I knew right away that I was a fish out of water. The level of estrogen was almost palpable as I crossed the threshold of the automatic doors. There was no going back as the doors slid closed behind me. I was here for a purpose and I had to complete my task. I proceeded further in, noting a sticker that said ‘Voted Best of Boston’. There’s a local magazine that rates everything from Best Ice Cream to apparently Best Fabric Store. Its a big deal if a store gets this title given out each year.
I proceeded into the belly of the beast, reference picture in hand. I quickly perceived a feeling of futility as I began to realize just how large the store was and the variety of their offerings. Walking up and down each aisle, I searched. Dismissing bolt after bolt of fabric, I was quickly getting a better feel of what I did not want. Too thin. Too light. Too glossy. Wrong color. The inadequacy seemed endless. Finally, three quarters of the way through store, I came upon a section of dark heavier fabric. It did not take too long to find the jet black color for which I was looking. I stared at the three similar bolts of black for ten minutes until I came to the conclusion they were all the same material and color. I selected one of the bolts and removed it from the shelving.
Moving toward the center of the store, fabric in hand, I knew this was the moment of truth. I needed help and I was going to have to ask for it. I walked up to the large cutting table in the center of the section. An older woman and a younger woman were busily droning about, doing whatever it is that they do. I figured since this store had won a Best of Boston award, they must be eager about what they do and might have some interest in what I was trying to do. My mistake. I walked up to them and the younger woman took one look at me and walked off with a harumph. The old woman asked if she could help me and I responded in the affirmative, “uh Yes, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m trying to put this costume together [showing her reference picture] and I think this is the fabric I need for the middle piece around the waste.” I was waiting for her to give me some advice or affirm that I had made a good decision. Instead she glanced at it and said, “How much do you need?” I responded, “uh, its for that middle piece right there.” [pointing to the garment in the picture] She merely repeated herself instead of offering a most welcome suggestion. “How much do you need?” At this point, the younger woman had walked back, glanced at the picture and told the old woman, “Just give him a couple yards.” Barely acknowledging I was still there, the old woman measured off about 2 yards of material and handed it to me. “Here.” she said. I said thanks, but didn’t offer to return the bolt of cloth from where I got it. She could return it herself. I asked if they had any decorative drapery rope for my belt, and she simply pointed to another section and said, “Whatever we have is over there.”
I looked about, but did not see anything close enough to what I really needed. I took this as my opportunity move on with my day and headed to the register. Behind the registers were large frames for the Best of Boston awards they won. 1997. 1998. 2001. 2002. Hmm…Imagine that. No awards for the past 4 years.
As the automatic doors opened for me to exit, I felt emaciated by the rain, which made for a far better atmosphere than the one I just walked out.