TAKING fitting for granted–Building up customer's confidence–Fitting room courtesies–How to measure–What to observe–Selecting the right garment.
GETTING a reluctant customer into the fitting room is one of the corsetière's most difficult and most often recurring problems. With customers who have not been in the habit of having their corsets fitted, it is usually a case for building up their confidence both in the process and in you.
Most experienced corset fitters have acquired certificates of training at some time in their careers, and it is a good idea to display these quite prominently, in worthy frames, above the counter. Brief, clear statements that the staff are trained and competent to carry out fitting are also worth having on view–but do not hide them in the fitting rooms, where they can only preach to the converted! Have them outside in the showroom. They will help invaluably in giving assurance to undecided and timid customers.
When the customer has looked at garments over the counter and intimated that she would like to buy one, say to her, "Of course, you will have it fitted, madam?"–and take it for granted that she will. If she says "No!" and asks you to measure her over her clothes, say, "Certainly, madam, if you wish it. But they will not be correct measurements and I cannot guarantee that the garment will fit you." Tell her, politely and kindly, if it is the rule of your store not to change corsets because of their intimate nature.
Explain to the customer that there are considerable graduations of difference between waist and hip fittings and that if you are permitted to fit her properly you will probably be able to give her a garment that is perfectly correct for her size and type. Point out that to find out what her exact fitting is will always be a help to her in future buying.
It is tactful, too, to mention that she will be fitted over her undergarment, in a warm, comfortable and very private room, by a specially trained corsetière.
You will soon discover whether the customer is against the idea of fitting altogether, or merely reluctant to have a fitting on that particular day. If she is persuaded of the principle, but fitting at that particular time is not convenient for her, suggest an appointment at some other time to suit her.
The main thing, in either case, is to gain her confidence and make her recognize that you yourself are thoroughly accustomed to dealing with the undressed female figure. Your own attitude is the key to success or failure. You should be friendly, but never gushing; confident, but never arrogant; persuasive, but avoid badgering like the plague.
Once in the fitting room, the customer is invited to undress to the point where she is clad preferably in no more than one thin garment of underwear. She is, of course, askedmost particularlyto remove any corset and brassiere she may be wearing. You will leave your customer while she undresses and say, perhaps, "I'll leave you to get ready, madam, and be back in a few minutes."
While you wait for her, you collect together your tape measure and your pencil to note down her measurements as you take them. After a moment or two you will doubtless hear the customer put down her corset, and you will know she is almost ready to receive you.
Knock on the door and, pausing, say to her "Are you ready, madam?" At her invitation to come in, you enter quickly and quietly, and here you must be prepared to sum up her figure with a professional glance. And a professional glance takes in everything, though the customer herself must never be aware of scrutiny.
First, you must measure her, and this is not so simple as the uninitiated person might imagine. Here, in learning to measure, is the key to the art of corset fitting, for a fitter who measures carelessly or without due understanding of how to measure will never find the right foundation garment quickly, if at all. At once, ask your customer to stand with her back to a long mirror and facing towards you. This is so that while measuring her you can see what' is happening to the tape measure at her back. Ask her to put her heels together, because if she is standing loosely with her feet apart you will not get a true hip measurement.
Take the bust measurement holding your tape measure with the one inch end in yourlefthand. Place it firmly across the customer's back and bring it round the bust in a straight line. Look in the mirror while you do this (Fig.28 (a) ).Ifthe tape measure slips down at the back, as it may if a silk vest is being worn, start again.
Bring your tape measure firmly round to the front of the figure, measuring at the fullest point of the bust. Some teachers will tell you to stand slightly to the left side of the customer and to take the measurements at the side, others that it is better to hold the one inch end of the tape at the depression between the breasts, and to bring the tape round to take the measurements here in the centre. Either method is satisfactory, but do not have more thanone fingerinside the tape measure. The main points you must watch are that the tape measure does not slip down at the back, and that it is evenly placed all round the figure.
