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A blind chick writing about fashion on her own blog is unlikely enough, but what are the odds of being asked to do a guest post for one of the web’s best style bloggers? That’s exactly what happened when Australian image consultant Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style approached me about contributing to her Stylish Thoughts series. I was stunned and flattered in equal measure and naturally agreed to do it. You can read the results right here.

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Today’s post comes courtesy of Julie, who posed an interesting query in the Suggestion Box

I’m very curious to know how you have developed your style persona?
How did you know you prefer modern classic clothes and develop your old Hollywood look?

Most people I know developed their style identity through observing people, whether they were friends, family members, movie stars or just wworkaday folks going about their business. It’s natural to take a fancy to a look and decide to emulate it. If I tried to go that route, though, I’d have to embrace stripes in a big way, since my days would be spent doing jail time on groping charges. Tactile cues take the place of visual ones for me, and my sartorial choices stem directly from what I find pleasing under my hands. Except for that vital substitution, though, I suspect my style identity evolution followed much the same course as most people’s.

I’m not sure exactly how someone develops a sense of aesthetics or how they come to conclude that look A appeals to them more than look B. I only know that such preferences start to take root with most of us pretty early on. That was the case for me. some of my earliest recollections involve tracing shapes in books, handling household items and generally starting to furnish my mental picture gallery with images of how the world around me looked. The items I kept coming back to time and again were the ones that I could imagine clearly in my mind after feeling them. The vision I had in my infancy may have left me with some capacity to retain mental imagery, because that’s what I’ve done all my life. When I think of, say, an apple, I have two levels of recollection. One is to recall the exact shape of the fruit in my hand, the texture of its skin etc. The other is to actually picture how it would look sittig before me on a table. The image is based largely on the details I ascertained with my hands, as well as bits of information dropped by sighted friends (the mental picture will change whether the apple is red or green). The clearer my tactile impressions and the more detailed the visual descriptions, the more vivid my mental image becomes. This doesn’t matter in the least for apples, since they all wind up looking the same anyway, but the mental picture process is integral to my style evolution.

Essentially, I don’t feel comfortable wearing things that I can’t picture clearly in my head. My mental gallery is expanding all the time, pushing my stylistic boundaries as it does so, but when you get right down to it, I still struggle to embrace looks that fall outside of my tactile comfort zone. By definition, tailored, classic clothing with clearly defined lines are much more pleasing under my hands simply because they’re structured in a way that makes it easy to note garment details. They contour my body, which of course gives me an excellent idea of their shape. They lack excessive embellishments, which frequently feel distracting under the hand and compete with the flow of an outfit in my experience. The details I can make out, such as necklines, sleeve styling, collar type, pocket placement and the like, are important features to take note of in any garment and are particularly easy to pick out on garments with clean lines. And of course, many classic garments tend to be made in higher-quality fabrics, which can lure me in on their merits alone. I grew up with classic garments in the closets of all my family members and developed a discerning touch when it came to the types of details noted above. Classic was my comfort zone, and I had to reach adulthood before I developed any degree of curiosity about looks beyond this admittedly narrow scope.

Nowadays I’ve branched out considerably. I’ve come to enjoy and even sport looks you wouldn’t have found anywhere near my body in the past. Just as sighted fashionistas adjust their eye to knew looks, I’ve gained tactile familiarity with moto styling, slim-legged silhouettes, billowy blouses, empire tops, ruched dresses, handkerchief hems and even colour-blocking. All of these elements have crept into my style as I tried to keep myself from getting bored with my wardrobe and maintain a current vibe with my sighted friends and coworkers. Even so, it’s those mental images formed early in life that remain my benchmarks for fashion decisions. I have a turquoise bib necklace that I enjoy wearing, but still prefer my chunky or multilayered pearl necklaces best because they’re easier to picture. The jacket that warms my heart most at the moment is a tailored black blazer with interestingly-shaped buttons, easily styled cuffs and a subtle ruffle trim that elevate it from the status of a true basic. My leather moto jacket, which comes out to play at least three times a week, still can’t dislodge that more classic blazer from atop my favourites list, simply because the touch-friendly details make it that much more enjoyable to wear. In a similar vein, I’m slower to adopt of-the-moment patterns because they rarely appear in a form that I can touch. Is it any wonder that, when I first embraced animal print, I acquired a zebra dress with raised stripes over a leopard blouse whose design could not be felt?

