Needed: New Duds

I loathe shopping for clothes, which is why I rarely do it. On Saturday, for example, I’m going to a cocktail party for which I’m quite certain I should wear a cocktail dress. However, I do not own a cocktail dress, nor will I buy one. Why? Because it would involve too much time wasted in front of full-length mirrors in bad lighting, which usually ends with me in tears and empty-handed. Instead, I’ll dig something out of the back of my closet and try to dress it up with jewelry. (FYI, this rarely works well.)

The other day it struck me just how infrequently I shop and just how desperately my wardrobe needs updating. I was looking at old photos from a college party, and I realized with horror that I had on the same shirt I was wearing in the photo. From college. Taken circa 1995, meaning the shirt was at least 13 years old. That’s longer than the entire time I spent in elementary, middle and high school.


Then on Monday I was wearing a sleeveless shirt around the house and Chris remarked, “That shirt still looks good on you.” Still? I thought. Wait, how long have I had this shirt? And then it hit me: I bought it (and pants to match) at a Lerner NY in the Aviation Mall sometime in the early ‘90s. That store moved out of the mall a decade ago.

Oy, again.

So. I decided I should throw out (and by that I mean give to Goodwill, pipe down you Greenies...) most everything that was in my closet before I got married. That’s nearly nine years, which, ya know, is still sort of pathetic but, hey, Stacy and Clinton aren’t here to tsk, tsk, so neither should you. Plus, some stuff is timeless. Get off my back.

Anyway, that’s why I headed into the nearest Belk department store yesterday armed with a “Get $10 off when your purchase totals $50” coupon and a mission: Find some new summer shirts.

I don’t usually shop at department stores; I rarely shop anywhere but the outlets, actually. But the coupon wooed me, as did the fact that Belk is 3 miles from my house and with an 11-month-old whose afternoon nap time was closing in, the proximity of the store to the crib was key.

As with everything in life now, bringing a baby on an errand adds a whole new dimension of low-level stress. Kostyn was happy to sit in the cute little umbrella stroller we’d bought recently, but the thing was built to complement a person whose frame is no taller than 5-foot, 5-inches. I’m 5’8”, and trust me when I say that three inches makes a big difference when it comes to stroller handle height.

So, hunched over and pushing a babbling baby, I entered the store and headed straight for some clearance racks, which I hate picking through. Two minutes in and I was already grumbling.

We meandered for a bit, searching aimlessly for my “section” and realizing that it doesn’t exist. I’m not a “Junior” or a “Young Miss,” but I’m not a “Today’s Woman” or a “Petite” either. Where are the clothes for fairly fit 30somethings??? I’ll tell you where they are not: They are not in department stores. I’m not sure they exist at all.

I was starting to realize why I’d hung onto the clothes I owned for so long.

But then I had some luck, plucking a few tank tops off the racks to try and finding a display of $10 T-shirts in the Juniors department that looked like they’d fit. I grabbed one and steered Kostyn into a dressing room.

I took off my shirt (which I’d calculated earlier that day to be a respectable 3 or so years old) and Kostyn kicked his legs excitedly, momentarily thinking he might be getting a snack. He was not. Instead he got a hanger to play with as I tried on the few things I’d found. One tank top fit. Success! Tried the T-shirt and it fit, too. Long, but not too long. Form-fitting, but not too tight. V-neck, cap-sleeved. Not trendy, but stylish. 100 percent cotton, machine washable. Manufactured in this decade. And at 10 bucks, it won’t matter much if my son stains it with his slobbery, mealtime strawberry hugs. Sold!

This isn’t bad at all, I thought as I put my (not too terribly) old shirt back on.

As if reading my thoughts, the baby started to whine and squirm. I wrapped a toy around the harness of the stroller and wheeled him back toward the T-shirt display to pick up one more T. While I studied the colors, he detached the toy and threw it on the floor. Back in the purse it went, and out came another toy, which immediately made the same journey: Kostyn, floor, purse.

The whining got louder. I gave him a cracker. Picked a second T. Slightly bent over, hanging onto three shirts, a purse, a baggie of crackers and an increasingly annoying stroller, I headed for the tank top rack. I wanted to grab one more of those, too, but the only other one in my size was a shade of green I didn’t trust. I hadn’t worn that shade since I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and it wasn’t a good look.

I gave Kostyn another cracker and debated. Another cracker. Searched through all the other tags, just in case I’d missed another Small.

Another cracker. Brought the green shirt over to a mirror to hold up in front of me. Didn’t help. Gave Kostyn a Cheerio, which he did not want. At that point he didn’t want a cracker, or Mommy’s keys, or a toy off the dirty floor. He wanted out of the stroller.

He started to cry. Loudly. I took him out of the stroller, piled the shirts into the stroller, grabbed the green tank (reasoning that I’m 30 pounds lighter than the last time I wore this color, so it has to be better) and headed for the register. Hunched over.

