Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

And Your Total Is...

I was going to go shopping today but I just didn’t have the stomach for it. I have to be in the mood to try things on and today I woke up and it was cold out. Even in a sauna-like changing cubicle there is no way I am taking off my pajamas. That would be because I would have been too cold to get dressed into outside clothes to go shopping in the first place. I have the luxury of staying in my comfy flannel PJs today and dammit I am going to stay in them.

I used to like window shopping and going to the mall for fun. I would browse and wander and peruse the racks of clothes without a care in the world. Now I shop like a man. I only go when I desperately need something and only then will plan an almost guerrilla type assault on a set number of stores where I might have the most luck. I have a strategy and I stick to it. There is no leisurely lunch or break of any kind. I go in, do my thing and get the fuck out.

So what made me change my consumer ways? Shopping for a living.

I have been a prep costumer several times and that means I get a very long list from a costume designer to buy supplies or clothes for actors. Usually the instructions are quite detailed and specific but sometimes they don’t really know what they want and you have to read their mind. The designer might say get something for a secretary. Or a hooker. Or a soccer mom. I would have read the script to get an idea of the character but sometimes your idea of what they would wear is not what the designer had in mind. So to cover your ass you have to get options. Lots of them. Something to cover every contingency. You might get the same blouse in several colours. Or get a business suit, a bunch of separates AND then casual options. Designers change their mind every second. Kinda hard when you have to read that mind on a regular basis.

So you shop and guess and then second guess yourself and then buy everything that might work and then buy it in a range of sizes. Once the outfit is picked by the designer you then have to take EVERYTHING back that didn’t work for a refund (stores LOVE YOU when you return several hundred dollars worth of merchandise) and try to track down several identical articles of what was chosen for multiples. Every costume must be backed up with several more exactly the same just in case something happens to the original. Or if they do stunts in it. Or if they need to age the costume for the movie. Stuff like that. That is why it is best to buy in chain stores so you can snap up every size 2 they have in the city.

I have had days where I have had to drive in terrible traffic for hours to go to every corner of the city to get those special brand of nylons the actress will ONLY wear in that ONE specific colour. And then run back across town to find that only pair of size 10 loafers available in the city inconveniently located in a far off suburban mall. I have spent hundreds of dollars on parking dutifully keeping every receipt so I can write it all down on my expense report at the end of the day. I have wept when a store said they had that impossible to find sweater in beige but their version of beige was really khaki and I was back to square one again.

Once I was shopping for wardrobe for a child actor and had to get the usual amount of multiples. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked if I was the mother of twins or triplets. I kept on explaining I was buying for a show but the next cashier or lady in the line up behind me would ask me again and again. I got home later that night and there was a message on my machine from VISA. I called back and they asked me if I had shopped that day, describing the bitchmillion stores in this one mall I had visited. I explained the situation and was surprised to learn that there had been a store detective following me throughout my entire shopping trip as well as out to my car to get my license plate. Apparently buying 3 pairs of identical sneakers and other such items was considered suspicious behavior. The mall security had called VISA on me. Jeeeez.

Here is another typical story. A designer had found a blouse in Banana Republic she liked for an actress. Except for one thing. She didn’t like the sleeves. So we had to track down every spare shirt in the city so the seamstresses could use the shirts to make new sleeves for the blouse. We literally bought every shirt in the province paying extraordinary sums to get these blouses FedEx’d to the office ASAP. So the seamstresses picked apart dozens of shirts to get enough fabric to replace the sleeves in the original blouses. I think there was maybe five or six of this shirt needed in total for the actress. This designer really liked multiples. Probably two or three would have been ok. So the shirts were re-designed and the actress tried them on. The designer decided she didn’t like the new shirt sleeves so we had to call every Banana Republic in CANADA to find 5-6 of these blouses in the right size with the original sleeves that had turned out to be exactly what the designer wanted after all. Except a week or two had passed and these shirts were mostly sold out in the size we needed. So we bought up every one we could find in any size available and the seamstresses picked them all apart and recreated the original sleeve again and sewed them on to the blouses. Seriously. This really happened. An $85 shirt literally cost thousands of dollars for the show. It turns out the sleeves where never shown as the actress ended up wearing a jacket. The scene the blouse was worn for ended up being about 10 seconds long. You really didn’t even get a good look at the stupid thing. Sadly, this is far too common in the film industry.

