Thursday, 22 September 2016

Beauty Uniforms aka Dinner Ladies on counter


After my Love Letter to Beauty Departments earlier this month, I've spent quite a lot of time in department stores. 

Beauty Halls are an ever-changing machine, space is at a premium and brands spend a fortune on installations and keeping things fresh. Selfridges changes its counters more frequently than M&S rearrange their food department.

So here's my question: why don't they do something for their poor members of staff stuck in outdated, polyester, 80s uniforms that rather than scream 'Hi Lovely Customer! Respect me, trust me. I'm a professional!', pathetically weep 'Lord Have Mercy I hate this uniform please don't look at me.'.

Years ago I worked for a well-known brand for about 6 weeks. This particular brand has the theme of red running through their marketing/uniform. In my time with the company I wore my uniform maybe three times. It was always 'at the cleaners'. Bad Caroline. I couldn't do it. I would turn up for work in a fitted head-to-toe black suit with red lips and nails and a sleek ponytail every day, and told the staff they could do the same. Bad Manager Caroline. The department manager and store loved it. Our sales went up. Staff were noticeably happier in their work. And more comfortable. In our uniforms we looked like tomatoes. Sweaty, polyester-armpit tomatoes. No.

Tabards. Oh tabards. The less said about them the better. Burn them. Leave them with the dinner ladies, at least they protect their clothes from kids throwing food. No danger of that with moisturisers. Customers can be awkward but they generally refrain from throwing a product at you. 


Therapists. When did it become au fait to stick us in these things:


Look at this lovely lady. Stuck in a wraparound-tabard-from-hell and polyester elastic-waisted trousers. Sweaty, uncomfortable, hot, ugly. 

Which brings me to......


When I was in Harvey Nichols last week, the new department was shiny and brand spanking new. Brands had used real innovation with LED lights, massive installations with video content, iPads, everything modern. And in the middle of it was Clinique. 
Please, for the love of reality, ditch the white lab coats. Unless of course you've started employing lab technicians or doctors without telling us.

Although I suppose it could be worse. You could be an air stewardess in the 70s.







*this post was inspired by two separate conversations with buying directors from the biggest department stores in London. It's not just me being a grumpy ex-counter girl. ;)

26 comments:

  1. Clarins lol. The only thing I wold say is that for some working on counters is a relatively low paid job and having a wardrobe of smart black clothes may not be achievable.

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    1. I'm not saying NO uniform, I'm just saying NOT THESE! LOL

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  3. I agree.. let's face it, the cosmetics industry is very much about appearance. So why would they make their staff wear unflattering clothing? Just seems at odds with the industry that is all about making people look & feel their best

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    1. Or unflattering make up .... My Brand is making everyone wear a super deep navy smokey eye this Xmas season, which makes us all look dead and scary. Only one of our girls can pull it off!

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  4. 100% correct.
    I used to work for a brand (that shall remain nameless). Every year when they launched their 'Xmas uniforms' at conference, the head office staff or....'Higher classes' as we called them... Made a display of wearing the uniforms as everyone left the auditorium.i
    They looked MISERABLE and UNCOMFORTABLE....And the pained smiles still haunt me to this day
    #smartcasualalltheway

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  5. I have never met a standard uniform that was flattering ever. Every job I've had with one I counted down the moments to get out of it, makes you feel a bit less than everyone else.

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  6. Honestly, CLINIQUE COME ON NOW. I was thinking the same thing when I was at the counter sniffing Calyx the other day. I think all black attire is perfect for the beauty floor - no stains and easy to spot a staffer. The white lab coats are awful!

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  7. I would love to design a uniform for beauty counter staff! The tabbard reminds me of scrubs. I mean who wants to feel like they are in hospital when they're shopping for make up? Imagine a little Coco Chanel inspired neat, chic, simple, flattering ensemble.
    Bobbi Brown staff could wear a crisp white shirt with jeans. Clinique staff could wear beautiful grey toned layers. Tom Ford staff velvet Tuxedo jackets! Why not?

