Shopping for clothes has never been an easy thing for me. Even when I was a teenager and thought that a trip to the mall with my friends was great fun, I still struggled when it came to actually buying the clothes. Back then, I was frustrated by styles that didn’t match my figure and/or prices that didn’t match my budget. The fifty cents an hour I earned from babysitting didn’t stretch very far, even in the Seventies. These days, my budget isn’t quite so tight, but I still rarely find something that’s comfortable, looks good, fits properly, and reasonably priced. Which is why I still hate to shop.
Unfortunately, my closet is small, so with each changing season, I find myself sorting through the clothes I keep stored in big plastic bins in the basement, and bringing them up to replace the clothes from the previous season. This process forces me to evaluate my wardrobe four times a year, and means I can’t ignore the stains on my summer blouses, the fact that half my sweaters have snags or pills, and that another couple of pairs of pants have mysteriously shrunk. So I fill a bag or two to take to the local donation center, make a list of what needs to be bought, and head off to the nearest mall.
Sometimes I’m silly enough to think my trip will be successful, at least until I enter the first store and am met with clothes that must have been designed by people who were either drunk, high, or have serious anger issues with women. There are blouses with “peek-a-boo” shoulders, for what purpose I can’t begin to imagine. Normal, button-down cardigans are conspicuous by their absence, and have been replaced with sweaters sporting tassels, ruffles and armholes halfway down the sleeves. Pants are either wide enough to share with a baby elephant or so skinny that I would have had trouble fitting into them when I was ten. And do you know what happens to a pair of chubby legs stuffed into tight jeans? The fat puffs out, in places that you’d least expect and can’t possibly hide.
Fall and winter are the worst, because not only do I have to find pieces of clothing that I like and can afford, but I also have to match the layers. This is not my strong point. My closet tends to be full of jackets that don’t match any of my blouses, jeans in colors that clash with all my sweaters, and tops that are either too long are too bulky to wear underneath anything. Traditionally, I tend to solve this problem by buying a lot of black or white items, which means that I have a lot of black pants and black and white tops, often striped. Once I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized that if I added a pair of tennis shoes and a whistle to my ensemble, I’d look exactly like a matronly referee who got lost on her way to the big game. So now I try to branch out a little, color-wise.
Still, I do have the occasional success. Yesterday I went to the mall in search of a pair of shoes to wear to my son’s wedding, and while I didn’t find those, I did manage to find a nice green sweater and a matching top to wear underneath. On sale. And they didn’t even come from the same store. Walking out of the mall, I was so excited that it was all I could do not to stop random strangers and proudly show off my purchases. When it comes to fashion, I’ve learned to take my victories where I can.