Monday, February 4, 2013

underdressed and overexposed; or, learning to shop like a big girl

I am not a Shopper. I do not understand Shoppers. I do not understand why anyone would willingly spend a day in the mall for fun. Malls are not fun. Malls are zoos. Malls are like the Sahara. I have seen women maul other women. It is a lion-eat-lion world, and I am not predatory enough to thrive. I am the lion who hides in her cave with a copy of The Great Gatsby. I am the nerd-lion. Shopgirls sense this and ask me if I am lost. Am I perhaps looking for the bookstore or the coffeeshop? Yes, I reply, gratefully, and they helpfully direct me back to my own kind. I take comfort in my espresso and The Catcher in the Rye. So what if I was here for a new pair of boots? So what if mine have the heel worn clear off? It is safer here among the cookbooks and self-help books. You are among your own kind. Do not stray.

When I am forced to go shopping, I make A Day Of It. There are no casual shopping encounters. If there are, I am going to either Target or the cookware store, which, I must add, is within walking distance of my current house--yet another reason why I'm sad to move. At this store, I can browse the grill tools, the tortilla presses, and the bakeware pans to my heart's content. I can drift from aisle to aisle, idly fondling garlic presses and dish towels, turning down help requests from the too-cheery aproned staff. Ah, this? This isn't shopping. This is drifting through a cloud of cookware. This is delightful.

But, sadly, as no one has devised a way to wear whisks and spatulas to work, I need clothes. I have avoided shopping for so many years I still wear clothes that I have had since I was in 9th grade. I tell myself it's vintage, but really, it's just sad. We have reached the end. The fiscal closet cliff. I have no choice. Thrift store pieces will only carry you so far. I am standing on the towering ledge of my closet, and I have no choice but to build a bridge.

Derrick is as almost as bad as I am. His dress shoes have worn soles and honest-to-god cracks; his shoes leak when it rains. He has dress shirts and surf T-shirts and absolutely nothing in between. His jeans are as frayed as they are faded. We are in sorry shape. We are young professionals now, we tell ourselves. We have to look the part.

So we go shopping. But not, as I said, "Let's just run out and look around." We tried that on the long MLK day weekend. Macy's is having a sale on dress clothes, I push, we should go. Just to look. Take back the Christmas things that we've been meaning to return. So we go. We take back the things. We head to Macy's, and women are everywhere. Crawling over the shoes, ripping things off racks, shrieking and shrillly laughing, all the while chattering, This is such a good sale -- would I ever wear this? -- is this cute or is this ugly? -- what's 20% off of $60? -- but I already HAVE  a mint blazer --  oxblood is soooo in this season. I'LL SHOW YOU OXBLOOD, I want to yell, IF YOU DON'T GET OUT OF MY GODDAMN WAY.

Shopping does not go well.

I try nothing on. In fact, I wind up fleeing to the men's department after a mere five minutes. Derrick circles the shoe department four times without trying on a single thing. "What kind of shoe are you looking for?" The salesman tries. "I can't explain it. I'll know it when I see it." 

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we dress in rags.

We end up buying a few light bulbs and a fine-mesh strainer at Target. We exit, defeated.

When we shop, we Shop. We are here for dress shirts, damnit, so let's buy eight of them so we never have to do this again. Let's buy five pairs of dress pants. I drag Derrick through the store, play interference with the not-helpful-at-all measure-you-wrong salespeople, encourage him to try on pants. I coddle. I plead. We leave with bags of dress shirts and pants and vow never to put ourselves through it again.

As bad as he is, I'm worse. Derrick pushes me through the store. Honey, you need clothes, remember? Just try this on. Do you like this? No, don't give up. I'll go get your size. How's it going? No, honey, they don't only make clothes for size-zero stickpeople from Mars. I think that's an armhole. I think that's a neckhole. I think that's a dress, honey, not a skirt. Yes, baby, I think these clothes should come with explicit diagrams, too...

And he's encouraging, even when I've tried on 14 pairs of jeans in 3 different sizes and none of them fit. Even when I've tried on dozens of dresses that are made for girls with no boobs or no hips or no waist or huge boobs or three boobs or clothing clearly made for size-zero stickpeople from Mars.

I've scored a few pieces from online shopping, where I can clearly see the measurements and know if something will fit (whether it'll actually look good on my frame is a different story). I've learned my "tells:" buy something with a defined waist or you'll look like a blob. A little skin showing in the neckline is good; a lot will make you look like a hooker. The longer the hemline, the better. If it looks like something a kindergarten teacher would wear, it's probably something you should buy.

