Sunday, May 29, 2011

In the way he bit his lip

His demeanor was pure uncertitude.
From the moment he delicately closed the door behind him and turned to me, the helplessness in his eyes down to the fidget in his fingers and the shuffle in his feet told me that this was his very first time.
We greeted each other casually, each trying in our own way to ignore his nervousness. He took in the surroundings with a sweeping glance, not allowing his eyes to hault on any particular piece of lace or velvety accent to my commercial boudoir.
His highlighted hair, his faux vintage t-shirt, and his contrast-stitched denim implied youth and money, but I couldn't place his age and swiftly pegged him as a window shopper, nothing more.
Only later did I discover the question that caused his discomfort: oh what would his sweet wife think? Only after our deal was done did the young uneasy husband even think to ask my name. I gave it proudly, for I had served him well.
It was one of those bright Sunday mornings where the sunny side of the sidewalk promised a warm, soft afternoon while the shady side couldn't seem to shake the sharp chill of the night before. I had just finished helping a dark and lovely woman pick out some simple, silky thongs when he came in and started looking around.
"Let me know if you have any questions," I said sweetly, noting that his focus was scattered like leaves in the wind.
"Well, um, I was wondering. . ." he started, then looked over his shoulder helplessly, "Uh, I uh, I guess I'll just figure it out on my own."
"What was your question?" I asked more assertively, deciding that I would have to take the reigns in this retail relationship.
"Um, is everything organized in a certain way or by specific sections?" he reached.
With a silent sigh, I stated the obvious and explained the simple layout of my little shop. And yet, when I finished, this bewildered soul stood still in the center of the displays, looking just as lost as he did when he came in. All he could seem to do was stare at the closest rack of negliges, like a little boy trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle with his mind. . .

Monday, May 9, 2011

"I Am the Velvet Wall. . ."

     I'm not quite sure if it was the decrease in my hours at the shop or the growing sensation that, when it comes to lingerie customers, I've seen it all.
     But in the past five months I've been at a loss for material.
     Once every few weeks or so,  I will encounter a quirky customer, a cute couple, or a shy shopper who inspires me to reflect on the interaction. But once I put my pen to paper and let the words flow, I gradually become disenchanted with the subject in its entirety. By the time I arrive at the the meat, the zinger, the sweet spot, I have already decided that the story will never make the Internet cut. For whatever justification, it just isn't fit to post, in a way it isn't worthy. So instead it will forever reside in the delicate pages of a small black Moleskin.
     Perhaps I'm simply intimidated by the naturally delightful posts of the past. At times, I will read through some of my readers' faves and envy those lost moments of organic inspiration that came so fluidly to fruition. I don't want to admit it, but I am jealous of the writer I once was.
     In my moments of denial, I tell myself that, somehow, the people who come into the shop have become less interesting with time. Deep down I know it isn't that they're less interesting, but that I see them so. In the beginning, I would be shocked and awed by aged exhibitionists and addicts of lace. But bit by bit I've matured and learned the lay of the lingerie land and I no longer look into the silky horizon with wonder and verve.
     Don't get me wrong, I still love my job.
     Aside from the discount, I still truly enjoy helping women find that one exquisite nightie, that super comfy robe, and - of course - the truly perfect bra. And yet, in a way, I have settled into my surroundings and now see the shop through the expert eyes of a lingerie fitter in lieu of the voyeuristic observer.
    I am no longer the outsider, the ogler, or the constant tourist with pen and notebook in hand. To the contrary, I am a fixture, like the register or any other part of the shop.
     At first I was the sweet voice floating just outside the dressing room.
     Now I am the velvet wall.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Lacy Stage and The Nude Interludes. . ."

