I once negotiated a labor contract while wearing my dress turned inside out. I didn’t realize my mistake, but after we’d concluded our session, the negotiator from the opposite site of the table walked with me to the street. “Say,” he muttered as a motorcycle growled by, “I’ve been wanting to ask about that dress. I admit I know nothing about women’s fashion, but I’d swear you’re wearing it wrong. The label’s turned out.”
Looking down, I saw the stitches on the seams and the hem were exposed. He was right. I’d risen in such haste that morning, I hadn’t noticed my mistake.
I could have bluffed. Told him wearing a dress inside out was the latest style. Instead, I laughed and admitted my error. The man looked relieved as he laughed with me. “As a negotiating tactic, it worked. I kept wondering about that dress the whole time we talked.” He paused to toss me a crooked smile. “Because with women’s clothes, I never know.”
What may have made him insecure was the label: Saks Fifth Avenue. I’d bought the dress at a fire sale. The gentleman didn’t know that, of course. All he understood was a Saks Fifth Avenue item didn’t come cheap, and so it had authority.
I once knew a woman so fixed on labels, I’m surprised she didn’t wear all her clothes inside out. She wasn’t rich. She just bought brands to encourage people to think so.
Fortunately, an old luxury item is regaining its popularity, one most people can afford. Soap. In England, alone, sales have doubled. (“The Littlest Luxury,” by Justin Ocean, Bloomberg Businessweek, July 23, 2018, pg. 69. No matter the price, at the soap counter most people can afford a splurge.
Buying a bar of soap appeals to our respect for the planet, too. No plastic. Nothing but nonpolluting oils that connect us to our senses and to nature. Creamy or implanted with exfoliating mica, it turns a simple shower into an affordable indulgence.
The only drawback for the class conscience is that the embossed name soon wears off. And, you can’t wear the wrapper.