I don’t know how accurate Julie’s incredibly kind description of my look may be, but I do know my style has a decidedly classic bent. I’m ok with this so long as I keep finding ways to stay current and have fun with the whole process. Hopefully I’ve done something to explain why my wardrobe and image have shaped up the way they have.

A picture of me in a black pencil skirt, black lace-trimmed camisole, low-cut teal top and grey blazer with contrast cuffs. I'm wearing a tripple-strand of pearls tied in a knot with the outfit.

Stil classic after all these years

Thanks for the great question, Julie! If any others want to follow her lead, I’d love to see more comments in the suggestion box. I’m not shy about questions, so if there’s a topic you’d be interested to see me cover or even something you’ve always wanted to ask a blind chick, fire away!

A picture of me in a calf-length cotton dress with a purple and yellow floral pattern on it. The dress is sleeveless, is cut fairly low in the neck and has a fairly traditional silhouette that fits through my torso and then flares out dramatically. To compensate for this traditional style, I'm wearing it with taupe faux-snakeskin sandals, silver and pewter dangly earrings and a bracelet of concentric silver leaves. I'm carrying a white shoulder bag.

My favourite dress silhouette...with requisite modern touches

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When I rhapsodized about my personal magic brands, I focused on the cut and fit of their merchandise and the way they felt like they’d been made to order for my figure. I completely neglected one key element of any brand worth it’s salt — strong customer service. Take it from me, blind shoppers make extraordinary demands on retail staff, and those who are able to rise to the occasion immediately earn my respect. Every now and then, however, someone proves to be so exceptional that they deserve to be singled out and praised to the skies.

I recently had such an experience at Laura Canada, one of my aforementioned magic brands. I’ve been pretty lucky with their sales staff in the past, but one of their employees recently blew me away with her combination of personal charm, style savvy and exceptional understanding of my own individual fashion quirks. Below is a letter I wrote to head office that sums up what she did and how the results turned out. I am only making slight variations to the text, since I don’t imagine she’d want her full name and exact work location broadcast on a random blog. πŸ™‚

Hello,

I was given your name when I contacted the Laura _____ location to sing the praises of Stephanie, one of their sales associates. The manager informed me that commendations were best directed to head office, and in this case I am happy to comply.

I am a long-time Laura customer who has been consistently impressed by the high quality and current styles available at various locations. My shopping needs are complicated, however, since I am totaly blind and require sighted assistance to keep me informed about such key details as colour and fit. I have been frequenting the ____ location for several years, but not until recently have I found a sales associate who is able to give me consistently excellent advice. That person is Stephanie.

Every time I come into the store, Stephanie takes the time to walk me through all relevant sections and describe the various offerings in the sort of detail I need. This approach may seem tedious and time-consuming, but Stephanie’s patience and positivity never fail her as I pump her for as much information as possible and scour the store for exactly the right pieces. Stephanie has helped me close gaps in my everyday summer wardrobe on two occasions. Her sharp eye and honest feedback led me to select a variety of pieces, but her coup de grace took place this past weekend.

I was in search of cocktail-wear that would be suitable for the various weddings I will be attending in the next few months. Based on my previous positive experiences with her, I called Stephanie to ask specifically about your selection of formal, knee-length dresses. She obviously remembered details about my size and style preferences, as she immediately urged me to come into the store. She informed me that a certain blue frock, with a v-neck and ruffle detailing over one shoulder, looked like exactly the type of dress she could see me wearing. She remembered my pentient for clean lines and vibrant colours and further recalled that most shades of blue tended to flatter my skin and hair. She also recollected my size and checked to make sure the store had it in stock.

I had already acquired a cocktail dress that I felt would do the trick and had not planned to come into the store, but I changed my mind based exclusively on Stephanie’s urging. It was one of the best fashion decisions I ever made. The blue cocktail dress she singled out turned out to be exactly what I was looking for in every detail. I purchased it on the spot, wore it to a wedding the very next day and spent the entire evening fielding complements on how it looked on me.

