Friday Fun?: Shopping and Fashion

Mexico @ Carlos 'n Bryans
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I hate shopping.  I like having clothes to wear, but I hate the process of finding those clothes.  My hatred for shopping goes back a long way, back when I was a scrawny preteen dying to get out of “kid” clothes.  I was barely 4’11, weighed probably 90 lbs, and nothing ever fit me.  I had been looking forward to shopping in the junior section, but back then, there was no such thing (at least not in my tiny town) as a size 1 or even a 3.  Size 5 was as small as you could go and even that hung on me.  Petite sizes were only for old lady pants with elastic waistbands.  So, inevitably, I’d gather a few things, head into the dressing room and then stare glumly into the mirror when I looked like a stick standing in a pile of crumpled cloth.  My mother didn’t help matters much, though I give her credit for hunting down a store a couple of hours away that carried small sizes and petite clothes in relatively fashionable styles.  I say relatively because had I been attending a posh prep school, those clothes would have been perfect.  Instead, I was in a public middle school where some 75% of the kids were on free or reduced lunch.  The first day I wore the purple linen pants with coordinating cotton shirt imprinted with an old tobacco ad on the back and penny loafers, I nearly got beat up.  “Who you think you are?” A tough girl said to me while I was standing at my locker.  Luckily, I had tough girl friends who intervened.  The next day I went back to my t-shirt, jeans, and nikes and reserved that outfit for dinners out with the grandparents.

And then there were the 80s.  We all looked bad.  I went through a Madonna phase, a punk rock phase, and a Working Girl phase.  I actually wore a business suit and carried a briefcase to school.  There’s an unfortunate spread in the yearbook of me and my best friend demonstrating the styles of the times.  There are stirrup pants involved.  There’s a lot of mousse.

In college, I went with the all-black poet look.  Literally, everything I owned was black.  I could be seen at parties wearing black jeans, a black turtleneck, and black Converse high tops.  I had black skirts, black t-shirts, black shorts, black socks.  Occasionally I wore patterns with black in them rather than all black.  I had a black houndstooth mini-skirt I was rather fond of and which survived into the 90s.  In my junior year, a tragic laundry incident caused me to rethink my wardrobe.  I was washing a load of blacks (some would say colors, but I owned nothing colorful) and when I went to go put them into the dryer, they were gone.  I had to start buying colors.

After college, I resorted to wearing what people gave me because I was broke, and by people, I mean my mother and my soon-to-be mother-in-law.  My mother’s style hails from the south and leans preppy and/or southern belle.  My mother-in-law’s style hailed from elementary school and involved themed sweaters.  When I look at pictures of myself from that era, I shiver.  Bulky sweatshirts with horizontal stripes topping coral pants with a too-high waistline.  The snowman sweater! The mom jeans.  Need I say more.  I was in my 20s, but because most of my clothes purchases were made by middle-aged women, I looked at least 40.  It was not pretty.

Now, I have better sense.  But I no longer have quite the body I did in my 20s, which, despite being a bad time fashion wise was a good time size wise.  I could fit into lots of good clothes.  I just didn’t have the taste to pick out good clothes.  So now shopping feels a lot like it did in my preteens.  I pull things off the rack, take them into the dressing room, and stare glumly into the mirror.  Only, instead of things hanging on me, there are bulges where I don’t want them, or a pair of pants in a size I thought I fit into easily won’t button or zip.  Or I feel like the clothes are just generally too young looking.  Sigh.

But I’m going shopping anyway, because everything I own now is only appropriate for schlepping around the house and/or lying on the beach.  The work clothes I owned have worn out or are too formal for a nice lunch out with a friend.  But I just hate it.  I hate having to look at myself in the mirror and be reminded of the fact that I’m not 20 anymore, and that I didn’t appreciate my 20s when I had the chance.  In other words, shopping often reminds me that I’m aging.  And frankly, aging sucks.

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6 Replies to “Friday Fun?: Shopping and Fashion”

  1. I’m dying to see the 80’s fashion spread, and a face-blacked out history of your clothing wardrobe.

    Like this,

    Except that I’m suspecting that it won’t be quite as cute. But, maybe any fashion would look adorable if placed on cute dolls?

    I’ve heard others complain as you do, and it’s not one of my hang-ups. But, I think that’s ’cause my standards of what I want to look like are not that high, that I basically understand the bulges and limitations of my body, consider comfort really important, and have a strong sense of what I personally like. I’ve also found a few brands and fashions that work for my body (jcrew, oldnavy pants, anthropologie (and resort wear) skirts, garnet hill sweaters).

  2. If I could find the spread, I’d scan it. I’m not *that* vain. 🙂

    Intellectually, I know I just shouldn’t care. I look fine. I think I’m just surrounded by a fair number of people who look really good, fashion or body wise, so I’m always comparing myself.

  3. Haha… I had a pair of stirrup pants.

    What WAS the deal with those, anyway? I mean — how did any of us think they were a good idea?

  4. Oh wow, I think I could have written almost every word of this post.

    But, wait — what was wrong with stirrup pants? 😉

  5. Laura, now that I teach at a prep school, I care more about my clothes than I ever had before, so I understand what you mean by the influence of the company you keep. I have never dressed this well, or spent this much money on clothes. Even when I was in college and liked to get cute on the weekends, I was young/tiny enough to dress in Old Navy all the time and not spend much cash. Even though I try to shop outlets and clearance as much as possible now, I can’t buy my whole wardrobe at ON anymore.

  6. I liked stirrup pants too! But I actually wore them in the early 90s.

    I don’t have exactly the same problems (I do enjoy shopping, particularly for clothes), but the last part about aging resonated with me very very strongly. I’ve been thinking about this subject lots. I don’t know what I’ll be able to do to cheer me up when I turn 40 next year. Just next year. What a nightmare. I still feel like a little girl inside. That’s the worst part for me. Feeling one thing on the inside and looking another on the outside. Blah…

    Oh, and obviously I’d love to see the spread too!

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