     Having been a lingerie fitter for more than a year now, I have seen my fair share of client nudity, but pretty much all of it has been confined to the intimate area between the fitting room walls. Most women - no matter how old, confident, or comfortable with their bodies - limit their exposure to that sacred space behind the velvet curtain, opening it only to invite others to peek inside.
     The first time I met a woman who completely ignored the confines of the dressing room, she was sassy, saggy, and shopping by herself. That and she was only trying bras, so public toplessness was the extent of her exposure.
     The second time, the woman was slinky, svelt, and accompanied by a man who was just as comfortable with her undressing out in the open as she was doing it. That. . .and she was trying everything.
     It was a chilly Sunday evening and business had been sluggish at best. I was finishing s few chores and getting ready to flip the door sign to "closed" when a tall, wavy-haired woman sauntered in with her beau. I greeted them and went back to my duties a little conflicted, hoping they would buy yet eager to go home.
     When I saw that she had picked up a few things, I started a room for her and showed her man to the couch by the dressing room. Immediately making himself at home, he kicked back and waited for the show to begin. As the wavy-haired woman stepped into the dressing room, I gently shut the curtain behind her.
     "If you need help adjusting straps, please let me know," I said sweetly, and walked back to the counter.
     A minute or two later, she called me over, opened the curtain, and asked me about the fit of a gorgeous, lace cup demi while her suitor looked on. He and I echoed our approval. Then she turned her back to us, dropped her pants and panties, and slipped on the matching thong, all while the curtain stood open.
     In a demure gesture, I turned away and walked back to the counter, recalling the last exhibitionist who'd graced that lacy stage of sorts. Perhaps sensing my stand-offishness, she made a bolder move.
     Now dressed in just a sheer bra and equally sheer thong, the saucy minx walked out of the dressing room and up to her beau, turned around, and slowly placed her lacy derriere on his lap.
     "Darling," she cooed silkily. "Will you be a doll and adjust my straps?"
     Without surprise or hesitation, he obliged with knowing dexterity. Then she stood up, stepped back into the open dressing room and admired herself in the long, slender mirror.
     In that one scintillating moment, they rendered the curtain useless and never touched it again. As the woman suavely sampled set after set and - as I brought them to her - nightie after nightie, she was at times topless, at others bottomless, and yet others sitting in his lap again, knowing full well that I could just as easily adjust the straps for her.
     Just as she saw no use for the curtain, she apparently saw no use for my bra strap skills.
     Eventually, I stopped playing so demure and watched her little show go on. To pass the time between her nude interludes, I made small talk and discovered that they had been to pretty much every lingerie shop in the area at one point or another. At once I wondered how many other dressing room curtains they'd ignored along the way. . .
     When the show was over and the exhibitionist had her street clothes on again, she came to the counter with about $600 in lacy loveliness and her man came with his AMEX. After ringing and wrapping it up, I handed the card back to him. But instead of taking it back, he pointed at the nearest mannequin.
     "What about that, babe?" he asked about an embroidered, black lace bra. "Why didn't she show us that?"
      When I explained to them that I had shown it and that she had decided not to try it, he insisted that she go back to the dressing room. Considering they had already kept me more than 30 minutes past closing, she protested at first. But when he wouldn't let up, the exhibitionist gave in.
     "Fine", she said flirtatiously, only pretending to be impatient with him. "But I'm not going back to the dressing room. I'm going to try it on right here."
     Two seconds later, she was topless again, working the bra around her torso. Having seen it all before, I turned to the register and started doing the end of the day paperwork, assuming this was just the finale to her playful peep show. Sure enough, after seeing the bra on, he passed on it. As she put her clothes back on, they thanked me and and then took their shiny shopping bag out into the chilly fall night.
     Once I locked the door behind them and finally flipped the sign to "closed", I looked at the velvet panels to the dressing room. . . or, as exhibitionist saw them, the curtains to her lacy stage.

(Composed October 2010)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Who Wears The Boxers in The Family. . ."

