suits & stranger danger

suitXVIIsuitX

If you were expecting some sort of “well suited” pun…well, adjust your expectations. I will acknowledge the potential of such a pun, but I won’t bring myself to actually make one.

I will say, though, that I am certainly eating the words from a few posts ago, wherein I bemoaned the lack of good vintage in local thrift stores. “[T]he ratio of gems to dross is so low it’s barely worth my time”, I wrote. Well, I’ll just have to adjust that ratio, because this week I found one of my holy grail vintage items in…yep, a thrift store.

suitIII

I have wanted a good vintage suit for years. I’ve owned several sub-par ones, but always ended up giving them away: I just wasn’t satisfied. I dreamed of a suit with a full skirt and a nipped-waist jacket, but most of the ones available in my size feature boxy jackets and straight, dumpy skirts. That simply won’t do. I want to feel like a ’40s train traveler, not a Wall Street extra.

But lo! There on the rack at Battery Street Jeans was the most beautiful grey bombshell suit I have ever seen. In my exact size. (Well, a bit tight in the arms, but nothing a tailor can’t fix.) For $14. I would have worn it right out of the store if I’d had a blouse to go with it.

suitXV

Suit: vintage, thrifted

Everything else: thrifted

suitVIII

Man, I have been meeting so many of my vintage-collector goals lately! Not only the suit, but the deadstock dress I found last month, the plain red dress I got for Christmas, and the perfect black party dress from November. Other items I hope to find one day include:

  • vintage shapewear in my size. Quite a long shot, as I’m far too voluptuous for most vintage underwear. I actually own a ’20s girdle that was given to me by a friend (hi, Jake!), but it will never fit me. I’ll list in my Etsy shop as soon as I can stand to part with it.
  • Victorian boots. Again, a long shot. I have size 10 feet and wide calves, so my chances are dangerously slim. I’ll never give up looking, though.
  • a genuine ’40s-’50s princess coat
  • Victorian hair jewelry

suitXIII suitXVI

So right after buying this suit, I decided, like any gambler worth her salt, to see if my winning streak would continue. I headed down to the block to the neat antiques store right near Battery Street Jeans. They primarily sell housewares and other trinkets, but they have a rack or two of vintage that occasionally yields some amazing deals. I found my trusty grey day dress there.

Now, when I was there earlier this week, the one fitting room was filled with boxes. I think they were in the middle of redecorating. No matter – the things I wanted to try on (a skirt and a couple of jackets) could be easily slipped over the clothes I was already wearing. I was buttoning myself into the first jacket when a very bearded man in his sixties appeared behind me. “Let me know if I can help you find anything,” he said.

I thanked him and continued my scavenging. It took a couple minutes for me to notice that he was just standing there staring. He was about twenty feet away, just standing stock-still and staring at me. I suddenly became very aware that I was halfway through pulling on a skirt over my dress – not actually disrobing, but still. It was an intimate-ish act.

suitIV

I tend to be very sympathetic to that kind of thing. Lord knows I spend enough time staring into space, completely unaware that I might be unnerving someone. So I kept browsing. When I looked over again a few minutes later, though, I realized that not only was he still staring, he had set up a chair so he could be more comfortable while he stared. Um. I’m not quite so sympathetic to that. He noticed me observing him and called out, “you look very nice in that jacket!”

“Uh, thanks,” I mumbled.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m not being unprofessional.” Which, to me, made the whole thing that much less professional. Why go out of your way to deny potential sketchiness if you’re not, in fact, being sketchy? “Of course I’m not shoving an entire ham under my coat and sneaking past the cashiers! Nope, nothing to see here!”

suitXII

It was then that I realized a couple of things. One, that he and I were the only people in the store. Two, that I would have to walk past him on my way out.

I was at about an “orange” threat level at that point.  Now, I am not afraid of people as a general principle. I think, in fact, that women spend too much energy being afraid of strangers, given that the vast majority of assaults on women occur not in public but in the context of an intimate relationship. Statistically speaking, I have more reason to be afraid of my boyfriend than of a random man on the street. So when I say that I find someone unnerving…that’s pretty significant.

I decided to purchase the skirt I’d been looking at and get out. I brought it up to the counter, and Beardy Cashier positioned himself behind it. “That’ll be $15.”

I handed him my debit card. He took it, but didn’t run it through. No, he just stood there staring at it very intently for what must have been forty-five seconds. Which is a long-ass time when you’re counting. He handed it back to me and said “you’re good.”

Uh. “What?”

“You’re all set. But I’m gonna have to ask you to wait just a few minutes for the security check.”

“The what now?”

“The security check. It’ll just take five minutes.”

I had already decided that “security check” must “please allow me to grope you now”, and I was looking for the heaviest antique within my reach when…the actual cashier came back.

suitIX

“I just had to run an errand,” he said. “Go sit down, buddy.” Beardy grinned at me and took a seat on one of the antique couches.

“Sorry about him,” said Actual Cashier. “He’s homeless. He just likes hanging out here.”

“Do you often leave him here alone?” I asked him.

“Just this once. I had to run to the post office.”

“In the future,” I said, “you probably shouldn’t. He was threatening to ‘security check’ me when you arrived.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” he said. “He’s just messing with you.”

Just messing with me?

suitXI

I mean, first of all, I commend the cashier for letting a homeless person hang out in his store. I really do. It was fifteen degrees that day. And being homeless and mentally ill, as this man almost definitely was, is a double whammy: it’s nigh impossible to find a shelter that won’t turn you away. I almost don’t want to say anything, because even if he is creepy, Beardy doesn’t deserve to be turned out into a Vermont winter.

BUT. For Christ’s sake, cashier. If you are going to let people watch the store while you’re out, especially people who don’t work there, you are responsible for them. You are responsible for doing damage control if they say or do inappropriate things. You can’t brush it away with “he was just messing with you”, because – fuck, how do I know that? In that moment, “security check” seemed like a real threat. Even if it was just in jest, it’s still not the kind of thing you say to a customer.

suitVII suitXIV

Anyway, when I told my dad the next day, he insisted on calling the store himself. After his earful, I think the cashier was appropriately chagrined. So I guess the real lesson here is that dads are great. My dad in particular basically embodies the adage “beware the anger of a gentle man”. His burn is slow, so when it finally comes to a boil, you know what’s up.

 

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