A picture of me as I'm about to depart for a wedding. I am wearing a sleeveless, cobalt blue cocktail dress that ends just above my knees. The dress has a straight cut and has vertical seams down the front. It is made of a shiny fabric that gives what someone called an "icy cast" to the blue shade. There is a ruffle detail that moves diagonally over my right shoulder and terminates in a stylized flower on the right side of the v-neckline. My hair has been styled into a moere voluminous bob. I have matched the dress with sparkly silver sandals, a silver satin clutch, a tripple strand of pearls with the odd silver bit in them and diamond stud earrings.

As you can see, she was right on target

This is certainly a testament to your styling team, but even more so to Stephanie’s customer service skills. Her ability to remember details about her customers and zero in on styles that work for them is truly exceptional and deserves the highest commendation. Equally praiseworthy is her sales technique, which has been effective without ever becoming intrusive. She has been a delight to deal with on every occasion and is now one of my main reasons for shopping at Laura.

Kindly share this note with Stephanie herself, as well as her bosses at the _____ location and anyone else at head office who monitors employee performance. I would like to spread the word of what a winner you have hired in her.

Should you have any further questions or need any more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me either by email or by phone.

Many thanks for your wonderful products and the superior customer service provided by first-rate employees like Stephanie.

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CAVEAT: Sorry for the sideways pictures in this post. We don’t know what’s going on, but we’re working on fixing it!

I’m not always a big one for brand loyalty. I couldn’t care less whether my peanut butter sandwich contains Kraft or Smuckers jam, I’ve been known to have both Royale and Cottonelle tissues on my night table, and my clothes have been washed with everything from Tide Liquid Fresh to Sunlight Powder and a lot of things in between. But every now and then I stumble upon a brand that hits all the right notes and inspires lifelong loyalty in this fickle customer.

I don’t know about you, but nothing psychs me up more than stumbling onto my personal magic fashion brands. You know how it goes. You walk into a store, grab a handful of items, then alternate between gasps of shock and squeels of joy as piece after piece slips onto your body and settles into a glove-like fit. Styles you thought were incompatible with your body type settle effortlessly over your problem areas. Colours that make you radiant and that are nowhere to be found in lesser stores populate the shelves. Those accessories you’d dreamed of for months and despaired of ever finding are positioned right by the counter as a casual afterthought. You want to scoop up armfuls of clothes en route to the cash screaming “budget be damned, I’ll take it all!”

Everyone has these individual fashion meccas, and I currently have two — one on either side of the border, no less.
The Halogen brand from U.S. retail giant Nordstrom. has recently blown me away with the quality and fit of their relatively affordable pieces, while closer to home the offerings at Laura Canada feel like they’ve been designed and cut specifically for my body.

Busty girls everywhere can attest to the fact that woven tops and jackets are notoriously hard to fit, particularly if you throw a defined waist into the equasion. If it closes at the chest, it looks like your torso went on a camping trip and pitched a tent. If it fits through the lower body, you’re likely to be recruited by the next Hooter’s manager you come across. So imagine my delight when I recently ordered two Halogen jackets from the Nordstrom Anniversary sale. Not only did they fit perfectly, but they felt great and fulfilled my number one criterion for styling myself!

A picture of me modeling a grey blazer, which has a single-button closure and rolled-back cuffs revealing a cream pinstriped lining. I'm wearing it with dark-wash slim-cut jeans and a red silk tunic shirt.

It fits!!

A picture of me wearing a collarless, black and white tweed jacket with a silver chain trim around the neckline, placket and cuffs. The jacket has three-quarter sleeves and a small fringe detail around the neck and black satin edging around the front pockets. I've just thrown it on over capris, which is not how I would wear it in real life!

And so does this!! Please ignore bottoms πŸ™‚

Woven tops, particularly those with button closures, pose similar challenges for the well-endowed. Enter Laura Canada with their great offering of crisp, high-quality summer tops that actually make me feel polished and appropriate. The sleeveless blue impressed me so much that I promptly duplicated it in white! The selection of bottoms was equally exciting for a tall girl like me who struggles to find capris, or clams as I’ve taken to calling them, that hit me at the right point between my knee cap and the widest part of my calf (the secret is to buy them in petites). .

A picture of me in a store modelling two eventual new purchases. I'm wearing white clams that end just above my calf. I've paired them with a silky v-neck top that has a pattern of leaves in shades of blue and green.

Pant length and pattern and fit, oh my!

A picture of me in the same store. This time I'm wearing black clams that hit at the same spot paired with a sleeveless, v-neck cotton blouse with buttons down the front. There's no pulling or gaping, which allows the two small tuxedo-type stripes on the lower half of the top to lie properly just under the bust and run down to the bottom of the shirt. The blouse is a fairly vivid shade of blue.

More proper clam length? And a woven top in a signature colour that fits right? Yes please!

These are just the basics of what my two current magic brands can do! More on their myriad wonders in another post.

So what are the brands that make your heart skip a beat and your credit card cry out for mercy? How about on the other end of the spectrum…are there brands or stores that consistently fail to deliver the goods for your body and style?

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There are dozens of reasons why people try to dress well and are willing to put effort into devising appropriate outfits for a variety of occasions. Most of my reasons are directly informed by my blindness, and dozens of others were discussed in depth over on YouLookFab in a fascinating thread on why people want to look their best. One of the common themes emerging from that thread is one that resonated strongly with me, but seems to miss the mark with a lot of others I’ve encountered lately. Is the notion of showing respect through clothing choices going out of style? Based on a few recent experiences, I’ve got to wonder if more people shouldn’t crank the Queen of Soul’s classic anthem for the spelling impaired while getting dressed!

I’ve attended a number of weddings already this summer, and those occasions have clearly demonstrated the wide array of fashion standards people apply to these occasions. I personally believe weddings require you to put your best foot forward as a mark of respect to the bride and groom. With some luck, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime day for them. They have spent hours working through guest lists, logistical arrangements and endless other details in an effort to make the day as special as possible. Regardless of the vibe or venue, most couples have also dedicated significant financial resources to their special day. To me, it’s imperative to dress in a way that acknowledges both the significance of the event and the extraordinary efforts required to make it happen. To my way of thinking, turning up in jeans would send the message that this occasion is no more important than a get-together at a local bar. Unless the bride and groom have specifically indicated that they’re going for a casual vibe, I’m going to arrive in a cocktail dress and heels with my hair done and my evening makeup in place. I take my cue from the venue to some degree, but I happen to believe this type of dress code is applicable regardless of the location. Just because the festivities aren’t being held at a posh venue doesn’t mean they didn’t require a significant financial commitment. Dressing up for a wedding is just a fundamental mark of respect in my book. My boyfriend is of like mind and insists on wearing suits to all but beachfront weddings. But based on what we’ve seen at the first two weddings of the season, our approach is far from universal.

My boyfriend took it upon himself to do some people watching and made some discoveries that left our collective jaws agape. Men wearing golf shirts? Check. Women in dresses more suitable for poolside barbecues? Uh-huh. None-too-dressy capri pants? Mm-hmm. Jeans on both genders? You bet. Even flip flops were in evidence. The real winner had to be the woman who turned up at a beautiful waterfront yacht club sporting denim cutoffs and a spaghetti-strap tank top. I realize that some people are trying to contrive a dressy appearance from within narrow budgets and limited wardrobes, but you can’t convince me that shorts and a tank were the best she could do. There are bargans to be had, and even making the effort to pick up a simple pencil skirt and blouse on sale would show greater appreciation for the bride and groom. It’s a privilege to be invited to a wedding, not a right. The outfits my boyfriend spotted didn’t reflect that fact at all.