Take the waist measurement by placing the tape measure across the back at the natural waistline, that is, where the back curves in, bringing it to the front of the body so that it lies snugly on the figure and in a straight line. One finger only is necessary inside the tape measure while the measurement is read (Fig. 28 (b)).
Be careful when the waist measurement is being taken that the customer is breathing naturally, otherwise there will be no accuracy in the measurement. Some people are nervous when undressing in the presence of strangers and instinctively hold their breath, and others will do the same through vanity. Unless the waist measurement is taken while the customer is breathing naturally the garment chosen will be too big or too small.
Take the hip measurement at the heaviest part of the buttock line. This means that the tape measure is placed on the buttocks at the point of greatest protrusion. In some figures this development is low on the buttocks and in others it is high. When the tape is firmly in position–this is watched carefully in the mirror–bring it around the body to the groin in a straight line. Be careful not to let it slip off the buttocks (Fig. 28 (c)).
When measuring a figure with very heavy buttocks and heavy curved thighs, it is wise to slope the tape measure so that the thigh development is included in the hip measurement. But if the buttocks and thighs are flat, just bring the tape round in a straight line.
Ask yourself whether the customer is long or short in the trunk. You measure trunk length, mentally, of course, by studying her length between the shoulder and where the buttocks curve under to join the back of the thighs. Height has little to do with trunk length. Many people are long in the legs to compensate for a short trunk. Do not let this mislead you.
If you think of fitting a corselette, be specially careful to note the length between the root of the bust and the hips. In corsetry, this is termed torso length, and if you find her a corselette that, though fitting her elsewhere, is too short in the torso, it will either drag down her bust or pull up at the back.
Now and again, of course, you will have a customer with a figure characteristic that makes taking her measurements a little difficult. If she has a very heavy low bust you will have to drop the tape measure at the front slightly to take in the fullest part of the bust. If she has that roll of flesh in the groin which corsetières know as a pendulous abdomen, then you must drop the tape measure when taking the hip measurement and measure under the displaced flesh so as to get a true hip measurement.
If you follow these tips in measuring the customer you will have an accurate basis on which to make a selection of the customer's foundation, and the rest of this book is written on the assumption that you will take measurements this way, will write them down and learn to understand all their implications. They can tell you much, but taken carelessly they can mislead sadly. Measure always with slow, deliberate care. It will be amply repaid.
To many women corset fitting is still a comparatively new experience, and one fraught with some embarrassment. The corsetiere must understand this, and where she has a comfortable fitting room with a door that can be locked, she has a great advantage. The customer will like to be left alone to undress, but not left waiting alone once she is ready.
Having taken her measurements, it is often a good idea to slip her coat over her shoulders and settle her in a chair while you retire to seek the suitable corsetry for the fitting. An air of professional competence, which puts the customer more at her ease than anything else, is readily demonstrated if, because your measurements have been correct, you bring in the garments of the right size and proportions for her figure.
Remember, when you retire to search your stock, that a customer whose flesh is soft and ample will usually takeasize smaller than the tape measure says. A customer who has a large frame and firm, sturdy flesh will take at least the measurement she measures and sometimes an inch larger. Remembering this and all the other points made above, select two or three garments, and whenyoureturn, knock on the fitting room door before entering.
The way in which you put the corset on the customer plays a very important part in putting her at her ease. A customer can tell by the way you handle her just how competent you are. Remember, then, these first rules, whatever type of garment you are fitting.
Placeachair in front of the mirror and about three feet away from it; sit down on the chair with the customer in front of you with her back to the mirror, so that your knees when together are close enough to the customer for her to feel their support. This takes away any feeling of being pulled about which she might otherwise suffer. Work from this position always. Never kneel to do up a corset.
Detailed instructions for fitting the various types of corsets are given in the following pages, and these should be studied and practised until they become automatic action, leaving your mind free so that you can study your customer's figure, talk to her, and give her your full attention.