I treat thrift store shopping as a mystical experience, as a spiritual discipline.
Being somewhat of a mystic, and a massive optimist (see my post “curvilinear optimism“), I tend to believe that the Universe (or the Divine if you prefer) provides what we need to accomplish our missions in life as we need it (or immediately before).
Today I went to Goodwill and found four perfectly-fitting ladies’ business suits. All match my design ethic of “obvious femininity”—i.e., they are not simply men’s styles adapted for women. All have skirts, because, as readers of this blog know, I refuse to wear pants. All were well-made and extremely inexpensive.
The occasion is timely: I’m preparing to meet regularly with potential investors in the startup I contract with, representing the technical side of the company (I currently serve indirectly as that company’s R&D leader). Therefore I need managerial-level business attire, and a lot of it.
My optimistic, mystical self interpreted this Goodwill shopping haul as a “sign” that I’m “ready” for the business responsibility coming my way.
Asserting the Feminine
I stressed above the “obvious femininity” of the outfits. Feminism in the 1970’s and 1980’s urged women in corporate America to “act more like men”. That ethic led to women’s suit designs that really just mimicked masculine designs. (Shoulder pads, anyone?).
But diminishing the feminine to advance in the business world only marginalizes femininity in general—and makes many women simply unhappy. The truth is, while gender definitely moves on a spectrum at individual resolution, as a whole we can argue that women differ from men. We can argue further that that difference can (and should) add just as much value to the corporate world as masculine traits do.
So I for one will only wear business attire that screams “feminine”. I will not mimic a man. And I’ve taken a hit in corporate America for doing so… but I don’t give a shit because I know women are the future of business (but that’s a whole different topic).
Part of this practice goes back to my early days of living as a woman, where I learned quickly that to be called “she” I had to wear extremely feminine attire. In other words, I had to donate all my t-shirts to Goodwill and stop wearing pants. Now that my face has been surgically modified, my voice is higher in pitch, and my hair is longer I no longer experience this issue. But my memory proves long…
The corporation I hold majority shares in gives 10% of its income to secular charities. Goodwill Industries of San Diego receives most of it, and the cash donations are made through local stores. As a result, the staff of the North County Goodwill stores have come to know me, resulting in two unexpected effects:
First, recognizing that my personal style is almost entirely constructed from thrift store finds, they now seek my opinion on displays, which I am thrilled to give. It’s nice to be seen as a style authority!
Second, the women working in these stores have become familiar with the kinds of items I typically look for, so when I enter a store I can now find these women first-thing and ask for recommendations based on their knowledge of what has recently been placed on the racks. But they don’t just try to accommodate my style, they suggest their own ideas. This proves fun for everyone involved.
The money the business gives created this situation, but the fact that I’m simply nice to everybody nurtures it along.