I gave the girl my four shirts and fished the “$10 off” coupon out of my purse. She rang everything up and looked at me apologetically.

“I’m sorry, but the coupon is to get $10 off a $50 subtotal, and your subtotal is $49.96.”

I said nothing, just stared back at her waiting for her to say “Just kidding! I’ll give you the discount.”

She didn’t. So I said, “Are you serious? I’m four cents under, so you won’t honor the coupon?”

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I can’t.” I stared again, waiting for her to put either her customer service cap on, or her common sense cap on. She did neither.

“What I can do for you is give you 10 percent off the T-shirts, that’s a separate promotion we have going in the Juniors department. So that would be about the same thing.”

“The same thing?” I asked. “Ten percent is not the same as $10. The T-shirts are $10 each, so that’s a buck off each shirt. Two dollars off is not the same as $10 off.”

She looked at me like I had three heads and was speaking a foreign language.

“I’m not sure what it would be, let me ring it up and see.” She rang it up, then looked back up at me like I was a math genius. “You’re right! It would be $2 off.”

Kostyn dropped my sunglasses on the floor, ripping out several tangled hairs from my head in the process.

“I think I’ll just go get another T-shirt, that way it will basically be a free T,” I said.

She clearly didn’t comprehend this logic either but said, “Um, ok, I can hold these shirts for you here.”

Swell. Did I mention how much I hate shopping?

Off I went, hunched over, looking like some sort of dyslexic mother with the baby in my arm and my purse in the stroller. Back to the Juniors department clear on the other side of the store. Picked another T-shirt, threw it in the stroller, wheeled the whole thing back to the math-deficient cashier. My back was starting to hurt. She rang everything up again and looked at me like I’d just done a magic trick for her.

“You’re right! It’s almost the same exact total as it was without the other T-shirt. It is like getting a free shirt!”

In an unbelievable display of restraint, I managed to not roll my eyes, snicker or raise one eyebrow at her. This, to me, was just as impressive as me finding five shirts to buy. I simply smiled, put the baby back in the stroller (with my sunglasses — and large chunk of hair still attached to them — as distraction), punched in my pin number and high-tailed it out of there.

The baby fell asleep on the way home, then woke up and refused to nap in his crib. But I got five new shirts, which shatters my previous record of three articles of clothing purchased in a single day.

Lessons learned: 1. Shopping sucks, but once in awhile it’s really, really necessary. 2. For the love of God, try out a stroller before you buy it.

(Seriously, though, if you see me in 10 years wearing a gray cap-sleeved, V-neck T-shirt, you have permission to kick my ass.)


Hedgehog said...

I'll be your personal shopper. How much does that job pay?

Robyn said...

Ya know, when I was wandering around the store I thought "What I need is a personal shopper. Someone who actually doesn't mind doing this. I wonder how much they charge."

Name your price.

Sheila said...

As I mentioned to you on the phone last oh man, do I feel your pain (about the shopping part, not the stroller part). Ironically, I just posted an entry about why I continue to wear my ridiculous peacock-logo fleece. Because I refuse to shop for a new, real, spring jacket!!

Kim said...

Seriously? You wear a size small in the Junior department?

I have no sympathy for you. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

It's reassuring to hear I'm not the only one who feels this way about the experience. Why are there no clothes for women between 25 and 50? It is really ridiculous.


Lauren said...

I detest shopping as well. I could go grocery shopping every day, but to buy clothes - ugh, I do it once every few years.

Maestra said...

1. You know you're a Mom when you think, "Wow, this shirt is great, I'll buy it in multiple colors!" instead of, "Buy three of the same shirt, are you kidding?!"

2. We all know you are the most classically gorgeous person and make the friggin' 15 year-old shirt look fabulous and "upscale retro" while the rest of us are struggling to pull off the designer dud we broke the bank over to have something decent to wear to the event.

3. I agree with Kim, size small in the Junior department, no sympathy...

4. ....except for the shopping with babe issue, definitely worth having Chris take an afternoon off for next time.

Heather said...

Try Target.

Robyn said...

For what it's worth, the Smalls were the tank tops, from the Ladies department. Not Juniors.

Also, as I was grabbing a third T-shirt JUST to get the discount, I was thinking "I can't believe I'm buying three colors of the same kind of shirt. I'm such a mom." There were even crew-neck T-shirts on the same display, but I went for all V-neck. How sad.

"Classically gorgeous" - Thanks, sis. It's in the genes. :)

Heather said...

Rob- Just don't buy mom jeans.

Kimberly said...

Funniest darn thing I've read in awhile. I can totally relate! I just went on a shopping spree on because I detest shopping in the stores. The last time I ventured in to an actual store (3 weeks ago), I decided I deserved new bras (it had been years!). Bad idea to do with almost one year old. DD thought she was getting a snack and protested until she got what she wanted. Needless to say I left without any bras!