I walked back to the dressing room on this Thursday, I was particularly not in the mood for assistance or friendliness. I didn’t have the time and the store had already sorely disappointed me. As Megan grabbed the two items out of my hand, she chirped “Oh, this dress just came in! I can’t wait to see it on someone!” Ugh, I have to show you? As she hung up the dress she asked, “Do you want a shirt to try on with those shorts?” Oh, um, yeah? Harmless, I thought. “How about a pair of shoes for the dress. Just to see?” I drew the line there. No shoes. I was on a schedule. She left and I tried on the dress, which ended up looking like if your mom made you a mod dress out of a black and white checkered table cloth and based the measurements off of what she thinks you’ll look like when you’re five months pregnant. Megan reappeared with a shirt which I instantly thought would look hideous on me but I appreciated the fact that she had just bought the same shirt for these shorts and she thought the combination would look just as great on me. That was sweet. We both agreed that the dress was not working. I smiled through my teeth and allowed her to give a thoughtful response, secretly wishing she would just go away so I could cry hot tears of anger that the dress gods were fighting me so fiercely that day.
When she asked if I was shopping for anything in particular I admitted that I was looking for a dress for a wedding and before I knew it she was off again. I sat in the dressing room, tempted to poke my head out and let any other employee know that I needed to get going, and please let Megan know she can call off the search. But there she was again, this time with maybe seven dresses I had seen during my own lap around the story and had aggressively nixed. Over the next 20 minutes, as I tried on dress after unflattering dress, Megan kept reappearing at my door, one time with jeans, another time with six shirts she was just dying over, another time with a jacket that was so gorgeous and flattering and had been selling like crazy, and look this last one we have is in your size! It was turning into my very own Julia Roberts Pretty Woman moment, if Julia never met Richard Gere and only had her street money to buy things and the store ladies welcomed her anyway. I tried on the jeans (did not need jeans) and walked out onto the floor and Megan and I just gushed over how great they fit and, God bless her, she even asked if I needed a smaller size.
Toward the end of the affair, after I decided that the jeans and that super flattering jacket, which was in fact super flattering, were must buys, Megan was at the door with three more dresses. Not only did they appear super boring, I was also so over the idea of Anthropologie solving my dress crisis that day. I was onto separates! But she had been so nice and helpful that I decided to indulge her. I tried one on. No. Looked at another, felt rather “meh” about it, but gave it a go anyway. And wouldn’t you know, it did something for me. I walked out of the dressing room and looked at Megan and said, “I actually think I like this one. But…it’s missing something…”
And off she ran to gather every belt in that store that might vaguely match this dress, calling a woman upstairs on her walkie talkie to bring down some jewelry options, walking back to me and smiling, “Now do you want to try some shoes on?” Yes, Megan! Yes! Bring me the shoes! Soon, I had the attention of multiple employees and a handful of customers in the dressing room. Everyone was weighing in and everyone agreed it was just the perfect thing.
That girl killed it. I walked out of that store over an hour after I entered with a pair of jeans, a jacket, a dress, a necklace, and a belt. If any other person had assisted me that day I guarantee they would have let me leave empty handed and miserable over the thought of having to repeat that entire miserable shopping experience at Nordstrom. The woman at the register was the same woman who had brought down the necklaces so she simply confirmed, “Megan was helping you today?” Yes. She. Did.
I hope retail stores recognize and appreciate when they have someone like that on their hands. For Megan, I hope she has a Jenna Lyons/J. Crew like career journey with Anthropologie. If she wants it. Maybe she’s in med school and she’s just an awesome person who’s like, “While I’m here, I might as well change everyone’s life who encounters me.” I’m tempted to go back in a week and be like, “Megan! I’m going to New York Memorial Day weekend! What should I wear?!??” But I genuinely fear for my bank account, so I may just have to suffer through the insufferable H&M or something. Either way, I am grateful for a new outlook on customer assistance and hope to bring the Megan out in many sales girls to come. I could always use the help.
Oh, also, because I am absolutely the type of person who would obsess over an outfit and not take a single picture of it, here is the ensemble off the Anthropologie website. It’s not meant to be the most glamorous thing you’ve ever seen, but it is a beautiful solution to a problem that at the time felt incredibly important.
All photos courtesy of Anthropologie.com.