In general it seemed easier for women to miss the mark with their clothing options, probably because we have such a vast array of fashion options at our disposal. But men were by no means exonerated. My boyfriend was particularly affronted by adults wearing juvenile-looking ties that were either tied too short or featured patterns you’d expect to see on a six-year-old at his first formal function. He contends that only collared dress-shirts fit the bill for occasions like this, while acknowledging that jackets may be a bit hot at certain outdoor venues. I’m personally delighted by his sartorial standards and was thrilled when he wore his suit despite some relatives’ assertions that “khakkis and a golf shirt would be just fine.” Our outfit choices were directly proportional to the amount of effort the bride and groom put into their wedding day, and we could therefore enjoy the weddings confident in the knowledge that we were paying them the respect they deserved. We were by no means the only ones who chose to dress up, but even if we were, I don’t think either of us plan to change our approach any time soon.

The situation is a little merkier when you enter the realm of what I’ll call hybrid dress codes. I usually balk a little when I see things like “cocktail casual” or “biker chic,” since that involves striking a sometimes tricky balance. My personal strategy is to err slightly on the dressier side of the scale in question. The outfit I wore to a recent “cocktail casual” party, for instance, featured one of my smarter-looking day dresses that got sassed up with cocktail-worthy accessories. According to my fellow party-goers, that strategy served me well and my ensemble fit right in.

A picture of me in an outfit I wore to one wedding held at a slightly more casual venue. I'm wearing a knee-length black dress with white polka dots that change slightly in size as you go down the dress. It has a not-front below the bust, a deep v-neck and a waist-tie at the back. I am holding a dark red clutch in one hand and wearing dark red lipstick. I have accessorized the dress with sparkly silver sandals and a double-strand of white pearls.

A wedding held at a more casual venue still calls for a dressier getup

A picture of my boyfriend and me posing at a wedding. I am wearing my turquoise cocktail dress along with sparkly strappy silver sandals, a double strand of white pearls and diamond stud earrings. I am holding a rectangular silver satin clutch in my left hand. My hair has been blow-dried and is worn in its usual bob, but it has more volume than usual. I've applied a little eye shadow, blush and dark red lipstick. My boyfriend is standing on my right wearing a black suit with gold-ish pinstripes, a tie the same shade as the stripes and a blue shirt.

When wedding bells ring, this is the kind of thing we wear

What do you think. Are my boyfriend and I old-fashioned in our approach to things like weddings? What’s your strategy for occasions like the ones I’ve described? And what do you think of hybrid dress codes…are they liberating or maddening?

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I suppose it’s inevitable as you march through your 20’s that you’ll hit that summer where just about everyone you know decides to get hitched. For me, it’s Summer 2010 — everyone and their brother is running, not walking, down the isle! With no fewer than four weddings to attend in a two-month span, I knew it was time to give my outfit some serious thought — the couples involved all make unprecedented commitments of time and money for these affairs, and it’s only respectful to put your best foot forward (a rant for another entry, perhaps)? πŸ™‚

While I am an unabashed girly girl and love getting all dolled up, nothing brings out my body image issues faster than formalwear. So I decided to spare myself the indignity and demoralization of fruitless shopping sprees and painstaking alterations and splurge a little…I decided to get a dress custom-made.

The first part of the process was easy for me — I knew exactly who I wanted to hire for this job. My local tailor employs a delightful seamstress named Tania who has an academic background in fashion design, prodigious skills with a needle and the all-important ability to make style choices based on her clients’ needs rather than her own preferences. I had only tapped into her talents once before when I needed a very specific type of top to match a skirt and was most impressed with the results.

A picture showing me from the waist up wearing a champagne-coloured satin top. It has a low v-neck, ruffles that start near my shoulders and taper in at the waist and elbow sleeves.

Nice work, Tania!

I came to her with a fairly good idea of what I wanted — I envisioned a turquoise dress, since it’s a colour that’s both on-trend right now and a classic for my complexion. I figured it would also be a good four-season colour, looking appropriately summery in hot weather and introducing a dash of colour to winter gatherings. The amazing ladies at the YouLookFab forum, who I involved from the start, were in total agreement about the colour and even had numerous suggestions about the ideal style.

Much as I loved their suggestions, I decided to let Tania have the most input in the dress — this was her baby and I had enough confidence in her to give her, if not carte blanche, then at least carte creme.

