Always Bring A Buddy

The dress that stressed me out.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been engaged in a monumental battle. I have been trying to figure out what to wear to a wedding. As I’ve mentioned previously, fashion is not my strong suit. When it comes to fashion I’m like a politician: I know just enough about it to sound knowledgeable, but in actuality I am utterly clueless. This marked lack of the female fashion gene makes doing simple things, like buying a dress to wear to a wedding, a veritable nightmare for me.

Humor me while I prove my point. A couple weeks ago, I steeled my nerves and stepped foot into the dress department at Nordstrom. My goal was to find a dress that relayed that I have the style, class, and confidence befitting a 44 year old woman. Yes. I wanted a dress that would lie. I wanted a magic dress. If Cinderella could have magic shoes, certainly I could have a magic dress. I brought with me only two things…a knowledge of what I like and a knowledge of what looks good on me. I had no idea what constitutes appropriate attire for a fall, evening wedding in Boston. I had no idea what size I wore. I had no idea where to start. I took a leap of faith.

I spent a little over an hour in Nordstrom’s dress department that day, trying on approximately 14 dresses, and eventually leaving the store feeling fairly confident that I had made a good choice. I brought the dress home, put it in my closet, and began staring at my shoe collection (which is really more a flip-flop collection). That was when I realized I had surmounted the terror of dress shopping only to land myself smack in the middle of a worse problem. I now had to buy shoes to match my dress. Holy hell. Being the fashion dolt I am, I spent the next week shopping for shoes to match my beautiful dress. I visited four stores to no avail and ultimately ended up ordering four pairs online to try on and choose from. When they arrived and I decided I needed help determining which of two pairs of shoes to wear with my lovely dress, I texted a few of my fashion savvy friends some photos to get their opinions. It was, I thought, the final step in my shopping process. I was wrong. Two friends liked one pair of shoes. Another liked a different one. Momentary confusion. But, wait…majority rules, right? It was fine. I took a deep breath. And then, just when I thought the decision was made, the unthinkable happened. The waters got muddied.

Rebecca: For an evening wedding, and it might be cold, I would wear tights.

Tights? Tights did not figure into my equation when I was shoe shopping. I had purchased only peep toe pumps to try on. While I know it’s now a widely accepted practice to wear tights with peep toes, my head began to throb. I found myself short of breath. I went looking for a paper bag.

Me: I want to cry. I can’t picture that dress with tights. I’m stressed out.

Rebecca: Don’t cry. You totally have time to figure that out.

Me: I thought I HAD figured it out. That’s why I want to cry. It took me a long time to pick the dress. Then I had to order shoes. Now I see I went the wrong direction.

Being the wonderful friend she is, Rebecca held my hand (all the way from Illinois, mind you) through my mental breakdown. I told her about the other dress I had considered buying. She thought it might be a better way to go. So, I ran back to Nordstrom, tried on the dress, and texted her a photo. It was a go. Next stop: shoe shopping. Over the course of three days, I texted Rebecca about 10 photos of booties and pumps. She helped me choose a couple suitable pairs, one that could be worn with tights and one that could be worn without. I would no longer have to freeze if it was a cold day in Boston. Today, a full two weeks after what began as a simple trip to buy a dress for a wedding, I finally feel like I have an appropriate outfit. Finally. Now all I have to do is find jewelry, a purse, and a wrap. Insert eye roll.

The point of this whole blog, and I do have one, is that the old rule “always bring your buddy” is crucial. Most things in life are better executed with a friend along. Fashion, apparently, is no different. All these years I have been shopping incorrectly because I’ve been going it alone. Big mistake. In the future, I will try to remember that sometimes my independent streak needs to be tamed. Sometimes I need to accept that it’s okay to get by with a little help from your friends. The buddy system was created for a reason. It’s good for safety, sanity, and shopping. Who knew?

(PS…My darling husband said I should keep both dresses. I agreed.)

Hell…Swimsuit Shopping Be Thy Name

Me in the least disgusting option I tried on.

