Tina Paulick gives us her experiences of going shopping as a visually impaired person and recommends using personal shoppers to embrace the latest fashion trends.
I’m not exactly a fashion enthusiast. I obviously want to look well and feel good about myself, but easy maintenance and practicality always come before style. When I moved to Ireland, I could no longer bring my mum a bag full of ironing every weekend. She gave me a precise list specifying which items could be washed together and at what temperature they had to be ironed and suddenly I was on my own. I gave up the good intentions of separating and ironing my laundry in the second week; colour absorbing tissues had to do the job and all the blouses and skirts, which definitely had to be ironed, were banished back into the suitcase. Jeans, T-shirts and jumpers became my best friends.
I wanted to bring a bit of variety and colour into my wardrobe this season. Shopping in general, whether it’s for food, household stuff or clothes, does not rank high on my list of favourite activities. I can think of tonnes of things that are more fun than wondering aimlessly around a gigantic shopping centre, full of stressed people hunting for the latest bargains.
Being visually impaired doesn’t make it easier. I have to take every item out of the shelf and hold it really close to my face or even use a magnifier to see what it is. Apart from people staring at me, this is very slow and frustrating. Initially, I was ashamed to ask for help and bought whatever I could identify. I ended up with rather random stuff in my trolley and if I was really unlucky, I got meat pizza instead of the vegetarian version. After a while, I overcame my pride somewhat and now I get the shop assistants to help me. Most of them are very friendly, but in places like Aldi it can be hard to find someone. More upmarket places like Tesco do home delivery.
I enjoy clothes shopping with my mum. We are having great fun laughing about some of the more ridiculous fashion trends and I know she is honest when something doesn’t suit me - sometimes even too honest. But my mum is also the conventional jeans-type, so I ended up buying similar clothes twice a year when I was home in Germany.
I have seen personal shoppers on TV, transforming slightly uncomfortable looking participants into completely new people with the help of high-maintenance haircuts, lots of make-up and pretty clothes nobody would wear in everyday life. But my boyfriend had used personal shoppers before and was very happy with the service and encouraged me to give it a go. In fact, he made the appointment in the biggest New Look store in Dublin; otherwise, I would probably still be talking about doing it.
I was very nervous and self-conscious in the beginning. I showed the lady who was helping me some pictures of clothes I liked from the New Look website and half expected her to shake her head in despair, saying these styles don’t suit me. Of course she didn’t. I managed to say that I want to wear something more adventurous and elegant than jeans and off we went through the fashion labyrinth. I took whatever she suggested. "No harm in trying," I thought. While I liked some pieces at first sight, I would have never even thought of trying a leather skirt for example. Surprisingly, it looked really good and I bought it. It’s one of my favourite skirts now and it doesn’t have to be ironed.
I had a whole changing area to myself and actually really enjoyed this shopping trip. We had a great chat about what colours and styles go together and it almost felt like a shopping trip with a friend. I realised that I had been too hard on myself when it comes to what goes with what. I’m a perfectionist, but as my granny says: “Nowadays, almost everything goes together”. The challenge with skirts and dresses is to find matching shoes I can walk in, but we managed to find a pair with relatively small heels and like everything else, it’s all about practice.
Since I don’t want to go shopping anytime again soon, I bought lots of stuff. That way, you can make sure every top goes with every skirt, instead of buying single pieces, only to discover that you have nothing to go with it once you get home. I would definitely recommend availing of personal shoppers for everyone, visually impaired or not. It’s fun, efficient and full of surprises. A new style can make a huge difference and I got only positive feedback from my friends. The shop assistants are passionate about fashion and helping customers is a welcome break from stocking shelves or standing at the till to them.
I’ll definitely be back in the winter season, but shopping, whether it’s food, household stuff or clothes, does not rank high on my favourite activity list.