     Before he came through the door, he told his son to wait outside, attempting to keep him from the sexy promotional posters inside. So the skinny skater stayed on the front stoop and and stared at the half naked mannequins in the window instead.
     "I need to bring a little something back for my wife from my trip," the casually clad dad said.
     Ushering him to the wall of new sets, I went through the routine of asking for her sizes. Just as I was about to show him our newest bra when he stopped in his tracks.
     "She loves stuff like this," he said with excitement in his voice, fondling a black lace nightie with a matching g-string.
     "It's a lovely piece, isn't it?" I asked, showing him how the bow between the cups opens the nightie like lacy wrapping on a sexy present.
     As that set kept his attention, I moved back to the wall of bras and searched for the newest one in his wife's size, just so that he could compare it to the nightie that first caught his eye. But before I could even pull it off the rack, he cleared his throat uncomfortably.
     "Is this right?" he asked, now fondling the price tag. "Is this really $270?"
     "It is, but its one of our most expensive sets," I explained, adding that most run around $150.
     "Yeeaaahh, I guess I'm going to have to go somewhere less expensive," he said with a long exhale. "If I come home with something that pricey, I'll have some explaining to do."
     "She won't know if you don't tell her how much it is," I said playfully.
     At that point we both noticed that his prepubescent son had finally snuck in and was shamelessly admiring the scantily clad women on the walls.
     "Well, no, because she checks all the credit card statements," he said plainly, nudging his son toward the door. "Thanks anyway."
      Once back out on the sidewalk, the traveler looked wearily up and down the street before him, wondering where he could find a cheap memento for his frugal wife. Knowing full-well who wore the boxers in that family, I watched him walk out of sight and wondered if I would ever become an anal bank and bill checking mother one day.
      If it meant a married life with no more nice lingerie, I would seriously hope not. . .

(Composed Oct. 2010)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"His Smile Was A Little Too Wide. . ."

    He slithered in without a sound, and I wouldn't have known he had even come in had it not been for the couple I was helping at the dressing room.
    "Oh! There's a guy in here!," the woman squeaked as she closed the velvet curtain. She had been showing her man the sweet set she had on and assumed the three of us were alone in the lingerie shop.
     Eager to ease her shyness and quickly distract the guy who came in, I marched up to him and asked if I could help him with anything. Having obviously caught a brief glimpse of the shy woman's body before she shut the panels, his eyes were leering hopefully over my shoulder before he gave up and turned to me.
     His eyes were kind enough, but his smile was a little too wide.
     "Yes, I was wondering if you could help me find a few boxers," he said softly.
     "No prob, right this way," I said with a rush and showed him to the selection of menswear.
     When I asked for his size, he said he was usually a medium. Because our menswear runs extremely small, I explained, he would need at least two sizes larger than that. I handed him a cobalt blue pair of boxer briefs to illustrate and he held them up to his waist, immediately seeing what I meant. Then the wolf's smile stretched across his lips again.
     "Are blue boxers something that would appeal to a girl like you?" he asked delicately.
     Knowing just what he was getting at, I told him that underwear are a personal preference and that it had more to do with his comfort and style choice. Stating he wore a size 34 pant, he asked what size he would need.
     "Well, my boyfriend is a size 32 and larges are tight on him, so you're probably an extra large," I said flatly, putting an extra emphasis on the b-word. Then I excused myself to check on the couple at the fitting room.
     Having tried almost everything I had shown them, the man and woman were debating on which sets to take home. In between talking about a lacy black set and a silky red set, I lowered my voice and confided in them both.
     "I am so glad you guys are here right now because that guy over there is giving me the creeps," I said in a hushed voice. "He just asked if a pair of boxers appeals to "a girl like" me."
     At that, the woman looked past me, smirked and shook her head.
     A minute later the guy asked for my help again so I rolled my eyes dramatically and walked back to him.
     "I didn't even get your name," he said as I approached him. Begrudgingly, I introduced myself and then saw that he had a few pairs of size medium boxers in his hand. Once again I explained the sizing of our menswear, as he looked more at me than at the boxers before him.
     "I've seen plenty of guys buy boxers in the wrong size and then come back to exchange them," I said curtly. "The last thing I want you to do is. . ."
     (. . . "come back", is what I longed to say. . .)
     . . . "is buy something that's too small for you."
     "I appreciate you being so straightforward with me," he commented with that same mile-long grin.
     As I helped him find his size among the sale pjs, his decision came down to a brown pair or striped with a collar.
     "Which would you prefer?" he asked as he turned to gauge my reaction.
     "It's all about your preference, sir," I said shortly, hoping my hard tone would drop the proper hint.
     Three pairs of sale boxers and a set of striped pajamas later, the wolf was ready to ring up and I could not wait to send him on his way. Right as I was about to swipe his card, he grabbed a pair of full-priced briefs and tossed them on the counter.
     "I'll take these, too. . .if you can give me 50 percent off," he said with a sick twinkle in his dark eyes.
     "Sorry, sir," I said smugly, "you can only take them at full price."
     Once he put them back on the wall, I finished ringing up, wrapped up the purchase, and handed him his shopping bag. Acutely uninvited, he reached his hand across the counter - just far enough to breach my comfort bubble - and held it there in expectation, waiting to shake my hand. When I obliged, he held the shake - just long enough to make me queasy - and then took his leave.
     Trying to shake off the heebie jeebies he'd handed me, I went back to the couple. With their selections in hand, they met me at the register and I found the man a bit impatient, the woman coyly smiling.
     "We decided what we wanted a while ago, but we didn't want to leave you here alone with him," she said knowingly and handed me her card.
     I resisted the urge to embrace this soul sister from across the counter and handed her the receipt to sign instead. As the couple took their lacy purchases out into the afternoon sunshine, I felt gratitude like no other for the kindness of strangers and at once saw the couple as the lumberjack to my little red riding hood.
     Beware of the wide-smiling wolf. . .