She agreed that turquoise would be a good colour, but produced three options for me to show my “fashion consultants” and be absolutely sure. The turquoise received unanimous approval over the bright blue and emerald green options.

A picture of me holding a bright blue fabric sample

A picture of me holding a fabric sample in emerald green

A picture of me with a turquoise fabric sample draped around my neck

With colour instructions and style suggestions in hand, Tania went out to acquire fabric, which she fortunately got for a song during a store clearance event. She chose a semi-sheer turquoise silk and a slightly more green lining. The effect of the two layered together, she assured me, was a saturated turquoise shade that would play well with my paler skin and dark hair.

A picture of me holding up two fabric samples: the main turquoise dress fabric is in my right hand, the darker green lining in my left

I was promised the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts

Tania took my measurements at my first fitting and had constructed a very basic skirt and top by the second one. Using those prototypes she refined her measurements and could focus on the mor interesting stylistic elements. She went for a double-layer of silk in the skirt, creating an overlay effect that comprises about three-quarters of the dress. I loved the breezy feel of it and ok’ed that without hesitation. To maintain the same effect on the top she proposed the innovation of a halter detail, something I had never sported before as a result of my general curviness. While wearing the skirt and top separates, she passed a piece of fabric over the appropriate places to show me what she had in mind. I could feel that the halter formed the same type of overlay that was already incorporated in the skirt and liked the idea of maintaining symmetry between the two halves. . I had been insisting on some sort of sleeve to cover my less-than-ideal arms, and she assured me she could make the two potentially conflicting design elements work together. So I let her go ahead with the halter, slip on one sleeve and take a picture so I could get some feedback.

A picture of me in the preliminary dress, which currently only has an elbow sleeve on the right arm. The look is not yet perfectly sleek because most elements are pinned rather than stitched.

I told you it wasn't complete! πŸ™‚

The picture I posted over on YLF generated some intense discussion, from which I took away the message that the halter detail and the elbow sleeve were working at cross-purposes. The ladies unanimously felt the drama of the halter was compromised by the sleeve. When I called Tania to ask her opinion, she said she too felt the sleeve needed adjustment and proposed a shorter one using just the semi-sheer silk fabric. This struck me as a reasonable compromise. By the time I came back in she had prepared the sleeve at the right length, stitched most components together and moved the halter in a little bit to make the bodice more streamlined.

A picture of me wearing the tweaked, but still incomplete, dress.

Getting there...

I was perfectly cool with this adjusted version and gave her the goahead to finish it up, which meant just putting in last-minute touches (including fabulous keepers that snap around my bra straps and hold them in place — a particularly useful feature with such a low neckline)! The length and lightness of the sleeve gave me the tactile elusion of going bare-shouldered while still providing the coverage I wanted…SCORE!

My styling dilemmas are too boring to be relived, either in my brain or in writing, so I will wrap this up by showing you the final product as it appeared at one of the weddings. The light fabric and low shoulder and necklines were exactly right for the balmy breezes and scorching sunshine in which the ceremony took place, and I suspect I was one of the most comfortable people in the area. The fact that it was custom-made meant it felt absolutely perfect on my body, and the comments I got suggest that Tania created another winner.

A picture of my boyfriend and me posing at the wedding. I am wearing my dress along with sparkly strappy silver sandals, a double strand of white pearls and diamond stud earrings. I am holding a rectangular silver satin clutch in my left hand. My hair has been blow-dried and is worn in its usual bob, but it has more volume than usual. I've applied a little eye shadow, blush and dark red lipstick. My boyfriend is standing on my right wearing a black suit with gold-ish pinstripes, a tie the same shade as the stripes and a blue shirt.

Voila!

The process had its stressful moments (at least for a chronic overthinker like me), and it doesn’t come cheap, but overall it was one I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat again. Sure it’s as complex and calculated as the creation of your average 90’s boy band, but the combination of lovely fabric, unique styling and perfect fit ensures it will have a long and hopefully successful career as my go-to cocktail outfit (longer than O-Town’s, anyway). πŸ™‚ It won’t even need to do a chair dance in three years to keep itself in the spotlight!

Thanks to one and all who offered input on this new wardrobe favourite..and special kudos to the amazing Tania, if she ever reads this!

