Stranger Than Fiction – No, Really

I have so many notes and stories from my part time job that it could honestly be a book.  And I bet I could do it.  Turn all that living into a book.  In fact, a good friend of mine mentioned the same thing in a text today… and in this case; truth is definitely stranger than fiction.

If you have ever gone shopping for a dress for a special occasion, you know that it isn’t like popping into the Mall and picking up a little something to wear on a Friday night.  Regardless of whether you are young, old, fat or thin, that special dress usually means a Big Headache, tons of stress, more dollars than you counted on, and at least one pitcher of Margaritas.  Honest.

I have been working part time at a specialty dress shop for 3 years now.  It’s called “Fashions by Penina”, and it is on Main Street in my town.  Could you get more perfect than that?  A pink house on Main Street in a nice little suburb that sells dresses.  It’s almost Wisteria Lane.

But it is so much more.  It is a dream that has been 30 years in the making, dreamed by a lovely woman named Penina Gould.  She dreamt this dream and made it come true when she was already 50 years old.  Imagine – starting something completely, totally different from what you have done, making your dream a reality – at 50 years old.  No wonder she is our muse.  She still comes in every Saturday, at 80 years old, and she runs circles around us, while looking like she stepped out from the latest edition of “Vogue”.

The shop isn’t only a dream come true.  Our big pink house is also a place of magic.  Women come through our doors and want us to be magicians.  They want us to help them look the way they dream of looking on ‘that big day’.  Their daughter’s wedding.  Their son’s wedding.  A gala event that will show the world their husband is at the top of the ladder, and they are his biggest asset.  You name the event, and I will have a story of a woman who came in wanting to be beautiful.

Wait – the story doesn’t stop there.  It is a tale of tragedy, too.  Stories of women who come to us in tears, because they have been told at another shop that they are too big, too heavy to find a dress.  Can you imagine telling the mother of the bride that you can’t find her a dress because of her weight?  How can women do that to each other?  Or the bride insists that her stepmother wear the ugliest dress in the store, while whispering and smirking with her mother and bridesmaids, and all you can do is hug the poor woman and hope it gets better at the wedding.

You hear all the stories, all the tears, all the fears.  Who hates their future daughter-in-law?  Who just finished chemotherapy and hopes she is cancer-free.  No two stories are the same, but all our ladies have one thing in common: Some days, I feel like I should have the phrase “I Hate My Arms” tattooed on my forehead to save time…

To set the tone, I think we should have the theme from “Mission Impossible” on the stereo.  Some women come in with so many requirements that the entire Spring collection for New York Fashion Week couldn’t satisfy them.  They don’t really want to shop that day, they don’t really want to be there, and they don’t really want to go to the event in the first place because they hate how they look.  Two hours later, and they have discovered that every dress in the store isn’t what they want, and it’s all your fault.  (I love women who have a ‘vision’ of the perfect dress in their mind … or at least, I think there’s a four letter word in there somewhere…)

That’s just the highlights.  There are so many other things, both sad and humorous, that I could add to make the story come alive.  The message, however, would be clear:  The best job in the world is one where you can play dress up every day, and help other women feel beautiful.  Because when you put that perfect dress on that customer, and she looks in the mirror, and her face seems lit from inside like a million fireflies – you know you just made magic.

What would I have to do to turn my nonfiction notes into a story?  All I would have to do is close my eyes and type.  The story is already there.  Maybe, someday, I will tell it to you all!

Sandi Tuttle is the host of the Blog Talk Radio show “An Average Woman in a Superwoman World” (


About homebadger

I own and operate HomeBadger Creations, Inc., maker of hand made wraps, shawls, ponchos, scarves and tunics for women of all ages. Custom orders are always welcome!
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9 Responses to Stranger Than Fiction – No, Really

  1. If you do decide to “tell all”, I’ll be right there. I am going to be in NJ for a few hours the end of this month – it’s a place I normally don’t go to – I should see how far I am from that shop. I applaud your shop for carrying larger sizes but if I could make a comment…..I went to the web site and everyone pictured is nice and skinny – not at all like so many of us in today’s real world (myself included).

    • homebadger says:

      Wow! Really? Here in NJ? How cool would that be to meet up?! Marlton is about 4 miles from Exit 4 on the New Jersey Turnpike – everybody here positions themselves by what exit they are near… It’s a Jersey thing…

      We would LOVE to picture real life people as models, but mostly my boss uses the pictures from the manufacturer catalogs – saves on paying a photographer, and most of our ladies wouldn’t let us take their picture anyway… damn camera puts on those 10 pounds we all worked so hard to lose… but I would applaud any of our designers who would actually show a real sized woman in their dresses! I think the world needs to go that way!
      Thank you so much!

  2. Lisa Cherry says:

    I think you definitely have something there….and I lkove the fact that you get so much happiness from seeing the faces of the happy and delighted. That’s nice…

    Lisa x

  3. I would help you write THAT book! 🙂 It would certainly speak to our inner-female. We are so inundated by visions of rail-thin women in magazines that we all feel like our flaws are BAD. To show those flaws to the world and scream, “I am PROUD to be the best woman I can be!” would give women everywhere a power they never realized existed. It’s those whispering, conniving, mean people that would get the brunt of it. Think about this scenario:

    A woman who has struggled with the way she looks learns to accept herself and her beauty for what it is. She is beautiful on the inside, and when she accepts herself and quits nit-picking, she sees her beauty on the outside as well (trust me, it shines through). She wears a sleeveless dress, appreciating the freckles she has. She dons her dress and heads for the bus stop.

    Three women who look like supermodels are nearby, whispering behind their hands at the way she’s dressed and putting her down for showing those freckles to the world.

    Because the woman has accepted herself and loves her freckles, she doesn’t cry. She is secure in the knowledge that THOSE women are wrong and secure that she is more beautiful than they are. Because truly beautiful people don’t judge others and don’t judge themselves. So, she smiles at the women and compliments each of them in turn. How do you think they are left feeling?

    I think a book like that would help women realize that we all have flaws and should embrace them with love, rather than letting them ruin our mindset. It may also remind us that grace is something we should never EVER lose.


    • homebadger says:

      I know that woman. Maybe not the freckles, but the rest of her. I know her fears and her confusion. And I know how she feels when she finally realizes that she is beautiful. Thank you, Jo, for seeing what I see! Maybe I will write it… it would be nice to help even one woman from making the same bonehead mistakes I’ve made! Big hugz and thanx!

  4. Sandi, I think you have hit on something. It would be wonderful if you were able to follow up on it – Size 18 Rules!. Would be even more wonderful if I could have my “a ha! I’ll write about THIS!” moment. I hope this challenge will help with that.
    By the way, where I will be later in June is about 60 miles from your town. I have to go somewhere else immediately after (it’s a family event) so it won’t happen this time. But, famous last words “maybe one day”. And, while I am communicating with someone living in the Garden State, do you know how to pronounce Cheesequake? (as in Cheesequake State Park in Middlesex County). My enquiring mind, from my last visit to NJ, would love to know. I even wrote a blog post about it a couple of years ago.

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