A Letter From the Shop Girls/Grrrls
by Bevin Branlandingham
Re/Dress NYC was a one of a kind shopping experience where each plus size customer was invited to feel good about their body and shop for fabulous clothes no matter where they were on their road to self acceptance. Being a Shop Girl/Grrrl in this environment has been a distinct experience full of dance parties, love, and sparkly garments among many other things.
We spent our days cheering as customers popped out of the zebra tents wearing something new to them, hugging their body in a new way or simply a show stopping dress they had no business buying but wanted to anyway. We helped time and again end long searches for something to wear to an upcoming event our customer spent days/weeks/months stressing about. We put back garments again and again and were so excited when things that lingered found the perfect home. We were the first to try out the new leggings after Deb found them in LA and dubbed them Teggings because they were a perfectly odd and magical hybrid of tights and leggings. We spent hours of every day carefully poring over sacks of clothing to curate the wacky collection of unique pieces and basic styles that made up the tens of thousands of pieces that we’ve sold these three years. We planned parties and happy hours, fund raised for passion projects and filmed a dozen news segments. Fat people having style was in the news a lot.
We saw the same amazing regular customers often enough that they became friends. We would sometimes find something that came in so perfect for them we would set it aside immediately. We dressed countless Dolly Partons for costume parties, along with Billie Holidays and “Anyone from Mad Men.” We made videos, answered anonymous questions about style, and did elaborate photo shoots to help our Re/Dress social networks be as alive as the store was.
To say that the Shop Girls/Grrrls of Re/Dress NYC are sad about the store closing is just as complicated as our racks and racks of vintage dresses. For me, personally, it is really difficult to say goodbye to something that meant that we could be ourselves at work politically and personally.
As a way to commemorate some of our most precious interactions with our customers I spoke with each Shop Girl/Grrrl individually about what their favorite customer interactions were.
For me I loved seeing people challenge themselves. Getting a customer to embrace some wild and outrageous piece--like a music note sparkle sweater, a black leather coat with silver appliques or anything Quacker Factory was really heartwarming. I would like to think Re/Dress added a bunch of flamboyance to the world that wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for us. I also really enjoyed doing full wardrobe hauls for people--we had a new customer come in after we advertised a Groupon who surprised herself by basically buying a new wardrobe. Sending someone into the fitting room with a full rack was always really fun.
For Glenn, his highlights were “Fat teenagers, cross-dresser realness, teenagers who shop with their moms and get to feel good about their clothes.” He elaborated, “Re/Dress was a safe space for anyone who is big in their body and big in their gender to get dressed and look amazing.”
Taueret liked being in community with other ferocious fat fashionistas of color. “The store was really important to me because it’s cool to see people’s style grow from the first time they walked through the door to now. Especially young folk.” We have a couple ofmother/daughter combos that are really special to Taueret. “I like them because watching her daughter’s confidence in this space has really inspired the mother’s journey to love her body and not try to pass along body hatred.”
Chavon also loved the mother/daughter tenderness wrought by Re/Dress. “One time there was a thin mom and a fat daughter that came in for a birthday outfit. They ended up buying a whole new wardrobe for the daughter because it was so supportive and the outfits were amazing. The emphasis was on things being bright and sparkly instead of darker/slimming clothes. Re/Dress changed up their whole shopping dynamic. They now come in fairly often.”
Bunny described a scenario that was a perfect Re/Dress surprise. “There was an older woman who was here from Germany. Her husband had passed away and one of her last days here she slipped and fell and broke her arm. Just trying to entertain herself she came in and asked me to personal shop for her. She was so specific about what she was willing to try. It ended up being this electric blue leopard print Torrid dress and it looked so amazing on her. She was so fierce, independent and happy to find a space where she could do her own thing and express herself through her clothing. During that time while I was helping her in and out of her clothes because of the broken arm she told me her life story. It was one of those moments where I realized we were creating a real safe space for people--helping them feel whole.”
Leslie said it is impossible for her to pick one scenario of customer situations because through her work at Re/Dress she’s connected with many people and made many friends. What she finds a reoccurring theme when she thinks about our clients she thinks about the women who come in who have some sort of body dislike/self-hatred, some kind of hang-up that they can’t get over, (OMG I can’t wear stripes). “Being in a store that encourages people to wear what makes them happy and feel good it allows them the freedom to be liberated and start making changes to their selves and encourages them to wear what they want to wear.”
Thank you to Deb for being brave enough to roll the dice on this amazing space and for pouring yourself into it for five years to make it happen. And thanks for hiring a bunch of performance artists and letting us be part of the personality that made this place so incredible.
We are going to miss Re/Dress so much, we will miss all of you, your sparkle and your willingness to be brave with your fashion and your bodies.
Keeping Up With The Shop Girls/Grrrls:
Glenn Marla is a performance artist. You can check out his new theatrical piece My Wife’s Ass at http://www.mywifesass.org and come to the benefit for MWA at Re/Dress on November 16 at 8pm.
You can still shop with Leslie! Leslie is available for styling, personal shopping and wardrobe consultations. To book an appointment, contact her at email@example.com or go to lesliemedlik.com To get updates on her upcoming endeavors and projects connect with her on her facebook fan page: Leslie Medlik http://www.facebook.com/pages/Leslie-Medlik/141563599265895. Leslie and Bevin are working on a body positive pop up shopping event called Double Chin Win. You can find out more information as we have it http://queerfatfemme.com/doublechinwin/
Bunny is on the board of Students Active for Ending Rape, SAFER. www.safercampus.org
Bevin is blogging at queerfatfemme.com and produces a monthly body postive dance party called Rebel Cupcake on the 2nd Thursday of the month at Sugarland in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. http://www.queerfatfemme.com/rebel-cupcake
She is also looking for a general practice law firm that would like to bring in her existing Real Estate Law practice and her eight years of transactional attorney experience, www.bestlittlelawfirm.com.