Shopping is fun again

My favourite 4-letter word - SALE!
AS the third and youngest daughter in our family, I used to inherit clothes that my sisters had outgrown. Since the day I was born, I probably wore nappies and baby clothes that were passed down from my sisters.

It made economic sense to pass down clothes to the next child, so in my early years, I just wore well-worn and comfortably seasoned outfits.

That's why I always looked forward to our annual year-end shopping for Christmas dresses in Singapore.  May May Department Store used to stock some of the prettiest dresses but I must confess that I simply loathed the sewn-in can-can petticoat that was all the rage those days because some of its edges would scratch and irritate me.

Photos of me wearing such dresses can attest to this as I also wore a scowl on my face because I was often annoyed by the prickly petticoat!

Sometime during my teenage years I suddenly outgrew my sisters and could no longer inherit their clothes. Aware that new clothes would be painful on my parents' pocket, I got a bit worried about my diminishing wardrobe. But my anxiety was short-lived because I started to inherit adult clothes from my aunties, my mum's younger sisters!

When I had my own income, it was such a pleasure to shop and choose my own clothes.  Shopping for clothes was no longer a once-a-year tradition but I shopped whenever I fancied.  If I spotted something nice, a voice seemed to call out, "Buy me! Buy me!". But over time, I learned to ignore the voices and bought only when I've carefully considered that it's a need and not a want.
Mega Sale poster
These days I'm spoiled for choice in Johor Baru with offers of best buys during the mega sales, mid-year sales, year-end sales, and every excuse for a sale.  Then I noticed something.

At first I thought I was alone but I'm relieved to learn from my friend Ida and others that they too have noticed there are many careless and insensitive shop assistants in town. Perhaps it's their lack of training but their tactless approach is simply rude.

Ida said she would usually browse around during sales to find the right sizes, designs and colours. On one occasion, the salesgirl stood at a distance with folded arms and watched Ida dig into the bottom of the box for the larger sizes.  As she ended her futile search and turned away disappointed, the assistant casually said with a hint of sarcasm, "Saiz awak tak ada..." (There's no size for you.)

One day when I was merely getting a feel of a garment's fabric, a saleslady who probably wanted to save me the time and energy, bluntly told me, "Ni pu ker yee."  I was truly hurt when I heard that as I knew enough Mandarin to understand what she had said: "You cannot (fit)!"

Now if there's ever a gentle way to break the bad news to me, I would have welcomed it!

But Ida probably got it worse when she stepped into a store. A sales promoter made a sweeping glance at her and simply stated, "Sini size 40 tak da." (No size 40 here.)  In another shop, she picked up an outfit and the salesgirl promptly told her, "The largest size is only L."  She was going to buy it for someone else but the insensitive assistant lost that sale because Ida was sorely hurt by her remark.

We used to derive great pleasure from shopping.  Now it's has become quite depressing especially since Ida realised she was shopping in a plus-size store.  The average Malaysian woman fits "L" and "XL" sizes and it's not fair that merchandise is only designed in small sizes or the ambiguous "free size!"

Stores must know that not only petite but curvaceous women too need nice clothes. Elegant designs are seldom made in sizes for them.  Merchants complain that revenues are low during the sales but that's because they don't make merchandise that shoppers can buy.  So it's about time designers and merchandisers studied the trends and stocked their stores with the right merchandise which real women can buy and wear.

Our question is: "How do we buy when there are no right sizes in the design of our choice?"

Shopping abroad is the ultimate feel-good experience because we can easily pick out a wide range of clothes from any store and some petite ladies admit they even have to select from the children's department!

Just as I thought that I had to go overseas to shop, I found a store with clothes for the petite (size 8 to 12) and well-endowed (14 to 20)!  Best of all, the thoughtful and well-trained shop assistants made shopping there such a joy!

"We also have that in green," said a cool dulcet voice behind me as I picked up a yellow dress and after discussing sizes, she took my selections to the fitting room to help me try them. The clothes fit so well that I made a mental note to write and ask them to open up an outlet in Johor Baru as they already have four in Kuala Lumpur and one in Australia!

There's still hope and at last, shopping is fun again!
This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 21 September 2010

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