Amanda had been chatting with Chloe (the Guildford store manager) and had come up with the idea that girls that go along to Surrey Swans might be interested in a Personal Shopping Experience.
September 16th is the date.
Myself, Amanda, Susie, Paula and Chloe (a different Chloe than the Guildford store manager) are the girls.
I collect sizes and clothing preferences from the girls and email them to Chloe (the Guildford store manager). These are passed on to Vida and Julie.
The plan for the afternoon is complimentary prosecco, a few hours of no obligation to buy anything clothing sampling and an hour devoted to makeup and cosmetics.
I arrive at Caffè Nero on the first floor of the store at just before 11:30 am. A trip to the right-next-door washroom later and I see Paula in line for coffee.
We sit and chat.
I send a text to Chloe and Susie.
There is no mobile phone signal.
And then there is.
It’s about noon as we take the escalator to the ladieswear second floor where the personal shopping suite is located.
Chloe is there already.
Julie says hello and introduces us to Vida. Amanda has met them several times before. I’ve met them once before.
The suite has been recently refurbished.
A glass of prosecco.
Julie has selected some things for Paula and Chloe.
Vida has done the same for Susie, Amanda and me.
Dresses and skirts and blouses and coats come off and go on. Come off and go on. Come off and go on.
I like the dress. Vida looks and goes to get the smaller size. The smaller does fit better.
As things come off and go on there’s a dress and blouse that I like.
Vida and Julie offer advice without pressure. Assist with zips. Manoeuvre between the shopping suite and the shop floor getting alternatives.
The only really challenging thing is the tendency that a wig has to come off in sympathy with blouses and dresses.
Amanda, Chloe, Susie and Paula make their own selections.
Lauren, from, Clinique arrives with samples.
Eyes and lips with hints and tips and explanations.
No pressure to buy.
Afterwards we chat. The consensus is that whatever we had expected from the day, the actual experience exceeded our expectations.
Heading for the car park, the alarm sounds as I leave the store. My thoughts return to a visit to the washroom at the end of October.
The security man smiles helpfully.
I wiggle my House of Fraser bag of clothes at the sensor. Nothing happens.
I wiggle my handbag. The siren wails.
I smile. I shrug.
He smiles. He shrugs.
I offer him a look into my handbag.
A quick inspection and he wishes me on my way.
My thoughts on the whole experience?
I think it is great that the people at House of Fraser in Guildford are so welcoming, friendly and accepting.
I felt that to them I was a person. A fellow human being.
I didn’t feel that they saw me as a trans person. I was simply a person.
And, for me, that is just exactly how it should be.
The thing … well one of the many things really … that I find so positive is that they made the effort to reach out and make it known that I was welcome just as me. As who I am.
It was clear that I, as a person, am welcome at the store at any time. If I need advice on clothing or on cosmetics then they are ready to help. I don’t need to be embarrassed or shy about it.
I know that I am also a potential customer and that it’s possible to argue that it would make no business sense at all for a store to make me feel uncomfortable. But there are businesses around that don’t see things that way.
So, for me, the afternoon was another step along the way. Each experience like this adds to my own sense of personal acceptance and confidence.
Chloe, Julie, Vida and Lauren have, in their own way, made a positive contribution to the lives of myself, Susie, Paula, Chloe and Amanda. And it’s by making differences to individuals that differences are made to societies.
Small days like this can make a big difference.
Here are a few pictures:
Andrea and Paula:
Susie sampling a dress:
Lauren touching up Susie’s eyes: