I spent twenty years teaching in a high school in Phoenix’s inner city. During that time, my students and I had constant battles concerning the dress code. I did understand their frustration. We all, myself included, want to wear what we like and what’s comfortable. But the point of the dress code, I explained, was to prepare students for the fact that in the real world they would often be asked to wear certain clothing to work.
Choruses of, “That’s not fair!” and “I’ll wear what I want!” often drowned me out.
“Look,” I would say. “When I was in television, every time I moved to a new TV station, I was immediately sent to a consultant, where my clothing, hair, makeup, and jewelry were scrutinized. I’d then be informed that my “look” would need to be updated.”
“You could’ve said no,” some child would share.
“And then what do you think might have happen?”
“You be fired?” someone would say.
“Exactly! So, when they asked me to change my look, I did. I never argued or complained.”
However, on one occasion I did protest in a not-so-subtle way. It was when I first got to ESPN in 1990. I’d been hired to anchor SportsCenter, a venue predominately peopled by men, most of whom had no idea what a woman should wear on camera.
“You need to go into New York. Your appointment’s at noon tomorrow,” my boss informed me. “You’ll be meeting with some people at Burgdorf’s.”
My ears perked up at the mention of the fabled Fifth Avenue department store known for its high fashion and even higher prices.
The next morning, I surveyed my closet. I knew exactly what to expect at Burgdorf’s. Think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, when snooty sales people refused to wait on her and intimated that she should leave because she was not their type of client.
Despite knowing better, I pulled out a pair of black jeans, a black turtleneck and a black leather jacket. Keeping with the theme, I donned a pair of soft black boots. While I did put on black-and-silver earrings, the overall look was that of, well, a biker chick.
Why I did I do this? ESPN was the fourth TV station to hire me as a sportscaster, so perhaps I was just tired of all the fuss. Or maybe it was the memory of the station that insisted I perm my hair. I battled those Shirley Temple-esque corkscrews for months. Or maybe I was just obstinate.
I felt fine on my Amtrak trip into the city and as I walked up Fifth Avenue past all the pretty store windows. But, when I stood before Bergdorf’s, I stopped and considered my appearance. There was no doubt my sartorial choices were not in Bergdorf’s ballpark. Still, I took a deep breath and entered those hallowed halls. Chandeliers sparkled from above, lighting goods arrayed like artwork in a museum. A hush descended, as if I’d entered a church. Pretty saleswomen spoke softly as they hovered around well-dressed customers.
I stood for a while, unsure of where to go. I thought someone might offer to help me, but no one did. In fact, they didn’t even look at me. Eventually, I located the right floor and approached a saleswoman. “I’m here for an appointment.” The woman scanned me from head to toe, but I don’t recall her speaking.
“I’m from ESPN. I have an appointment.”
“Just a moment.” She walked away, her face blank.
I busied myself looking through a rack of jackets and gasped at the prices.
“You are Anne Montgomery?” A voice behind me sounded incredulous.
“Yes, I am.” I beamed her a smile.
What followed was hours of putting things on and taking things off. The number of saleswomen multiplied over the course of the afternoon. Then, a serious-looking lady approached. “We’ve had a call from ESPN.” (Yes, this was before most people had cellphones.) “There might be a story you have to cover and they want you available for a live shot.”
I felt queasy. My hair was pulled back in a ponytail. I had no makeup with me. And, of course, there was my biker-chick attire.
In an instant, those women were on me. I felt like Cinderella preparing for the ball, only with a host of fairy godmothers. They’d dress me in one outfit, shake their heads, and pick another. Then another, all while I continually checked the clock. No one said when the live shot might be.
Then someone tut-tutted at my hair and a stylist appeared. My silver earrings weren’t right and someone arrived with a handful of jewelry. I recall my nails were atrocious–a constant state with me–but there was no time for a manicure. “If you can hide your hands, do.” Someone suggested.
When they finally spun me around for a look in the mirror, I might have laughed, had a live shot not been looming. I was still brand new to ESPN and I didn’t even know what the story was about. The thought of going live on camera under the circumstances was making me ill.
“Ms. Montgomery.” I turned from the mirror. “Your news director just called. Your live shot has been cancelled.”
I let out a long breath and noticed that all the women looked a bit deflated that their handiwork would not be on broadcast display. As I changed back into my biker gear, they bagged up my purchases. The women all smiled sweetly as a left.
The price tag for my afternoon at Bergdorf’s came to just over five thousand dollars, which today is almost ten grand.
It’s funny, don’t you think, that no one seemed to mind my attire on my way out the door.
A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND
AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.
Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint
Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.
Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.
Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?
Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb
8 thoughts on “A biker at Burgdorf’s”
Even today men presenters and men politicians for that matter, just wear suits and of course comfortable shoes, while the ladies must constantly have to plan what to wear each day. Now I guess the men still have to think which tie to wear, choose a smart suit and decide hairstyle and shaving regimes, but it must be easier.
I do not miss having to dress for work at all, TS. What a pain in the butt. And men don’t generally have to wear make-up, except on camera, but it’s not as elaborate as what women have to do. Give me shorts and a T-shirt anytime. 😉
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I love it! Great story. You have to write a book of these adventures.
I’m glad you liked it, Sherm. It was a strange life I was living back then. Not like the normal one I live now. 😉
Julia doesn’t hold a candle to you, Anne! Fun story! When’s the movie coming out? LOL!
Now there’s an idea, Sharon! 😉
Did ESPN pick up that tab? Just wondering.
Of course, Catherine! 😉