Dressing the Mannequins

So, I find myself working at a women’s clothing outlet now. A female friend from high school called, and while I started out working in the stock room they quickly switched me over to the sales floor. I quickly got over what little self-consciousness I had left working for – and with – women all the time, and slowly I have been learning the fashion trade (I find this very amusing since I have spent so many years doggedly going against the grain and ignoring fashion). I now know that a “shell” is nearly synonymous with “tank” and “cami,” and once I can tell you what the difference is, I think I’ll have reached a new level of mastery.

I’ve managed to avoid going in head-over-feet for any of my coworkers, although I am building rapport (and there is one who is single, pretty, close to my age, and liked me enough to buy me some fancy ice cream… but I try not to read too much into things; besides, she’s one of my bosses). There has only been one customer who came off as genuinely flirtatious, but she was a hoot and she made the whole retail process fun. Aside from that it’s nothing but pure professionalism, which is as it should be. I don’t want a factor like gender to make life any harder than it has to be, and I don’t want to embrace any stereotypes if I don’t have to.

About the only time I feel self-conscious at work is when I dress the mannequins/bust-forms (torso only), and then it’s usually just a fleeting bit of silliness. It’s easy to anthropomorphize an object that is shaped like a person, so there’s a split-second when I suddenly feel that I’m being too publicly intimate and familiar with the mannequin/bust-form as I peel off a tank top or button up a blouse. Ridiculous, of course, but there it is. I swiftly quash the feeling and get on with my work, shaking off the sensation and telling myself there’s no reason to feel that way.

The moment comes
to change our cares
to strip away yesterday’s wares
naked canvas, Beauty more shallow than skin:
we’ve come to dress the mannequins.

This one gets silver,
This one gets gold,
This one gets scarf’d;
all are camisole’d.
Her size always fits
We Make It So;
there’s only Glamour,
it has to show.

We clip her back
crinkle the waist
use every trick to stay in taste
roll up her hollow sleeves and tilt back
only the Look must stay intact.

We gird her loins
straighten the seams
and fill our stalls with rayon dreams:
they aren’t afraid of leopard spots,
sequins, paisley or polka dots.

They stand in the breach
hearts on display
get called to judgment every day
for last week’s style,
for fear to die,
they follow when we say, “Come buy!”

Fill up the arms,
empty the heads,
send plebe and provost off to bed.
The next day starts, begin, begin!
We’ve come to dress the mannequins.


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