Today I did something dangerously ill-advised. Against all better judgment, I went swimsuit shopping. This is a feat far more hazardous than being one of the first shoppers in the door at Walmart on Black Friday. We’re going on this family trip in about a month, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should have a more modest swimsuit for this journey. No reason for my in-laws to have to see me with my midriff showing. (Truthfully, there’s no reason for anyone to have to see me that way, but I don’t have to look strangers in the eye again.) Anyway, a friend told me that she had bought a good suit recently at the Eddie Bauer outlet. She is an excellent bargain shopper, so I figured I should check it out. Nothing worse than spending a lot of money on something you don’t want to buy in the first place, right?

Well, wait a minute. I take that back. There is something worse than going shopping for a swimsuit and spending a bunch of money on something you don’t even want to buy in the first place. You can take your 9 and 11 year old sons to the store with you when you do it. I can’t decide if I am a candidate for sainthood or the insane asylum. Anyway, Joe had his iPad and Luke was playing games on another device, so I figured that would buy me about 20 minutes. I set them outside the entrance to the fitting rooms in a couple chairs and hastily started my search for a one-piece suit that would not make me look like either my 9 year old self or my grandmother.

I hurriedly grabbed four suits, found an open fitting room, and began the insidious process of stripping down to my skivvies in front of a dubiously lit, full-length mirror. Shudder. I quickly turned my back to my image and coerced my body into the first suit. I turned around for the grand reveal. It was less than grand. As is the case with many one-piece suits, this one flattened my tiny chest into a barely discernible fleshy wrinkle. Ick. I rid myself of that suit, and started on the next one. Before I knew it, I was through all four with nary a candidate in sight. I got dressed to search for more suits, hoping that when I got back out there a curious and ethereal light from heaven would be illuminating my dream suit.

It did not happen. The boys were still semi-quiet, however, so I grabbed six new suits and headed back to the changing room. As I was in there, squeezing myself into suit after suit like sausage into casings, my boys seemed to get louder. I could not figure out why this was. Then I realized they had entered the fitting rooms and now were right outside my door. Apparently my 20 minutes were up. I adjusted myself into a suit and opened the door.

“What are you doing in here? You need to be quiet,” I chided.

They stared at me and said nothing.

“What?” I said, feeling suddenly quite self-conscious in my mom suit. “Is it bad?”

“Nice,” Luke said. “Good. Like it.” (Have I mentioned that Luke is my favorite child?) He was obviously trying to hurry the process along by being my Yes Man. Still, I appreciated the positive comment.

Then, just when I was feeling good about Luke’s approval, Joe laughed. I glared at him with the burning heat of a thousand suns. Finally realizing his misstep, he tried to cover with a quick, “Nothing. Never mind.”

I decided to ignore him, shut the door, and get back to work. One thing was certain. I was not going to go to another store to endure further torture. I was leaving Eddie Bauer with an appropriate suit for our trip. It no longer mattered which one. I just had to get out of there because the confidence I had entered the store with was shattered. Ten flimsy pieces of fabric had taken me from intelligent, self-assured woman to whimpering, whining child. I was broken. I tried on two more suits, grabbed the one I despised least, and headed to the check out counter with my bona fide “mom” swimsuit. I was done.

Buying women’s swimwear is a total crap shoot. Hubby could not believe I tried on 12 suits just to find one that didn’t make me want to vomit or cry. It doesn’t matter what size a woman is, either. The experience is the same. We all have what we perceive to be figure flaws. We all try to minimize them. The goal is to find a suit we can be seen in that doesn’t make us feel bad about ourselves. If we find one that makes us feel confident and sexy, that’s a total bonus. Most times, however, we’re content to find one that makes us feel not totally unattractive.

Sometimes I think about the Victorian era swimsuits…short-sleeved black dresses worn with bloomers and black stockings. As uncomfortable as that costume would be for swimming, at least you had no concern about baring your midriff roll or your post-baby stretch marks or the cellulite you inherited from your grandmother. Everything was covered up and left to the imagination. There’s some wisdom in that somewhere. I find it right about the time I start to try on the first of twelve impossible swimsuits.