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.