Archive for April, 2009

Clothes Encounter of the Best Kind

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

When I took a part-time job that took me outside of our home-based business a couple of months ago, I was very glad that I had some clothes in my closet that I could wear to my new job and feel like I was dressed appropriately. Although my new position doesn’t require interacting with lots of people, I still wanted to look professional and not like a total soccer mom.

I have my 16-year-old daughter, Valerie, to thank for making sure that I have some clothes to wear that don’t involve acid-wash denim and shoulder pads.

If Valerie had been a boy who loved baseball, I probably would have spent a lot of time sitting on bleachers at a baseball field. But since she’s a girl who loves to shop, it became obvious to me early on in her teenage years that I was going to be spending a lot of time hanging out in stores while she shopped. So I started trying on clothes as a defensive measure. Otherwise, I was afraid that I might go stir-crazy waiting for her to consider the thousands of items in Nordstrom Rack; she can be there three hours and not even have worked her way to the jeans section yet.

If it wasn’t for her desire to dress with some flair, I might have avoided clothing stores altogether; stepping into Macy’s and trying to figure out where to go can seem overwhelming if you haven’t shopped outside of the children’s department for years. Or I might have taken a more righteous attitude about not shopping and congratulated myself about all the money I was saving by not buying any new clothes. And I could rationalize that we live in the country. Except for having one good outfit to wear to a client meeting, does the kid scanning my groceries in the checkout line care that I’m wearing a Gap t-shirt that I got as a hand-me-down”¦from my son?

But Valerie made sure that I didn’t stay stuck in the land of mom jeans. As I tried stuff on while I waited for Valerie, I had an opportunity to put into practice the rules that stylists Stacy and Clinton expound on our favorite show, “What Not To Wear.” Like the makeover contestants who appear with them on the show, I could immediately see how pants that sat below the waist were more flattering, pointy-toed shoes elongated the leg, and creating an hourglass figure was actually a good thing. I bought clothes that I really felt good wearing. That really added to my confidence as I started in a new workplace.

You may be wondering why I launched into this sartorial digression in the first place? Because last week I was faced with a different wardrobe challenge. I had a job interview in San Francisco for another part-time position at the Presidio Heights home of a busy mom who has more money than time. She is looking for an administrative assistant to take care of some of the details of her life.

All week I wrestled with whether to wear slacks or jeans when I went to meet with her. At first, I thought I should wear nice pants, after all, even if it is at someone’s house, it’s still a job interview. However, I might look overdressed. But what if she’s one of these wealthy socialite types that wears her hair pulled tightly into a ponytail and thinks jeans are only appropriate if you’re tending the polo ponies in the stables?

In the end, I decided to wear what I feel most comfortable in: dark-washed jeans that fit well, good quality black ballet flats that I refreshed with some shoe polish, and a stylishly cropped jacket that was a recent purchase from Nordstrom Rack.

I walked past the well-manicured shrubbery and rang the doorbell. When she answered the door, I was relieved to see that she looked like any one of the moms I encounter while I’m waiting to pick-up my daughter from junior high. It’s possible that the clogs she was wearing cost more than my entire outfit but at least I was put at ease because I felt like I looked in tune with whom I was talking to. Whether or not I get the job is out of my control, but either way, it won’t be because I had a wardrobe malfunction.

A Shopping Outing in the City

Monday, April 20th, 2009

For the past couple of years, our family has capped off Winter and Spring Break with a trip to San Francisco Centre. This is one of my daughters’ favorite outings; it’s got all the features of a good vacation ““ beautiful scenery and interesting people to watch ““ but without the hassle of airline travel. We can set our own timetable and Steve has never once asked me to remove my shoes and belt or inspected the contents of my purse before I’m allowed to get into the car.

The girls love stepping into San Francisco Centre and inhaling the heavily perfumed air and marveling at the blinding shine that reflects off of the polished black and white marble floor in Bloomingdales. We have a really good time fondling the necklaces at the jewelry counter in Nordstrom’s, but our actual purchases at San Francisco Centre fall more into the trinket category. This trip, Jennifer bought a pencil case at Maido, a wonderful Japanese stationery store, and Valerie bought a fairy-princess headband with pink flowers at Nordstrom.

