Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I've Been Sugar & Swanking for Years

When I think about it, I realize I've been Sugar & Swanking from the get-go. I've always loved clothes and make-up. My parents only believed I was really sick when I would turn down a trip to the mall. Speaking of shopping, when I was about 12, Guess? debuted their zipper jeans and I just had to have a pair. My parents didn't believe in spending $50 on a pair of jeans (who would have thought jeans would one day cost $250 or more?) so the answer was continually "no". Finally, on a trip to New York City my dad told me that if I could go 10 seconds without laughing while he tickled my arm he'd buy me anything I wanted. He knew it'd be the Guess? jeans - but looking back I should have gone for something much bigger and better. In any case, it took a few days until I managed not to laugh for a whole 10 seconds but when I finally did, we went over to Bergdorf Goodman to choose the jeans. My parents decided that I couldn't get denim, only a dressier pink pair, and I was only allowed to wear them to nicer events, never to school. I remember almost not wanting them, they seemed so dorky compared to denim, but I wound up wearing them whenever I could. (I finally got a hand-me-down denim pair from my friend, Jennie Burns.)

If I couldn't dress myself exactly the way I wanted, I could certainly dress up my Barbies. I'd spend hours playing with the tall, slender, beautifully coiffed dolls while chewing sugar-free bubblegum and listening to Michael Jackson, Billy Joel or Weird Al Yankovic. More than once did these sweet ladies find their plastic hair hardened and burned when I tried to further style their hair with a curling iron. But their outfits were always to die for!

Just yesterday an old friend, Sy Fischer, sent an email reminding me that I've always understood how to dress people, not just dolls. I met Sy and his wife, Joyce, in 1996 when I was working at Neiman Marcus in Atlanta during the Olympic Games. Sy and Joyce were living in Tennessee at the time but had come to town, not for the Olympics, but so Joyce could have surgery. Sy was so consumed with worry that he left his entire garment bag at home in his closet. They stopped off at the mall, found parking in front of Neiman Marcus and planned to walk through it on their way to a less expensive store where they could find a few new pieces for Sy to wear while Joyce was treated. That is, until they met me. I quickly took the Fischers under my wing and found Sy several reasonably priced and fashionable selections that fit him perfectly. We completely hit it off and began a lifelong friendship that includes regular e-mail correspondence and visits across the country.

Dear Jen,

What a WONDERFUL idea! How I wished I lived closer so I too could have you, once again as my ”personal shopper”. Do you remember how we first met? In Atlanta, 1996 (can you believe it?) when Joyce was scheduled for surgery and I was so nervous, I left my clothes hanging in our closet in Knoxville.

I’ll never forget it. We walked into Neiman Marcus on our way in to the Mall. As we walked through the Men’s Department, we were greeted by this lovely young woman who asked if she could be of any help. (That, of course, was you.)

I told her about my problem and said that I didn’t think Neiman’s was best place for me to shop for casual clothes that I would use only for sitting in the hospital waiting room. You told me that the store was having a great sale and asked if you could show me a few things. Off you went and the next thing I knew, here you were with everything I needed – and at very reasonable, sale prices. You told me that you could further accommodate us by having the needed alterations done in about an hour. WOW! Talk about outstanding service! Of course, everything you picked out was perfect and we bought it all. As promised, an hour later, we returned to the store and my clothes were ready for me to pick up.

I guess that helping people is just "your thing". I know I'll never forget it! Of course, from that day on, we have been best friends. Thanks for being a part of my life!



It was a treat to read Sy's email and know that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. We each have to find what we are passionate about and pursue it. To some I'm sure it sounds vain, silly or mundane, but I've always been passionate about using fashion and beauty to help others improve how they feel about themselves. Sugar & Swank is the perfect vehicle to help me continue to explore this passion.

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