I have to say that despite the stress and angst I do like shopping for films a lot of the time as it gets me out of the office and I can play my tunes in the car as loud as I want. If your day isn’t too hectic you can secretly squeeze in trying on a great pair of shoes that you saw when buying boots for the lead actress. Just don’t let the designer see your personal purchases in your car. Mind you she probably bought herself an entire wardrobe as well as got a mani/pedi and a massage on company time that day. She probably managed to sneak those receipts though accounting too.


I would probably like personal shopping more if it was on somebody else’s dime. I should have stuck it out and become a designer.

15 comments:

Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

I'm so glad I'm a boy and we have all of 2 colors to choose from.

As someone who nearly always watches the special features on DVDs, I loved the behind the scenes post.

Squirl said...

Wow, this is always fascinating to me, to see these types of things behind movies and shows. It really highlights how much work it is, too. In a way it's glamorous, but a shitload of work. I can see why you're not much into leisurely shopping anymore

SassyFemme said...

All that for a ten second shot? Wow. I never would have even imagined it, seriously. The concept of shopping never struck me as stressful until reading this. I think that's enough to kill my love of shopping!

Sharkey said...

Ugh, no wonder you don't like shopping anymore. I don't think I could do it--I'd get too irritated with the people who had to have everything "just so." Who's gonna notice the frickin' sleeves, for crying out loud?!?

Sounds like more of a power trip than anything else.

whfropera said...

vK - I think I have to go throw up - you just reminded me ALL TOO VIVIDLY of 16 years of my life.

Except one thing - how about the cheap ass producer wo makes you tape the bottoms of the shoes fo rthe shoot, then peel the tape off so the shows can be returned?

And I NEVER had to use my own money - they always gave me a retainer to shop with.

MrsDoF said...

My widowed aunt was a seamstress who would have been doing all the alterations for the blouse.
It was her income to support four children, so she went along with all the changing of the mind and fashion.

I can't imagine having that much time in my car going shopping. I'm tuckered out just reading about yours.

Julio Cesar said...

I liked this post a lot...

Since I am a big movies fan, I usually like to know what happened behind the scenes to make the movie...

And got the "men's buying method" right: decide what to buy, where to buy it and when to buy it. Oh, and do it in less than 1/2 and hour! :)

Karen said...

All I could think of was, "So this is why we have to spend big bucks to see a movie in the theatre -- or have our TV shows cut to shreds to provide more time for ads."

But shopping for a living sounds interesting, if exhausting. So much better than being stuck behind a desk all day!

kalki said...

Well, now I know what I want to do with my life...become a store detective! I mean, that's just like being a SPY!! :)

Great post. I always love reading about your tales from this job. And the sleeve thing is so perfectly ironic.

fueltank said...

Shop like a man? What the fuck? You seem to have forgotten our many excursions around the city. Hmmm....

You know I love shopping. Fortunately I don't like buying much. Which is good, as I live in a world where money is almost unheard of.

Although that is about to change, a little. I have a job. No, really I do. I start tomorrow morning. No, I am not going to tell you where, but I will say that I am heading into the world of retail. For only the second time in my life. You may recall my first foray was a couple of years ago, when I took a seasonal job at Costco. I got fired before three weeks were up.

Will keep you posted on how long this one lasts.

Head Like A Kite Unknown, but my guess is It's So Noisy At The Circus

circe said...

Kranki, I was worn out just reading that post! I've gotten less 'shop happy' myself. Anymore, I just want what I want and then want to leave. I just don't have the time or the energy anymore. Fortunately I live in a kinda small town and my options are limited. I need to go tomorrow to get a few things for my trip and I'm pretty much dreading it. Hoping to make it as painless as possible...

hemlock said...

I'm totally a guy when I go shopping. My rib cage is this much too big to buy proper fitting clothes. And when I find that shirt? Boy am I happy. The same goes for shoes. Pain in the ass.

I think I could handle buying for someone else though. That way I wouldn't need to try stuff on.

eclectic said...

My husband says he married me primarily because I was the only woman he ever dated who hated to shop as much as he does! *heh*

I can't imagine having to spend that many hours trudging up and down through the racks - ugh! But you'd make a kick-ass designer -- look at the fabulous looks you've designed for Yoshi!!

True_Halcyon said...

This post merely makes me more curious about which films you've worked on- any chance you'll ever list your film resume here? Enquiring minds want to know!

Danielle said...

This is fascinating and scary all at the same time. Especially the shirt sleeve story. My word! No wonder movies are expensive.

It sounds like an incredible line of work. But also I can see where it would make you hesitant to want to go shopping for yourself or perhaps not hesitant, but where it feels like work.

I've never really enjoyed shopping until very recently.

I hope you were finally able to go and get some stuff. :-)