Pretty Women

I originally wasn’t supposed to get a makeover at all. I was invited along by our Managing Editor, Laura, and decided to go and see if I could get in on the offer too. Although my style is much more H&M and less Mark’s, I was having a particularly bad day and figured a makeover couldn’t hurt.

Before we were given our makeovers, one of the managers gave us a tour of the store and the lowdown on the new and improved Mark’s. What struck me about the store was how much Mark’s was pushing the practicality of their clothing. There were so many different gimmicks and “innovations,” it was kind of ridiculous. Some of them were really good ideas, such as shirts you never have to iron. Others, like a touch-screen monitor where you could watch Mark’s ads and look up flyers, seemed a little over the top.

However, the crème de la crème of these additions had to be the walk-in freezer, where you can test the durability and warmth of the clothing. As someone who is guilty of always choosing style over common sense, only to find myself waiting 20 minutes for bus in -30 C weather, this seemed like an idea worthy of the Macarthur Genius Grant.

When it came time for the makeover, I was excited to see what their stylist could do for me. But when I stepped out of the change room, it dawned on me that not much had changed. I’d come in wearing a long cardigan, skinny black jeans and boots, and came out wearing a long cardigan, black leggings and boots. Hey, wasn’t I supposed to be transformed, like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or something?

The hair and makeup portion faired better. I even got told my hair looked smokin’ once I got back to the office. Although I was wearing a hell of a lot more makeup that I usually do, I felt pretty smokin’ too.

I don’t know why, but I think a small part of me expected this makeover to be this wonderful, transformative experience, when in reality it was just a cool thing I got to do because of where I work. Makeovers are funny in that way. We watch movies and television shows where people change their lives with the change of an outfit or hairstyle, but in real life, a new hair cut is just a new hair cut, not a new person.

Oh well, at least I got to keep the clothes.

—Sarah Petz, staff

Stores exist to make money, to sell things to the public. That isn’t news to anyone, but it’s fascinating to see a close-up example of how badly stores in this economy want to facilitate these transactions. Each store needs to set itself apart as the sole place for customers to get their gear, but aside from offering good products, low prices or both, how can a business do that?

Mark’s brings the suggestive sell to a fascinating level with their use of gimmickery on the sales floor. Great, I can get a shirt that I don’t need to iron (Mark’s tells you to throw the iron out, never mind find another use for it, or recycle it), but how do I know if this jacket is actually going to be warm?

Mark’s makes it easy; step into their giant freezer to find out! When I’ve relayed this information to anyone who has not been in a Mark’s store lately, they don’t believe me: Mark’s has a walk-in freezer installed in six of its stores in Canada. This freezer has glass windows on three sides so that everyone else on the floor can see you as you experience a simulated wind chill of up to -50 C. You can adjust this wind chill, of course, if you don’t need a winter winter jacket, just a mild winter jacket.

What about my poor, bored feet? There is also a platform in part of the store, which rests on a 45-degree incline and features different surfaces like rocks implanted in cement, roofing shingles, linoleum and stainless steel. This allows you to test out the grip that Mark’s shoes will offer you when you’re out in the real world — except you’re not in the real world; you’re in a Mark’s simulation station!

When I participated in an international volunteer project a couple years ago, I remember my counterpart telling people in amazement that in North America, they have whole aisles in the grocery store for pet food! It’s food that you buy with no intention of eating it yourself; pet food exists for the sole purpose of pampering your dog or cat, and this is a commonly accepted thing in Canada. I can’t imagine trying to explain Mark’s to anyone else.

—Laura Blakley, staff

My one and only “makeover” was a fun experience but left me wanting more. Selfish, you say? Perhaps a little ungrateful? Dressed in a new outfit, my hair curled and a few too many layers of make-up — I was done up. But made over? Maybe not.

On the way down to Mark’s (previously known as Mark’s Work Warehouse), where the makeovers were taking place, I imagined what the new me would look like. 

I admit my expectations were a little over the top. The new me would have bright red hair, an impossible number of inches longer than mine is. She was taller, thinner and had green eyes — much more intriguing than my blue ones. She had dazzling white teeth and a French manicure. Her make-up was done just right — smokey eyes, dark red lips, lashes miles long — and her clothes were to die for. Not too much to ask, right?

In reality, the actual makeover portion of my time at Mark’s was much shorter than I had anticipated. I had thought the entire hour would be dedicated to primping me for my big debut. How silly.

Instead, the actual makeover portion of my time at Mark’s was rather quick and to the point. After a thorough tour of the store — the company rebranded in an effort to appeal to a younger, more feminine demographic — their stylist chose an outfit for me. Now, I could have told her what I had in mind but that would go against the idea of the makeover. Instead I was open to her selections of tights and variety of tops in bright colours and fancy prints.

Although the clothes she picked strayed from my usual style, I decided to try them on and see how they looked.

After dressing changing into a pant/legging/sweats hybrid, flowery shirt, black heels and lots of shiny jewlery, I turned around expectantly to the mirror.

Not quite what I had expected, but maybe with a little hair and makeup I would achieve my desired supermodel look. Sitting down, the women doing hair and makeup asked what I had in mind for my new look. I said I wasn’t picky with my hair and liked bright makeup.

While they worked simultaneously on me, I tried to take as few glances of myself in the mirror as possible in hopes of being surprised by my new look. In less than 10 minutes they stepped away and I got a good look of the new me. Maybe “new” me is a bit of an overstatement.
I was still the same Ashley I saw in the mirror each morning, except with a different set of clothes, my hair curled and much more makeup than I’m accustomed to wearing.

This was not the fiery red-headed vixen I had envisioned. My hair wasn’t longer, my teeth weren’t any whiter and my eyes were just as blue as before. Maybe it was one too many episodes of What Not to Wear that led to my unrealistic expectations of a makeover at a local clothing store.

What my makeover left me with was a cute new hair-do, a new outfit and my boyfriend told me I looked smoking hot when I got back to work. Who needs to be a supermodel anyways?

—Ashley Gaboury, staff