What 22 year old doesn't want to look her best? I was entranced with finding beautiful creams and unguents to protect my skin from future wrinkles. I loved the ads in my Glamour and Mademoiselle magazines showing Calvin Klein's China red cosmetic cases - so chic and unusual. I took Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizer dramatically seriously in its frosted clinical bottle. I wanted Princess Marcella Borghese's rich brown swirling lipstick cases filled with 1978's lush rosewood shades. I vividly recall my sister and I going to the mall for Christian Dior lip gloss in Raisin. More than anything, I wanted White Linen, the fresh new Estee Lauder fragrance and I really wanted the pretty white dress Estee's model Karen Graham wore on the billboard outside my apartment. It was a heady time to be female, and educating and supplying me with all these lovely things were a group of well-trained salesgirls at the department store near where I worked.
These shopgirls always looked lovely in fetching blouses and full wool skirts, some with fitted jackets worn with thin belts on the outside. Hair, shiny and bouncy...nails, glossy in colors to match their lipsticks - they weren't afraid to look pretty. And they generously handed out small samples (one never had to ask - even if not making a purchase that day) and there were plenty of pamphlets and literature that was slipped into my bag so that I could "read up" and perhaps be enticed to make another purchase later. Their aim was to make sure I was happy and whether they knew it or not, they inspired me to smell nice and look as pretty as they did. It was never a grasping hard sell but more like a gentle persuasion, girlfriend to girlfriend. Afterall, they were working girls too and they knew what someone my age wanted and what would be an aid to all young women's birthright of beauty. There was no mention of who would ring up the sale to receive "credit". They constantly crossed party lines and cared not a whit.
In those days, I spent way more than I would ever dare admit. Now, I know exactly what works for me and I do a pretty good job of making online selections. But recently, I did visit a trendy makeup counter to look at a product for my style column. The throbbing music wreaked havoc with my peace of mind and the salesgirl was miffed she had to leave another counter to look for the brow pencil I inquired about. Her garish outfit bordered on vulgar and I wouldn't have dreamed of asking what lipstick she was wearing for it was deeper than the purplest purple. I sure do miss the shopgirls who conspiratorially leaned in and told me which line had what I wanted and then generously led me there. And how their gentle ways, helpfulness, and thoroughly feminine style inspired me.