Saturday, 23 October 2010

Ladies in Waiting

They can be found in high class restaurants, organic vegan cafes, greasy diners and every kind of establishment in between; today’s post is a shout-out to all my waitressin’ sistas out there. Often underpaid and undervalued, I would argue that waitresses (and waiters, but this post is about the laydeez in particular) play an important role in society. Social interaction and, in particular, celebration have been conducted around food for millennia, and a good server can make that experience all the more enjoyable.

That said, waitresses are a varied as the menu. Some are attentive, pleasant and helpful, others rude, obnoxious or vacant. Some are professional multi-tasking divas while others are, umm, basically useless. Yet it could be hard to deny that the Waitress, at least in the West, is something of a cultural icon. Just think how many films there are featuring a waitress.

My first stint as a waitress was in a horrendously busy fish and chip restaurant at the seaside when I was sixteen which I had nightmares about for years later. Despite that, waitressing is a role I’ve come back to time and time again throughout my subsequent working life. My most recent waitressing position ended today (LONG story, but basically I quit due to issues I had with the management. Again.). My next job may be sewing related (I don’t want to say too much in case it doesn’t come to pass), but if not it may indeed be another waiting stint. I would be lying if I said the second outcome fills me with excitement, but it certainly doesn’t fill me with fear because #1) there are elements of waitressing I really like, and #2) if I say so myself, I’m really good at it.

Being a waitress gives you the opportunity to observe up close and converse with a wider variety of people than your normal day-to-day life usually permits. There’s also the feeling that you are directly contributing to someone’s enjoyment of one of the best bits of their day. Oh, and there’s the free food.

Probably the most iconic variety of waitress in Western visual culture is the US diner waitress. Their distinctive uniform styles, most notably from the 1950’s, have become synonymous with mid-century American popular culture. Key stylistic features often include contrast colour blocks, gingham, piping, wide collars, turned up short sleeves, aprons, accessible pockets and centre-front button or zip closures. As a fan of mid-century retro flavoured style, I have harboured a mild obsession for these uniforms and design elements for years. I know I’m not alone in this passion (hello frk.bustad?), many designers have used these visual cues for fashion rather than workwear intended garments in the past.


I plan to make a diner waitress inspired dress in the future, and by doing so I will be honouring the fact that, by serving coffee and witty banter in equal quantities, your waitress basically has the power to make your day better.

13 comments:

Clare said...

Good luck finding more work - I hope you find something fulfilling and sewing related. I just left my job too adn not sure what next but maybe not waitressing - I'm too disorganised! Really appreciate a good waitress though and loved that film with the waitress who made all kinds of pies (and the names she gave them!)

Tilly said...

Good luck, Zoe, hope you get a great job - you're a very bright and talented lady, you deserve something great.

Ah, waitressing. I have very fond memories of my stint as a waitress in a late night ice cream cafe one summer in Paris - best days of my life!

Carolyn said...

I love those waitress outfits! When I worked as a waitress as a student we basically wore black skirts and a white button up top, boring and not even very uniform as any old black skirt or white top was OK. These options look a lot more fun, colourful and interesting. And attractive.
Good luck with finding a great job. I hope you find something sewing related that utilises your talents!

EmilyKate said...

All the best finding something great! Anybody would be lucky to have you in a sewing, creating capacity!

I am in awe of waiters/waitresses actually. It's not something I think I could do. I would have the fear of not remembering peoples orders, or giving them the wrong plate and having them yell at me! Or dropping food! I used to work in the box office of a theatre restaurant, which had a vampire theme. The waitstaff had uniforms that were costumes, each had their own specific character, and many of them served the food while on platform shoes or spike heels. And they would have witty banter with the patrons, in-character. I always had a hankering to try it myself one night but never got the chance!

Minnado said...

How I wish I had worn a waitress outfit like the ones you pictured in my various waitressing jobs. My possibly worst uniform was A line royal blue nylon skirt one size too big so it hung at mid calf, with white and blue check shirt and to top it off a white plastic mesh trilby hat. I also had to wear white tights and my work shoes were some comfy old blue and white deck shoes. What a contrast with those fab dresses you show. Good luck with the potential job.

Alexandra Mason said...

Love the waitressing outfits. I have had a number of waitressing jobs over the years. I enjoyed them, especially the free food :) Have a great week xx

Mrs. Exeter said...

I love your blog :) I had a few waitressing jobs when I was younger - gosh, you learn a lot about people very fast, don't you? I think everyone should do a stint at some point in their lives - you never take service for granted again if you've been on the other side of the menu.

Good luck finding with your new job.

Fourth Daughter said...

While I loved the film The Waitress, I could never do it myself!! I have great respect for wait staff though!!
Good luck with the job hunt.. I'm looking too.. wouldn't it be great if us crafty types could just get paid to CREATE!?

frk.bustad said...

You're right Zoe, I love waitress dresses! I've never done any waitressing myself, but I have a glamorous perspective on it, especially the well-dressed ones. I believe (from having hospital work practice, wearing uniforms looking like pyjamas), that self-respect and appreciation of ones work may be increased by being well dressed.

Good luck with your next job!

emily said...

Ah waitressing, I just wasn't cut out for it. Now put me behind a bar and I'm on form. In fact, I always say, if barwork paid as well as my current day job I'd be on it like a shot... x

Psycho Sue- Sew Misunderstood said...

i am in love with diner dresses too. I want a blue gingham one like Mildred Pierce had (Joan Crawford).

Lisa said...

Totally random...but I found your blog on an image search for diner uniforms. I am trying to figure out where one might be able to purchase some uniforms at least similar in style to the 50's iconic look... any ideas?

P.S. I'm currently a waitress and I so hear you!

Anonymous said...

I am also in search of a 50's Diner uniform!! If anyone knows where to get them from or who is best to contact please leave details
Thanks

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