A great salesperson helps shopper who wished mom still dressed her

The Baltimore Sun

I liked it better when my mother dressed me. I didn't have to think about whether I should attempt to match or contrast, or what shoes would look good with my selected ensemble.

My mother probably didn't have to think too long about it, either, because I had only one pair of casual shoes and one pair of church shoes. And when I did put on a dress, nine times out of 10 it had a nautical theme. My parents liked navy blue and white. It's very crisp and impeccable, reminiscent of a uniform. To this day, I gravitate toward dark blazers and white shirts. I probably would have been an excellent candidate for American Airlines flight attendant school in the early 1970s.

Which brings me to my point: A uniform might be really nice for a girl like me, who would rather go shopping for a laptop than a tank top, or go out in search of some decent snacks instead of decent slacks. It would be so simple, so stress-free, to put on the going-to-work uniform.

You might think that women already have that option with the classic business suit - but no! We have to "accessorize." What a nightmare. We have to restyle our suit with a scarf, or jewelry, or a belt, adding the perfect purse and shoes.

Now, some people love to shop. But I mostly like to sit in my office and stare out the window, waiting for something funny to occur to me so I can weave it into this column. For this I am paid very little, but it is a much more gratifying low-paying job than, for example, my summer stint as a uniformed gate attendant at Malibu Beach Club on Long Island when I was 16.

What a seamless transition back to the uniform concept and my angst about dressing myself.

Recently, I needed to shop for a new outfit because I was selected to perform in the Stoop Storytelling Series at Center Stage in Baltimore. I saw that they had a show coming up about love gone awry, so I simply searched the Janet's World greatest hits of horrendous and uncomfortable dates and picked one. Hmm, should it be the guy who was in a mime troupe and imitated a crab while I sat stunned on our beach blanket, appropriately speechless? Or the guy who took me to a French restaurant and then to the town carnival, where he insisted on riding the spinning teacups? No, I thought the winner was definitely the guy who showed up wearing a cocaine spoon around his neck. (You can listen to the story on my Web site, www.janetgilbert.net.)

So there I was, with a certifiable occasion and nothing to wear. My suits wouldn't cut it. Neither would jeans and sweat shirt, my usual uniform for staring out the window, waiting for funny to stop by.

I went to Nordstrom because I had heard that they have salespeople who could help shoppers like me who wished their mothers still dressed them. And I found the best salesperson, ever.

Her name is Elocin Ozzaredlac, spelled backward, of course, for privacy. I told her what I was doing, and she paraded through that store picking this and that off this rack and that, efficient and tasteful and just plain pleasant. If I hadn't met Elocin, I might still be wandering around Nordstrom, wondering if I should try something on.

I felt very comfortable, and I mean this in the most complimentary way: It was like having my mother with me, only she didn't pick out anything evocative of the U.S. Navy.

So I think I like shopping now, or at least shopping with Elocin. But I'm going to have to find a better job, if I plan on making it a habit.

To contact Janet Gilbert or hear podcasts, go to www.janetgilbert.net.

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