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I’m just going to pretend the last post went up recently rather than an obscenely long time ago and delve right back into the business of blogging. My long absence will be explained, if obliquely, in later posts. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your patience!!

Today’s post comes courtesy of reader and fashion blogger Marianna, who is wearing and writing fabulous things over at Absolutely Apple (go check her out at once)! Here’s what she asked me to do:

I’d be interested in reading more about your retail experience… can you share some examples of great Β sales associates?

Without further ado, allow me to take you behind the scenes during this weekend’s accessory-shopping Extravaganza!

Yesterday I marched myself down to The Bay, i.e. Canada’s answer to Macy’s, in an effort to kit myself out for the myriad weddings I have to attend this summer. The turquoise cocktail dress is being assembled by a seamstress as we speak, so my job was to attend to the accessories needed to take my outfit to the next level. I’d already dealt with shoes by haunting a store that actually caters to people with yetti feet like mine. The silver sandals I found should serve me well for interminable cocktail hours, dancing, and other such wedding-esque goodness. My goal yesterday was to score a multilayered peral necklace, an appropriate evening clutch and a pair of versatile everyday summer sandals, preferrably in pewter metallic (my new go-to footwear shade).

Shopping on your own as a blind person takes planning if you expect to have any success. To that end, I called the Bay’s Guest Services desk Saturday morning, explained my situation and asked if someone would be free to accompany me through the store in search of my purchases. I need the help not so much for navigating the palacial flagship location, though that certainly helps, but more to help me sort the merchandise wheat from the chaff. Items like jewelry tend to be kept behind glass counters and away from prying little fingers like mine, and while I can size up the main style points of things like bags and shoes, functional eyes are still needed to fill me in on features like colour, price etc. The obliging folks at Guest Services got back to me promptly and informed me that they had found a staff member who would be free to help me out at 3:30. I suppose they would have dug someone up if I’d just arrived unannounced, but I know from experience that they appreciate having notice.

The staff member they found turned out to be Godi (sp?), a delightful 24-year-old sales associate plucked from men’s denim and thrust into an afternoon of unbridled femininity. She turned out to be fabulous, catching on quickly to my style preferences even though they appeared to differ somewhat from her own and being endlessly patient with her picky new customer.

Our first task was to find a necklace that struck the balance between understated elegance and evening glamour. I’ve developed a passion for pearls and decided a multistrand necklace would set things off nicely. Accordingly, Godi and I raided the jewelry counters, dragging another sales associate along with us, and unearthed several possibilities. Godi then made a strong case for future canonization by agreeing to snap pictures of me wearing these necklaces, which I could then forward on to my “Magnificent Mobile-Shopping Mavens” (TM), aka Marianna and Maya from the YouLookFab community.

Godi first selected a necklace that my friends ruled to be a little too blingy:

A picture of me wearing a tripple-row of pearls, each strand longer than the next. The middle row has sparkly faux-diamonds in the centre.

The next selection won an aesthetic thumbs up, but was rejected out of hand by me because it felt too cheap and flimsy. πŸ™‚ Yes, sadly I am one of those who will pass up a bargain in favour of quality.

A picture of me wearing a simple tripple strand of white pearls. They're all around the same length, i.e. a little below my collarbone

An option that was just a tad more me

Godi and I indulged our inner girly streaks with the next two floral-inspired necklaces, which were both vetoed by my reliable friends (one too dainty, the other too cute).

caption id=”attachment_107″ align=”alignleft” width=”300″ caption=”I guess I shouldn\’t steal thunder from

A picture of me wearing a delicate single strand of pearls that has a single silver flower in the middle. The flower is about twice the width of the necklace with inward-curling petals. In the centre of the flower is a single stone that catches the light.

Not gonna lie, I thought this looked pretty and elegant, but my girls help keep me modern

“Guess I shouldn’t steal thunder from the bride\’s bouquet”]A picture of me wearing another multistrand necklace, this one with three or four silver flowers placed at intervals along the front.In the end, though, our efforts paid off when a sales associate unearthed this Ralph Lauren piece. The few silver pearls gave me the sought-after touch of evening sparkle, plus the tactile interest I can rarely resist, and it got the green light from real-life and virtual helpers alike.