(Composed Sept. 2010)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"A Lacy Education. . ."

     When most customers come in to return a bra for a different size, they expect a relatively even exchange, give or take a few bucks if they choose a different style. What they don't expect is to meet a salesgirl like me and end up walking out with a whole new lingerie wardrobe. . . and a little enlightenment.
     Sure, this kind of dramatic turn-around doesn't happen every day, but it did one sunny Thursday when a red-headed 38D strolled in with a 36D return.
     "Not only is it the wrong size," she said flatly, "but I really wanted something less basic."
     Ready and willing, I took her dissatisfaction as a challenge. And while my knee-jerk reaction was to blame a fellow associate for selling this woman the wrong size, I knew Miss 38D's lack of knowledge on the subject of fit was just as much to blame.
     So I decided to decliately educate her along the way.
     First off, I asked her how the 36D had fit in the back and on which hook. This determines the lifespan of the bra and how it will fit years down the line, I told her.
     Then I asked if she frequently adjusts her bra straps. This, I explained, can improve the cups' fit AND help avoid back plumping behind the armpits.
     And finally, I asked if the under-wire laid flat against her breastbone. This is key to a proper fit and more comprehensive support, especially for C-cups and larger.
     As she answered each question and listened to my explanations, my 38D pupil began to regard me with an expression of awe and respect.
     "I had no idea there was so much to consider," she said with surprise in her eyes. "Did you go to lingerie school or something?"
     When I told her that my expertise was part of my job as a lingerie fitter, she fell into a moment of deep reflection. As patiently as possible, I wondered if she was going to take this knowledge to the lingerie department at Macy's. . .or worse yet, Vickie's Secret. When she spoke again, I knew my tutorial had paid off.
     "You know, all of my bras have been feeling uncomfortable lately," she said with a demure half-smile. "I think I'm due for some new sets."
     Cha-ching, my salesperson mind chimed.
     So I started pulling our newest arrivals in a few different sizes, just so that I could show her why she was a 38 instead of a 36 but a D-cup nonetheless.
     "And maybe we could try a couple sale sets, too," she said in passing., "but price is not an issue."
     Cha-ching-aling, my mind chimed again, and I told her how rarely I hear that from curvier women.
     "They can't seem to justify the money because they don't have a positive body image," I said.
     "No, we don't," she agreed. But a while back, my husband of 30 years told me, 'I love lingerie, so go try some on. . .I know you'll love it, too.' So I did and now, I'm a total convert!"
     Once we found the absolute perfect fit in the form of a pink silk and lace 38D, I gradually brought her more and more options to chose from. From sheer black balconettes and embroidered demis to smooth t-shirt bras with tiny bows and lacy underlays, I brought her every big gun in my lingerie arsenal and she was dutifully stockpiling.
     Whenever she cooed or gasped at a particularly lovely set, I asked to see it and then to help adjust the straps. With the push-ups, I shared my trick of the trade, which is to lean forward, reach under the cup, pull from under the arm, and gently put the girls in place.
     "You know, I think I need you an my personal dresser," she said as she checked herself out in the mirror.
     "I get that a lot," I said with a smirk.
     At one point, wanting to clear any unnecessary clutter, I asked if she had any rejects for me.
     "Well," Miss 38D said with a cheerful pause, "I'm pretty sure I am going to take all of these."
     A short time later, she parted the curtain and came to the counter with an armload of sexy goodies. When I rang it all up and told her the $1,800 total, she nodded and handed me her AMEX. Once her undergarment overhaul was wrapped and bagged, she giddily expressed her gratitude and left.
     Watching her strut down the street, swinging the large shopping bag at her side, I was as pleased with myself as she was with her purchase. While I saw her expensive exchange as just that, she saw it as titillating tuition for a lacy education.