But online shopping will only carry a girl so far. And I need boots. And I need more flats. And I need more...well...everything. How do you do it, women? Do you drug yourselves? Do you bribe yourselves? Do you get up early and shop right when the stores open? Do you wait 'til it's about to close?  Do you just get really, really, really drunk?

Tell all. I'm desperate.


  1. I've found another reason to come visit you because while I fucking hate shopping, I'm actually good at it when forced to do it. This is probably because while I'm a lioness who prefers to snuggle in her cave with a book, my claws will come out in a battle. And if ever there is something battle-ish, it's mall.

    *cue "Rains of Castamere"*

  2. And I would be lying if I didn't admit that I was suddenly struck by my level of freakdom in my linkage of shopping with "A Song of Ice and Fire".

  3. I like to shop, but I'm so not good at it. Although I do OK at thrift stores and consignment shops. I, too, am baffled by what would actually look good on my body. And the stores never seem to carry anything that looks appealing.

  4. I AM A F**KING CHAMPION OF SHOPPING. Department stores, thrift stores, boutiques, outlets... I make them all my biatches when I'm done with them.

    Please, Nicki - PLEASE let me come enlighten you, open you to a WHOLE new level of making friends with your materialistic side... more like "frenemies," which is even better, because you only have to deal with her when you need her and can talk smack about her when you don't.

    1) Make a list. A specific one. Not "a dress shirt" but a "crisp white button-down" - if the material is weird, if it's a shade of ivory, etc, MOVE ON. It's not what you want, you won't wear it, and it'll collect dust because you didn't get the right thing. And "because it's on sale!" should never be the main reason you buy something.
    2) "Big kid" clothes are an investment. Certain classic pieces NEED to be well-crafted and well-fitted and can't come from a clearance rack. Especially the boots you covet. You can layer the trendy/fun stuff with it, but your life will change when you find a black pencil skirt that was practically made for you.
    3) I'm sure Derrick means well, but leave him at home. Well, you can help HIM, but I've found John to only add to my anxiety. And never EVER bring your mother.
    4) If you have to convince yourself you like it, PUT IT BACK. And yes, you DO have to try everything on... I hate the dressing room, but it really will save you from buying things you think will work and then make you hate yourself when you get home. And you'll figure out what works and doesn't REAL fast.
    5) Don't forget you have technically four fashion seasons to work with, so you have a year to work in pieces and anticipate sales, while also slowly phasing out old things in your closet.

    Girl, I've seen your Pinterest boards, you have a wonderful sense of style - you're just going to the wrong places. I think making a day of it CAN be fun, especially if you sprinkle in a few activities you like - I usually treat myself to a fantastic lunch or happy hour... or both. When I shop it's usually because I'm on a mission, so I plan just like I would for anything else.

    You're in freakin' Boston, too - I have drive over an hour to get anywhere with a decent selection. Seriously. And you're just beautiful, so if you have to wear a burlap sack to work I'm SURE your co-workers will follow suit. Yes, Nicki - YOU have the power to be a trendsetter.

    1. this. i shop online a lot for shoes. iron fist has adorable flats (and amazing platforms that i can barely walk in). and as much as i hate to admit it, fergie's line of shoes are prett damn comfortable. wedges are your friends. always have a black shrug and at least one neutral colored cardigan. you can throw those over your sleeveless summer shirts to make them wearable year round.

  5. Sorry, can't help you much. I'm not much of a shopper, either--most of the time. Every now and then, though, I do feel the need to shop, and I'll get it all over with as soon as possible. :)

    Good luck!

  6. Celia is a freaking doll!

    First of all, how the hell did I miss this!?

    Second, 1000% what Celia said. I keep a shopping for clothes list on my iPhone. It has things like "tall black boots with medium heel"; "Mint shirt/pants"; "leopard flats". It helps me to avoid buying the things I don't need (t-shirts) and stay focused on what I do need/want.

    I shop rarely. But when I do it's one extreme or the other. Either I pick and choose 1 thing at a time over a few months, OR, I buy $100+ worth all in one weekend.

    I HATE trying things on. Nothing ever fits right. It's not curvy enough, it's too curvy and gives me extra curves... I can't win. Celia can take me shopping too. I need it!

  7. I agree, we need a girls shopping extravaganza with Celia in Boston. Let me know the dates, I'll SO be there!


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