Putting on a suit

This is a post from Fraylie, my regular guest poster whose perspective I love. She has been sharing stories about finding herself waiting tables after receiving her degree, getting into grad school and deciding not to go, and then trying to get a job in the big city. Here’s an update from her in the form of a delightful little essay about trying on suits for a job interview:

During some point in the day, I stood in a tiny mirrored room with about two dozen garments dangling around my head.  Skirts, pants, silk and wool – I was imagining Stacy London skulking around to rear her head and yelp you look ridiculous!

I was wearing a suit.  Chic women kitten heeled around me, pulling at my waist and examining the lines forming on my skirt.  They told me to sit down.  They told me to stand up.  I just need to see how it moves, darling.  And when somebody announced that my skirt was a size six, my mother exhaled oh boy.

The best question was, what kind of job interview is this? I was inside the dressing room pulling on a navy skirt with too many buttons.  Through the slats in the door, I heard voices conversing about my job prospects. After all, the design of the suit must reflect the desired industry.  With one leg in the skirt, my heart crawled down to the floor.  I didn’t have a desired industry.

What I had were lofty hopes to one day publish witty essays for smart people. But the other thing I had was an upcoming corporate interview concerning an unknown industry.  One of those staffing places in Manhattan where I was told to dress professionally and bring two forms of ID.  One of those places where it’s protocol for them to drop you like a fly.  And then, when my mother told the sales girl she’s just looking for anything, all of these pants and jackets transformed into garish costumes from my childhood dress-up trunk.

The suits looked very unflattering.  I was especially concerned about my hips. And until recently, I had no hips.  Really.  I looked like a teenage boy most of the way through college.  And, in typical college fashion, (pun maybe intended) I hadn’t been shopping in real stores in quite a while.  I preferred Goodwill and The Salvation Army because a shirt was the price of a burrito, and it jived with my fashion statement of wanting to look something between a 90’s J Crew catalog and Cape Cod grunge.  But here I was in a tiny room, dealing with this supposedly desirable hourglass thing, draped in linen like curtains on a minivan.

Maybe it wasn’t that bad.  But the shock of bodily self-consciousness faced with the reality of my vague not-so job prospects made me uneasy. Put a suit on that, and I felt like a clown.  I didn’t know what else to do besides act apologetic.  I’m sorry you have to keep bringing all this stuff outSorry, I really don’t know what I’m doing. Sorry as beautiful as your clothing is, I still feel like a box.


But for you, concerned citizens, I did end up with a suit by the end of the day.  And it’s navy blue and fairly, dare I say, prettyIt came from a different store where nobody helped me pick it out. The anonymity was a beautiful thing.

Though, lesson learned: this is why shopping makes me uncomfortable.  It’s the fluorescents, the filtered air and the expectant sales associates buzzing about what I’m supposed to look like that really irks me.

I kept telling everyone I wished to wear jeans to work.  And I suppose that says something about my character: I’m probably not suited for the corporate world.  (Pun definitely intended.)  At some point in this undulating life, I’d like to work for myself, imposing my own fashion regulations. I’d probably enjoy the moment where I can do my work in my underwear with all the windows open.  From the credit card’s perspective, it’s certainly the more comfortable and frugal option.  But until then, I’ll be shopping alone in the future.


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Unroast: Today I liked how my legs looked in heels.  Rue the day I encounter heels that don’t elongate my calves!



Kate on June 30th 2011 in being different, body, guest post

11 Responses to “Putting on a suit”

  1. Ashley responded on 30 Jun 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    Lovely post! I can see how it sometimes would be better to shop alone and trust your gut rather than hearing all the “…but.. buts” of friends, family, and sales people.

  2. Deanna responded on 30 Jun 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    One of the greatest things that has happened to me is not having to dress up to go to work. I don’t miss suits, au revior panty hose, high heels only when I feel like it and hello to sports bras, T-shirts and work out pants. I not only save a bundle, I also feel comfy all day long.

    One day with Kate’s permission I’ll tell everyone about my very dreadful experience going to an ‘employment consultant’ in New York when I finished grad school. That was quite an experience.

  3. Kate responded on 30 Jun 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    I definitely want to hear that story!!

  4. Deanna responded on 30 Jun 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Here goes…

    I had just graduated from business school with a degree in international management. At the time, I spoke English, French, Spanish, some Russian and some Italian. I was young, ambitious, and very eager to work.

    My dad drove me from upstate NY to NYC for an interview with a firm that specialized in placing people with international backgrounds. I not only had all the languages under my belt, but I had also lived in several countries throughout my life and had a good feel for ‘inter-cultural living.

    This terrible hideous awful woman was the one who interviewed me. I knew she didn’t like me from the Get-Go but since my mom always told me I was paranoid about these things, I assumed I was being paranoid about these things and let the feeling go. At the end of the interview where she quizzed me in the languages I claimed to speak (and I passed with flying colors which I know really pissed her off) she asked me how many words per minute I could type (and no this was not 1960…I am not that old!). I asked her “I beg your pardon?” She asked me again how many words I could type. I told her that I could type a bit (the PC was just getting established in the workplace and I was still getting used to the keyboard) but I had expected a bit more than a secretary job.