(Composed July 2010)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"A Visual Species. . ."

     As I have come to own a lot of lingerie since becoming a fitter many months ago, I have learned to appreciate the quality of pure silk, the fit of a French bodice, and the feeling of fine lace against my skin. But in that time I have also learned that most men who buy lingerie for their ladies aren't necessarily investing in the fabric, the fit, or the feel.
    They just like the way it looks.
    Whether its on the body or the bedroom floor, lingerie appeals to men as a visual species, nothing more.
    Case in point: a gentleman who bought his girlfriend a set after falling asleep on the job. . .
    It was a hot, sunny summer day and I had just finished putting back a pile of bras and thongs rejected by a petite 34B. Having pulled a new demi off one of the mannequins and then left the poor thing topless, I stepped in the window to replace the bra.
     Focussing on the placement of the embroidered straps and stiff underwire, I barely noticed a suited passerby stop, double back, and carefully scan the bevy of lifeless beauties. When his eyes fell on the one I was dressing, his look became a stare. Feeling exposed and a bit bashful, I avoided eye contact, finished adjusting the mannequin, and stepped back on the floor.
     After window shopping a bit longer, he came in the store and I couldn't help but ask myself: "Who was he checking out? Me or the mannequin?"
     Turns out it was the mannequin.
     "I need a gift," the middle-aged man said as he surveyed the window mannequins again, this time from behind.
     "What's the occasion?" I asked sweetly.
     "Well," he said as he distractedly studied one display after the other, "I fell asleep. . ."
     As I stifled a giggle, he turned to me and immediately realized how that sounded.
     "On the couch!" he blurted. "See, she went out last night and when she came home I was watching TV on the couch. Then she walked in wearing some lingerie and I assume she wanted to. . . but I passed out so she went in the other room."
     At this point, the woman in me sympathized with his girlfriend's disappointment. But ultimately the salesgirl in me sympathized with him and wondered what kind of "lingerie" had put this couch potato to sleep.
     "So I figured I would get her something sexy to make up for it," he concluded.
     To my surprise, he knew her exact measurements by heart so I picked a few options for him to consider, including the set I had dressed in the window. Assessing the deflated pieces of lace on the counter, he seemed unimpressed, quickly lost interest, and resumed looking around the shop.
     When he spotted an in-store mannequin in a sweet see-through neglige by the dressing room, he asked to see some sleepwear instead. Several nighties later, he still wasn't sold. Turning away from the choices I had given him, he let his eyes wander as he tried to picture his 32D darling in any of the outfits I had offered.
     Then he saw it.
     After looking at so many flat pieces of black lace, red embroidery, and champagne silk, he simply set his sights on one vendor poster and his mind was immediately made up.
     "THAT one!" he said clearly while pointing at an enlarged photo of an elegant model in an ivory bra, thong, and garter belt. "Done!"
     Without question, I pulled her sizes, rang up the purchase, and wrapped the set for him at lightening speed. With his $250 gift in hand, he thanked me for my help and then walked out into the summer sun.
     As I glanced up at the photo that had essentially sold the gift for me, I wondered if his girl would even enjoy a sexy three-piece set in such an innocent shade. Then again, she might just be happy that the couch potato got it for her. . .
     And then stayed awake long enough to watch her try it on.

(Composed July 2010)