By: Revanche

Heaven help me, I found Theory

February 22, 2008

Ladies, gentlemen, have you ever been into a store where a salesperson took a look at you, sized you up, and starting excitedly pulling various articles of clothing from racks and the back room for your perusal? And then have him or her create completely unexpected outfits from a variety of shapes and colors to make you look more professional, chic, and I’m-not-really-trying than you’ve ever looked in your life?

Neither had I.

Yesterday, I wandered into a Theory shop just to look at the mannequin outfits more closely and meant to walk right back out. Instead, Bosses both followed me in, chatting about business, and started looking at things too. The salesman must have thought “Score! She’s got two sugar daddies!” and jumped right into chatting us up about sizes. It was the total opposite of a Pretty Woman-esque scene, except more humiliating because that place is v-e-r-y expensive and I had no intention of buying.

Instead of making my escape, I experienced the slightly mortifying transformation from my “twenty something in jeans, nice-ish $25 top, nice-ish on sale for $35 blazer, trying to look pulled together for actual professional job” outfit to a “chic, sophisticated, costs more than I make in two weeks but it’s so sharp!” ensemble. That’s right. We moved right out of the realm of outfits thrown together by a less than discerning eye into ensembles.

I know it’s his job, and all he had to choose from were high-end, high priced pieces to create the ensembles so the odds were stacked in his favor, but it was still disconcerting how quickly he managed to fill a sizable dressing room with pieces that individually cost more than the entire contents of my duffel bag for this trip.

I tried on this lovely beige jumper type dress with a series of buttons down the front and cute little kangaroo pouch pocket. He accessorized it with a pair of flats and a few belts, teaching me the four-square knot because “since Casablanca, no one actually buckles their belts anymore.” I’ve already forgotten how to tie the knot. *sheepish*

Then, there was this knock-’em-over-you’re-so-swank get-up. The trench coat alone cost $495. The tank top underneath that button down shirt cost $90. I can only speculate that the other pieces, the shirt, the pants, and the shoes, in between those two layers were also priced in between their prices because I didn’t dare look. Lightheadedness might have been induced by wearing my net worth in clothes 😉

While I was thoroughly impressed at the salesman’s ability to actually make me look put together, I was equally embarrassed that he was going to all that trouble when I couldn’t afford a single thing I was wearing. Oy! Admittedly, I wouldn’t go broke buying the tank top, or even an entire outfit, but there is no way on this green earth I was going to trash my budget to assuage window shopper’s guilt. I definitely felt bad for wasting his time, but I was still not forking over my rent.

I didn’t take pictures of the other dresses I tried on, but they were gorgeous and $300 each. $300!! Oh, a couple were $265. Little Boss had the audacity to say, “ohhh that’s not bad for a dress! If it were $400, that’d be too much.” As if that man doesn’t sign my paychecks! And Big Boss gave me a lecture on how $365 was a steal for the stunning, single-button, white suit jacket I’d found. A lecture! I wanted to shake them both. There I was, feeling rightfully guilty over a nearly $40 dress, and they were lecturing me on how this or that piece is an investment. Obviously I’d wear that trench coat for 20 years, I’d have to! But I can’t amortize the BILL over 20 years as well. Ok, I’m ranting.

Anyway. I swooned over a few of the pieces I tried, but it’s definitely tempered by the embarrassment of having to walk out because that’s just way too far above my pay grade. I could honestly say that I couldn’t decide what I wanted more because it was overwhelming, but it’s just not reasonable to spend that much in the name of looking professional. Not on this salary and with these troubles at home.

It’s customer service like that that makes it hard to resist the pull of lifestyle inflation and remember how much I love to think to myself “it only cost $not much.00” if someone compliments what I’m wearing. Someday, perhaps, I’ll have collected enough Macy’s gift cards to visit the San Francisco Macy’s and buy an “investment” piece made by Theory, but until then, it’s back to the more pedestrian shops (or no shopping at all!) for simple me.

8 Responses to “Heaven help me, I found Theory”

  1. Ms. M&P says:

    Cute! I love theory too. The best thing is that their outlet stores mark things down 70-80% so the clothes are affordable. You can also find some pretty good deals on Theory on Ebay. I’ve gotten some brand new pants (with tags) for $60 or so. I’m guessing that the sellers buy the clothes marked down at outlets and other stores and then sell them on ebay for profit. It’s fine with me since I can’t shop every outlet in the country!