    She then told me that if I’d enroll in a secretarial school I ‘might’ be able to find a job paying 14K a year…if I was lucky. She then shooed me out of her office.

    I was in tears. My poor daddy was waiting downstairs with this big smile on his face hoping that my interview went well with this troll of a woman and when he saw my face he knew it had not. He was angrier than I was. I was afraid he’d go up there and toss her out a 20 story window!

    I’ll always remember that story. I remember feeling like such a failure and know that I had big student loans to pay off as well as nearly 2 years of my life getting more education which now seemed like a gross waste of my time. I think when you are young you really believe horrible troll like people (you can see Kate darling that I really despised that woman) know of what they speak and that maybe you are destined to be a great big fat failure.

    Now that I am older and consulting my two daughters, I tell them that people like this have reasons for being the way they are. It has nothing to do with us.

    I have lots of job hunting stories…I should write a book!

  5. Elina (Healthy and Sane) responded on 30 Jun 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Sounds like you were projecting all of your job insecurities on your hips. Glad you were able to get past that and get a new suit… and get a decent “for now” job??

  6. Kate responded on 30 Jun 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    WOW. That is indeed quite the story. I would’ve been beside myself with fury. My usual reaction to unfair situations like that is to want to kill the other person. It’s probably an unhealthy response… :-) I want to know what happened next! Did you find a job soon after?

  7. Kathryn responded on 30 Jun 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Fraylie, darling, in your quest to “publish witty essays for smart people” you have succeeded.

  8. Deanna responded on 01 Jul 2011 at 9:34 am #

    @Kate. You and I think a lot alike. I get irate when people are not treated fairly.

    I did find a job a few months later but I did not end up in NY. I also met my future husband right after finding my first job and we are still married and I have two wonderful daughters…so it did work out but it didn’t change the fact that this woman treated me terribly. The irony is that she looked and acted like an old-time feminist. What kind of feminist treats another woman this way?

  9. Betsy responded on 04 Jul 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    I’ve been told I would never be able to get a better job… I had just been in a terrible wreck (not my fault) and got some help in getting back to my old job through the Dept. of Rehab. Going back to my old job in retail wasnt really working out, so I called my case manager to see if she could do anything about helping me find a job where I wasn’t expected to run laps around a store all day. (I was recovering from a broken foot, a broken leg, and a broken ankle.Walking 8 hours on concrete was hard!) She told me that with no college education and only experience in retail that she really couldn’t help me, except maybe Walmart would be willing to hire me, since they hire people with disabilities. (Talk about the wrong thing to say to someone who was temporarily disabled and whose confidence in everything had been shaken to the core!) I haven’t talked to her since…. but I did find myself a job that isn’t in retail, isn’t as hard physically, and has better hours AND pay, and I get treated like a human being. So don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t have want you want. You can, they’re just jealous because they gave up and are stuck doing something they don’t want to do.
    And don’t worry about not knowing what you want to do. I never have. I don’t know for sure that I will always want to be with the company that I’m with now. Just find something you can stand and that will pay the bills until one day the light bulb goes off in your head and you know for sure. Although keep in mind it might be one of those lightbulbs that gradually turns on. I think thats what mine will be. :)

  10. justmama responded on 06 Jul 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    Fraylie’s post about a suit got me thinking….
    The comments about the post made me think a lot more.
    We, as women, are failing one another…BIG time! That’s really, really pathetic!
    When Fraylie was trying on her suits, it seems that some woman could have just said “oh sweetie, you look great! Or …”that suits you!” (pun intended) To see a younger woman obviously feeling uneasy and uncertain and only adding to that inner tension with a careless remark is ungracious and unkind.
    In Deanna’s story, the callous attitude of an older woman who must have known struggles coming up through the ranks was reprehensible. While it gave Deanna a premise for what could be a fascinating book, it was still wrong, wrong, wrong!
    Since I’m Betsy’s mom, I know what kind of difficulties that experience gave her. The whole accident/recovery deal could make a book itself should B ever decide to share.
    As an “older woman”, it pains me to know that women of my age group and experience choose NOT to come to the aid and encouragement of their younger counterparts. I find the young women I know an inspiration and challenge. I would go far out of my way to encourage and enable most of them when it is in my power to help in some way.
    To you young women out there following your dream, figuring out what your dream is…all I can say is “go for it, girls!” I wish there was a group that could offer constant encouragement to you all…for you are the future. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to offer false hope or saccharin sweet sentiments, but I know it means a lot when someone recognizes that YOU and YOUR dreams/thoughts/ways matter.
    To borrow a phrase from “single dad laughing blog” ….YOU…Keep being awesome!
    P.S. Fraylie…after a long and winding road, I finally get to wear jeans to work every day. I will never be rich, nor successful or influential in some folk’s eyes, but, it’s a GREAT life!

  11. Eat the Damn Cake » an ode to beards responded on 27 Feb 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    [...] for ETDC. She worked as a waitress, considered grad school,  tried to get an office job, and went shopping for an appropriate outfit for interviews. When she did get an office job, she didn’t have time to write me awesome posts anymore, but [...]