While we were making a loop around the accessory counter, a sign on a jewelry display table caught my eye, “Under $100,” it said. Before the recession hit, I don’t think a sign like that would have been used. I thought it was a wonderful example of knowing your market. Nordstrom is sensitive to the fact that some of their clientele might be feeling the effects of they recession. Whereas before, price might not have been an object, now Nordstrom’s want shoppers to know that a pair of this season’s earrings can be had for the relative bargain price of $94.99. It certainly pointed out to me that I’m not their target market because a sign has to say “Under $10″ to cause me to slow down and consider buying a nonessential item.

Even in an upscale mall like San Francisco Centre, the effects of the recession were apparent. Two of my daughter’s favorite stores for window shopping were gone: a Michal Negrin jewelry store and the Lladro store. They both occupied prime spots in the mall right by the escalator so location wasn’t the reason. Judging by the very lonely and bored salesperson in the Movado store, when your stock portfolio takes a dive, perhaps jewelry purchases are the first to go. Maybe a “Under $100″ sign would have saved them. And the reason Lladro went out of business? I think the market for people trying to unload their collectibles on eBay in order to pay their mortgage is tough to compete against.

We saved our real shopping for Nordstrom Rack a few blocks away in the much lower-rent, concrete and barbed wire part of town. As I’ve written about before, Nordstrom Rack is one of our favorite places to shop. It’s Nordstrom merchandise at Target prices and you can get some great finds if you’re willing to work for them. At least that’s been my experience shopping in the Women’s and Junior’s sections; Men’s must be different. Steve walked over to the rack of men’s sport coats, tried on two, both of which fit, and in about 30 seconds had made a decision on which one to buy.

Steve is a very patient shopper as long as he has a place to sit so he moved onto Peet’s next door while the girls and I spent another two hours sorting through a sea of circular racks, one item at a time. Just as he called to tell me that the employees at Peet’s were about to ask him to start paying rent, the girls and I headed to the checkout line, feeling a bit like conquering heros and ready to head home with our loot: two pairs of shoes, two pairs of jeans, a jacket and three shirts for about $150.

City Council Way Off Target

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

The determination of the Petaluma City Council to make sure that a Target store never gets built in Petaluma is so frustrating.  I’ll bet if you asked every mom in Petaluma if they ever drive to Rohnert Park specifically to shop at Target, the vast majority would say that they regularly do. And if they are like me, the entire time they’re driving there, they are thinking how they much would love to have a Target store in Petaluma.

But the article in last Thursday’s Argus, “Council skeptical of Target’s benefits,” takes the issue beyond my personal frustration of being inconvenienced by having to drive to Target and points out how the actions of the City Council are actually hurting our community. I’m beyond frustrated and downright angry.

The Target center comes at a time when unemployment is the highest it has been in a 25 years; 7,400 jobs were lost in Sonoma County last year, many of these in retail. The Fiscal and Economic Impact Assessment estimated that the project would create 720 permanent jobs. Yet Councilmember Tiffany Renee is quoted as saying, “I can’t honestly say that these are going to be quality jobs that are going to be good for Petaluma.”

Giving people who have lost their jobs an opportunity to work is not good for Petaluma? That makes no sense. Maybe she should ask a few of people who recently lost their jobs at Mervyn’s what they think.

She said these aren’t going to be quality jobs. So what’s a “quality job?” In these times, I think any job that comes with a paycheck is a quality job. Given the bleak economic climate, Petaluma should be exceedingly grateful that Target wants to proceed with building a store here and hasn’t put the project on hold like Whole Foods did in Santa Rosa.

Maybe Councilmember Renee doesn’t want Petalumans to have to suffer the indignity of working at Target. Perhaps in her thinking, it’s only a “quality job” if you’re working for a one-of-a-kind boutique and not a corporation. How condescending of her. Perhaps she would like to tell all the hard-working employees at Longs, McDonalds, Kmart, and Starbucks to name just a few, that they too don’t have “quality jobs that are good for Petaluma.”