A picture of me wearing the multistrand necklace I finally settled on. It's a tripple-strand of moderately-sized, almost champagne-coloured pearls, with all strands having beads the same size. Scattered over the three strands are about 10 silver pearls with a little sparkle. They're placed in no set order, but each strand has at least two such touches. Each strand is slightly longer than the one above it with the necklace stopping about two inches below my collarbone.

We have a winner!

With pearls safely in hand, we proceeded to the handbag department where I expected to be thoroughly overwhelmed with an outrageous selection. Alas, it wasn’t to be. I could count the number of clutches on one hand, and most of them weren’t my scene anyway. Fortunately we did find one reasonably-priced winner, a sleak silver satin bag that will fill a gap in my cocktail wardrobe. Kindly ignore the red one I’m also holding in the pic below. I loved it even more than the silver, but the shade was too dark for my purposes (I’m told a brighter red would work best with my dress).

A picture of me holding up two evening clutches for inspection. One is a dark red satin, almost a burgundy shade, with a sparkly couple of stones at the top. The other is a simple rectangular bag in silver satin. I am wearing a black dress with white polka dots, a chunky strand of creamy pearls and sandals in a brighter red than the bag in my hand.

With that accomplished, Godi and I proceeded to the shoe department, where an amusing misunderstanding soon gave way to the most frustrating part of the day. I don’t think she heard me when I talked about searching out every-day sandals, because she started directing me to various silver pumps, stilleto sandals and other evening shoes. Once she got on the same page as me, however, she soon realized why I hate shoe shopping so much. Ridiculously wide feet + very strong opinions about what I’m looking for = a hellish shopping experience. But being the pro she was, she listened carefully to my style preferences and trotted out a better selection of viable options in five minutes than bona fide shoe salespeople had shown me in three days. Silver or pewter metallic shoes with low vamps and moderate heels are a tall order for some, apparently. Designers, I’m talkin’ to you!

Unfortunately for Godi, her brilliance didn’t bare fruit immediately, since most of what she showed me proved too narrow for my snowshoe-esque peds. She’s a trooper, though, and stuck with it for half an hour until she came across these.

Imagine my shock and delight when they actually fit in the size above what I normally take? And imagine my further joy when the salesman, upon discovering they didn’t have that size in stock, ran to a neighbouring location in another shopping mall to get them for me? That’s the kind of customer service money can’t buy!

By now Godi and I felt like firm friends (never question the tie that binds you to someone who actively tries to help you put shoes on), and we chatted about our respective jobs, her family back in Jamaica, her singing aspirations and her planned course of study. But her bosses would have been proud to note that she wasn’t just passing idle time — she spotted a bag that she rightly guessed I would love and talked me into buying it. Gorgeous leather, lovely styling, a sale price and a silver tongue proved irresistable.

A picture of my new bag on it's own. It's a slightly shiny dark pewter colour with only one small piece of metallic hardware on the front. The bag itself is made of quilted leather, while the handle consists of two silver chains with leather woven through the links.

Some impulse purchases are worth it, no?

Obviously I felt the need to put these new pieces into action asap, and here are most of them in a real–life context.

A picture of me posing with most of my new purchases. I'm wearing a short-sleeve, v-neck top consisting of three parts. A blue and green floral pattern on a black background runs from the neck to just below the bust, at which point it's replaced by a stretchy black patent belt. Below the belt is solid black ending a bit above mid thigh. With this I am wearing skinny black jeans, my new multistrand pearl necklace, my new pewter bag and my new pewter sandals. The sandals have a 1.5-inch heel and consist of kind of criss-crossing leather parts, one at my toes and one further down on my foot. There are silver studs on the leather and my toenails are bright red.

A good day's work should be celebrated without delay!

By this time I’m sure Godi was delighted to receive a grateful hug, pop me in the back of a cab and see the back of me for a long time. But not as glad as I was to have lucked out with such a patient, fun and savvy sales associate!

Marianna, hope this answers your question!

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