I currently work retail, selling expensive women's performance-wear. I get to wear sweat-wicking clothing all day, which is awesome. The store's mission is very lady-centric, which I like, and the women I work with and the customers I see all day are seriously awesome, strong, badass athletes, moms, and people in general.
I know that empowerment does not come through buying things. I've worked retail before, and even though my room is stuffed to the brim with t-shirts, I know that copious clothing is not necessary.
However, there's something a little different about performance-wear, and not just because to sell an $80 pair of yoga pants I must also know all the things that make the fabric special and whatnot, but that for most people, the clothing has utility. And through that, a lot of times I get to help women empower themselves that way.
For example, yesterday an elderly couple came into the store. I greeted them at the door, and she, wheezing, asked if we had sun-protective clothing. And then if she could sit down somewhere. I guided them to the back of the store where there was a sitting area outside the fitting rooms, got her color preferences, and got a few UPF 50+ coverups. Through working with this woman, I learned that she'd had surgeries and gone through chemo, and for the past few months, had been inside. She just got the go ahead to sit outside--as long as she stayed out of the sun. Her wheezing was because she and her adorable husband were working on her walking longer distances again. They had a house by the shore, so she ended up getting a t-shirt, a long-sleeved and hooded cover-up, and two hats so that she could sit outside with as little sun exposure as possible.
On other days I work with women who are losing weight, who are getting back into running after having children, or who are excited that they can find some clothing to exercise in that looks nice. A lot of it is very run of the mill, but I'm lucky enough that the store is small and lots of times I do get to hear these women's personal stories and help them find something that... maybe they don't need the way you need water to live, but something that makes them feel good.