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  8. At my local department store all the cosmetic floor sales associates wear black suits that they choose. Some wear skirts and jackets, others slacks and shirts. Everyone of them looks neat and respectable. Of course, I have my favorites among them. The ones who think of me when a product I might like comes in, or one who will call another store if the item I want is out of stock and have the item sent to me. The ones who know what I like and gently urge me to try new things, but when I say it's not me, they don't push.

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  9. Anyone can easily find a smart black outfit on a budget...there are plenty of budget friendly options out there. And it looks much better than those alternatives. The salesperson should almost feel like a friend - making you feel comfortable enough to hang around for a chat. Lab coats make most people run for the doors.

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  10. I think this everytime I see the poor Clarins girls in head to toe red - its so outdated! They need something chic-er, more youthful!

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  11. Head to toe black would make it so much better... Use to work in boots and I looked like a nurse, so uncomfortable, nothing worse than polyester uniforms...

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  12. OMG! So true!!! I have had to wear these polyester numbers for my roles in perfumary too!! I so hear you!! Maybe we should start up a petition!!! You up for that??

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  13. Having spent most of my adult working life in a uniform of some description I sympathise. While all the designs have been fug (of course) why the polyester for everything? Why not natural, breathable materials?! I never quite managed the not looking sweaty just glowy look. I always looked a sweaty mess. Many of the beauty uniform are intimidating and off putting rather than making them look friendly and approachable.

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  14. A few months ago, I went to the closest Benefit counter to get my brows done and all the staff was wearing neon wigs in celebration of some new release or something. Asked the lady doing my brows if the wigs were hot. Her response "yes and also very scratchy" poor people.

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  15. Haha, I'm currently trying to argue and refuse the idea of new uniform/tunics at my spa, the senior therapist thinks beige would be a great colour.. No thank you, with my brown skin tone? I don't think that's a good idea

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  16. Is it really that bad? Here in Germany the lovely people working at the counters do wear uniform, but more in the black suit style than in the 70s air stewardess style.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

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  17. LOL. And as a young person shopping for beauty, the strange nurse-like women in white lab coats and dated red suiting can be frankly quite terrifying! Black outfits would look so much more stylish and approachable.

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  18. You forgot to mention the monstrosity that is the Origins uniform. Mushroom coloured baggy belted safari jacket...

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    1. OMG yes!! Origins is THE worst. I worked at Clinique the lab coats are such a pain to keep white, I preferred it to Lancome though as the dresses were at least comfy. So many sleezy comments from men... Argh! My last counter was Bare Minerals and there was chat of ditching the black for something that's "never been seen on the beauty floor before" I guessed white shirt and jeans, need to stay tuned for now.... Great post Caz! X

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  19. Try to wear a nurse uniform one size fits all!! Vile 😨

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  20. I occasionally do beauty agency work (which is like counter cover, fragrance launches etc). I HATE that we are told to just wear all black I think it looks morbid and horrible. So black skirt/trousers and a black long sleeved top. I always break the rules and wear a black dress and bright lips to bring it back to life. I think it looks intimidating and not beauty counter at all!

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  21. I work for Estée Lauder and it's so amazing I can FINALLY have my tattoos and piercings on show with no issue- The new uniforms feel like such a sweet release from the old ones- I'm so happy because I finally feel like I can really talk to my customers without being super uncomfortable trying to cover myself head to toe- provided the girls are all really well groomed I don't see why not ! X

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  22. Thank you Caroline for giving a voice from experience!
    I am a freelance MUA for a global luxury brand, in So CA, and we have to wear 3pc black (pencil skirt or pants, top with a jacket--business style). It is never pretty when you are 'glowing' (read: sweating) while working on a customer. Sadly, some of my fellow artists just do not understand what dressing appropriately for the brand means (leggings, sad cardigans, etc.), so maybe that is why some companies just hand them the uniforms?
    One important point you mentioned (from your experience), is that the black wardrobe in combination with the professional grooming boosted the bottom line...which is what these stores and brands focus on, so there is value in having this conversation .

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  23. Hi Caroline,thank you so much for writing this article. I'm a beauty therapist and have been working in the industry for 14yrs. The uniforms they make us wear are so uncomfortable and unflattering, even the black one's. I can't understand why they still insist on using such cheap materials which make one sweat & trap all the smells! It's definitely time for a change!

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