And then there is her puzzling statement that “as we are demanding certain standards for this project, we continue to achieve things that are going to be beneficial to all Petalumans, not just those who feel entitled to shop at Target.”

“Entitled” and “Target” in the same sentence? We’re not talking about Nordstrom here. I never considered when I shopped at the Rohnert Park Target that I was entering the land of entitlement. Yes, I feel entitled to get the best value for my money and I am able to do that at Target. It’s a shame that the Council isn’t going to give me that opportunity in Petaluma.

The City Council is right about one issue, we don’t really know how having a Target will impact local retailers. My guess is that since Petalumans are already shopping at Target ““ they just have to drive to do it ““ that it really won’t have that much impact. If any entity feels a loss, I think it will be Rohnert Park. And wouldn’t it be great to keep the estimated $1 million in sales tax generated by Target in Petaluma instead of giving it to Rohnert Park.

Why does the City Council think that putting Petaluma in a freeze frame so that nothing ever changes is beneficial to the city? I get the impression that the City Council would probably be really happy if Petaluma was like Brigadoon, a magical village rising out of the mist to come to life for a day every 100 years”¦but where nothing ever changes.

Let’s hope the Councilmembers get their heads out of the fog and come back to the reality of much needed jobs and revenue for our town right here and right now.

Putting on a Good Face

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

When working for our home-based marketing business was my only job, I didn’t think too much about the makeup I wore. I was sure Steve, the three cats and the dog would love me ““ particularly if I fed them every so often ““ no matter how I looked.

But now that I’m stepping outside our front door and working part-time for someone else, I would like to freshen up my makeup routine. That, plus that fact that I’m down to the dregs and nubs of the small amount of makeup that I did have.

When I open the drawer in the bathroom all that is left in my little plastic container are a couple of stubby eyeliner pencils, three different brands of the same taupe shade of eye shadow, two shades of red Vampirella lipstick from Halloween a decade ago, and a compact of Clinique blush that I bought when we were married 25 years ago. I am not exaggerating that it is just now wearing down to the bottom.

I recall buying a good set of makeup brushes when I was in college, but all that I have left of the set are a frizzled eyebrow brush and what I think was a lip liner brush that I now use to put on under eye concealer. On the rare occasions when I do wear eye shadow, I put it on with a Q-tip.

So clearly I need to go shopping for makeup and get some help in artfully applying it if I want to be taken at face value as an intelligent woman in the world beyond our home.

It’s about at this point in my thought process that I wish Carmindy, the makeup artist on “What Not To Wear,” would magically appear next to me in our bathroom. We have been faithful viewers of the show for years and without exception, every one of the women she makes-over looks dramatically better. She enhances their best features in a very natural way; none ever look clownish when she finishes with them. As she puts it, “just a better version of yourself.”

However, since my Carmindy fantasy isn’t going to happen; I’m on my own which leads to my first dilemma: department or drug store. Am I worth Lancome or L’Oreal? M.A.C. or Maybelline? Especially when money is an issue.

If I go the department store route, shopping for a brand there involves running the gauntlet of scary girls behind the makeup counters who look like refugees from the “Addicted to Love” video”¦if they were even alive in 1985 when that video came out. I’m sure that 21-year-old at the Bobbi Brown counter knows a lot about doing a “smokey eye” but me”¦I’m trying to get rid of the dark circles.

And I’ve never been brave enough to take a seat at one of the counters in Nordstrom and let the salesperson have at me. I’m afraid that she’ll use $200 in products even before she get to my eyes. And then I’m going to have to slink out of her chair saying that I’m going to have to think about it.

Yet every time I decide I’ll go the cheap route and shop for makeup at Long’s, I walk away without buying anything. What one brand calls “Ivory” looks the same in the package as “Natural” in a different brand of foundation and without being able to try it, there’s no way of knowing which is a better match for my skin tone.

My daughter likes shopping at Sephora because you can try the products and the sales help doesn’t just work for one brand. But I get overwhelmed by the choices. There must be 300 different shades of eye shadow there.

Buying clothes is so much easier. I can put on a pair of pants and know immediately if they fit. But does Corduroy Matte eye shadow look better than Cork Satin? I’m in the dark.