The Queen of Saleswomen: 1887

"Are you being served, Madam?"

“Are you being served, Madam?”


An Artist in Whose Hands the Customer Was as Helpless as an Infant.

A conversation overheard; the speakers are feminine. “How did you come to buy those shoes? They are very handsome, but not at all your usual style.”

“Well, I’ve been pretending to everybody that I changed my mind about square toes, and that I bought them because I liked them, but I’ll confess to you that it was no such thing; I bought them because the saleswoman was clever enough to make me do it.”

“She must have been clever indeed.”

“Yes. I don’t wonder you say so; I generally take pleasure in declaring my independence of the usual saleswoman’s dictum. When she tells me what is the style, and what she is buying for herself, and what will just suit me, I wouldn’t buy what she recommends if I wanted it so much that I went to another shop and got identically the same thing; but the woman that sold me these shoes was an artist in whose hands I was but a helpless infant. To begin with, she was a bright, cheery little thing, and struck me dumb with amazement from the first by waiting on me as if it were a pleasure for her to do it.

“Then she brought out these shoes with the remark that she was so glad she had this one pair of this kind, for she knew they would fit me, as they had been made to order, so much better than the regular stock. How did it come that shoes made to order were for sale to me? Why the lady who ordered them had forced the measurer to take her measure too small, she was so anxious to have little feet, but when she came to try them they were impossible. She had gotten them so small that she simply could not stand up in them, but then what perfection they were on me; wouldn’t I just stand up and walk about in them; did ever any one see such a combination of ease and elegance? ‘Of course,’ she went on, ‘you never could wear a cheap shoe; they never make cheap shoes with that high arched instep. Look at others? Oh, yes, certainly,’ and she came back as pleasantly as possible with several pairs. But for them she had nothing in particular to say, and she had by this time, by her adroit flattery of my feet, inspired me with a respect for her judgment—you know we do so respect the judgment of the people that admire us—that I quite hung my decision on her approval.

“The flattery was of the most artistic kind; it was all said with the simplest, most unconscious air of stating a fact, and when she said how these broad toes made a small foot look smaller still, though they were too conspicuous for a big one, I surrendered and bought a shoe such as I never expected to wear. Of course, the fact is that they were ordered, and when they were thrown back on their hands they were too narrow to be generally salable. That queen of salesmen knew that they were the ones above all others to get rid of, and willy or nilly, so far as I was concerned, she sold them to me. But I flatter myself there are not three others in New York who could have done it; and I am willing to put up with a purchase I don’t altogether like in consideration of having found an agreeable woman.” New York Graphic

Columbus [GA] Daily Enquirer 14 October 1887: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil holds herself above the vagaries of fashion. A pair of good, well-polished shoes in which one can run one’s feet off from morning until night; something quiet and black to wear, an assortment of collars, cuffs, and pocket-handkerchiefs; appropriate outer garments for the English weather, and two serviceable hats: one for everyday, the other for formal occasions such as divine service and coroners’ inquests. Mrs Daffodil asks nothing more and in all likelihood would have been turned out of the shop by the Queen of Salespersons in a fury as Mrs Daffodil is impervious to flattery. As an aside–square toed shoes? Utterly déclassé. What one really wants is a New York opera toe in an elegant glacé French kid if one has any pretensions to be au fait.

One thought on “The Queen of Saleswomen: 1887

  1. Pingback: “An Inspiration to Watch You Try on a Gown:” Clever Modistes: 1893 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s