  2. sabrina says:

    The nerve of those bosses, trying to sway you to spend waaaay more than you could afford! Maybe they have some kind of Pygmalion complex! BB certainly has refined tastes, so he probably appreciates women’s fashions more than the next guy, but it would have been insane to take his advice in that shop. Ninety dollars for a TANK TOP?? Glad you kept your sanity!!

    Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, and most of the other big department stores usually have great end-of-season sales.

  3. UH WHAT?

    We don’t belt buckles any more? What rock have I been living under?

    I adore Theory.. in theory. 😛 I haven’t actually been in the store, only Ebayed… but I’d love to try their items – they look fab esp that dress on you!

  4. Laura says:

    I’m very petite as well and it’s one of the few brands that fit really well. I get my theory stuff at department store outlets (I have found good deals at neiman marcus and saks outlets, have seen stuff at nordstrom rack too). It’s still expensive, usually like $70 for a pair of pants, but I actually do think the quality and fit are worth $70. I have actually found that theory outlets don’t mark down all that much.

  5. ~Ms M&P~ Oh stop! You can’t tell me things like that and not expect me to look for the shops! …… I’ve already found an outlet on the way to visit Best Friend. Drat!

    ~Sabrina~ You know, you might have something there. The wardrobe is still rather unsophisticated … if they start calling me Eliza, I’ll really know they’re up to no good! 🙂

    I’ve got some Macy’s gift cards and can get some more through my rewards points so I can take advantage of their sales.

    ~FB~ Yeah, that was a new one on me. I have to belt my black coat with sweaters underneath all the time, otherwise I’m a big puffy abominable snowgirl.

    I can’t really ebay because a close fit is so difficult to achieve.

    ~Laura~ I’ll take a look at both the outlets and department stores. The department stores are much more easy to get to, but if the outlets are better pricing, I might just make it an annual expedition combined with a visit to Best Friend.

  6. mapgirl says:

    Visit DC. Crash at my apt for free and I’ll take you to the Theory outlet just west of town.

    Quality clothes like Theory will last you a very long time. I still have a Max Mara suit, generously cut, from SF. I bought it in 2000. It was worth the $800 I paid for it because it because my interview suit and I’ve landed a good number of jobs while wearing that thing, putting my best foot forward. The only thing dated about it are the pointy lapels and the double breasted front. It still makes a clean line and a professional image.

    $350 is a lot, but is the cut trendy? That first dress looks like a standard sheath cut. If it is, I’d probably pass on it since you can find that cut for much cheaper. But if it’s fully lined in really nice material and you can wear it every week for 3-5 years, then it’s a good price. (Nah, in the back of my head, I want it for $200.)

    At any rate, Ms. M&P is right, try to find it on sale if you really like it.

    FWIW, when I had a crappy day at work in SF, I’d hop on over to Nordstrom’s and try on the Anne Klein purple label suits for a pick me up. I looked great, but it’s not a waste to the salesperson. They are making an investment in making you fall in love with their clothes so you buy it later. At least have the courtesy though to go when they are slow. (They work on commission in certain depts at Nordstrom’s. At least they used to.)

  7. Matt says:

    I’ve had that type of experience before its both uplifting and demoralizing at the same time. I once walked into a more expensive store to try a couple things on (I was splurging for no good reason). I was caught but the sales person and half an hour and 12 outfits later I still had my wallet intact (barely). I only got what was thinking of getting in the first place.

    Makes you wonder if the sales people like playing dress up with the customers.

  8. ~mapgirl~ Are you serious? That would be AWESOME. I’m already plotting how to make it happen. Things are going to be tight for a while, but I would love to do that. I’m going to put Theory GCs at the top of my hoarding list.

    Thanks for the pointers, I’ve always had a really hard time with making the call on clothes and how high quality they are vs the price asked.

    I think they still do work on commission in Nordstrom, so I definitely wouldn’t waste their time if there are potential paying customers around.

    ~Matt~ It looked like my sales guy was having a ball, really. But I couldn’t tell if it was because it looked like it’d be a huge sale or because he just enjoyed it. I think it was the latter. The former wouldn’t have hurt. 🙂

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