Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Anti Chick-Lit Heroine's Saga

I could never be a chick-lit heroine. Not because I'm well past my twenty-somethings. Not because I no longer work in the heart of a large city for bosses that drove me insane with their impossible deadlines that required an ability to bend the fabric of time. Not because I married my senior-year college sweetheart and therefore never really had to moan and groan over cocktails with the girlfriends about how great the sex was with the latest one-nighter but how much the morning after really sucked.

Nope. I could never be a chick-lit heroine because I HATE to shop.

Hate it. With the passion of ten thousand white hot suns.

I'd rather go to the dentist, gynecologist and have a playdate with six of my kids' most obnoxious friends than go shopping for clothes. If it's a bathing suit or jeans, add an extra two kids to that playdate.

I think I hate to shop so much because I never do it until I have a very specific need for a very specific item. At which time, I procrastinate until I'm left with only a week or so before I need said item and the pressure is unbearable. Add to the ticking clock the fact that retail outlets are always a season and a half ahead of real time and you can understand my situation.

Yesterday I spent three hours at the mall looking for a dress.

A dress I have to wear next Saturday night, less than seven days away.

And not only is it just a dress, it's a dress I have to wear to my twentieth-year high school reunion.

I'll give you a minute to fully absorb the magnitude of my task and the critical nature of its success.

See? Now you undertand why I'm so freaked.

So, I have to wear this thing on what will probably be a 90 plus degree August evening. Do you know what the stores have on their racks right now? That's right. Fall wear. Long sleeves. Tweed skirts. Autumnal colorations. All of the summer dresses have been shoved on clearance rounders, mashed in a hodgepodge of formal chiffon all the way down to skimpy halter top dresses, size 6s wantonly hanging next to size 16s like it's perfectly all right for these two sizes to fraternize with each other in hopes of producing some size 10 babies.

Not only are the summer dresses completely picked over, my shock and disgust were further amplified when I realized what currently passes as fashionable these days. I have what I consider "classic taste" when it comes to clothes. I say this because every year my nose wrinkles when I flip through magazines and see what I'm supposed to be wearing if I want to be one of those well-dressed moms at the PTA first day of school tea. Every year I firmly determine that I'll never buy into the flared bottoms/capris length/retro sixties fads all those size 0 models are sporting. I'll stick to my Eddie Bauer collection circa 1995, thank you very much. Give me denim shorts and campy printed tees in the summer, Levis and cable sweaters in the winter and I'm good to go. I own an entire rainbow array of turtlenecks, and the most fashionable pair of shoes in my closet sport not the Manolo Blahnik label but the ever-more practical Lands End.

So when I walked into Carson's and saw more retro sixties fabrics than on an episode of Laugh-In, I cringed visibly. Gads! Was I really expected to put that stuff on my body? I'd stop traffic. Plus, I'm a short person, so a little goes a very long way. My seven-year old daughter, who came with me on an initial test shop at a nearby Marshall Fields, clearly has a fashion gene that came from the hospital where she was born instead of her mother. She pointed to nearly every garishly printed dress on the racks, squealing, "Ohhh, Mom, isn't this one pretty?" I can't decide if I should be glad that she knows what's hot even if I'm clueless or be scared about those just-around-the-corner teen years.

By-passing the sixties, I decided I can't go wrong with something in decade-free black. Like I told my daughter - passing on wisdom as is my duty - black is classic. Black is slimming. Black is your friend. She thinks black is ugly. I left her home when I went to the mall the next day.

Good thing about the little black dress is that there is no shortage of them.

Bad thing about the little black dress is that it's little. And shows off a lot of stuff I never even knew I had. Like fat upper arms. Damn. I've accepted the belly and the butt. But now I have to deal with arms, too? So not fair.

I have what is considered the classic A-shape body but is actually more like a diamond, in my opinion. My upper and lower quarters are fairly normal sized, while my middle half is at least a size larger. My mother calls this a barrel-shape, and I come by it honestly since she is shaped like a barrel and my 94-year-old grandma is also shaped like a barrel, albeit a frail one. Thanks ever so much, maternal ancestors. At least I didn't inherit my dear departed Granny's shape, which was roughly width equals height. She was sweet and I loved her, but I'm sure glad that particular gene skipped over me, at least so far.

Anyway, having this particular shape makes dress shopping especially nightmarish since I'm not just one particular size. I wish the dress manufacturers would do what the swimwear manufacturers have finally figured out works so much better for women who are built like real women and not Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition models - sell tops and bottoms seperately so sizes can be mixed and matched. How nice it would be if I could find a dress that is a 10/12 - a ten on top but a twelve on the bottom.

Since this option isn't on the horizon in time for Saturday night, I shrugged my way into and out of a couple dozen options. A few of them were possibilities, one of them even going so far as to show way more cleavage than I even knew I had. That particular dress required a trip upstairs to the lingerie department so I could see if there was any possible way to hold up what nature has given me without any visible strapping system. Since it looked like duct tape was the only answer and since I didn't want to be the talk of the reunion - "Did you see Lynn's dress? God, she really tramped up since high school!" - the quest continued.

I found a very classy dark purple dress that looked almost great. Almost because I tried on a size one smaller than was probably best, the only dress in my size being the one adorning the manequin standing next to the rack. Since the store was packed - back-to-school sales time, you know - I didn't have the fortitude to track down a free salesperson and beg for her to take the dress of the manequin, leaving it naked, when I wasn't 100% positive I'd buy the thing in the end. It cost a bit more than I wanted to spend, and only if it made me look like Jennifer Aniston would I guarantee to buy it.

Three department stores later and several longing glances at Cinnabon and Mrs. Field's Cookies in the food court, I did find the perfect little black dress. It's classy. It's neither too fancy nor too casual. It makes me look slimmer (after another visit to the lingerie department for a "foundation garment" (don't ask) plus an upcoming week of strict adherance to the South Beach Diet's Phase 1) and taller, a particular bonus. It's timeless, so I can wear it again and again assuming I don't grow out of it. Yes, I'm still growing. Plus, it was on sale.

All in all, I'm quite pleased with it.

And even better, I'm done shopping for it.

Only one big, giant problem with this dress. It requires new shoes. Something in a strappy heeled sandal, perhaps.

Have I mentioned that I have very fat, very ugly feet?


Larissa said...

LOL--sounds like a horrible experience!

And hey, we must be the same age. My 20th HS reunion would be this year if we were having one. So glad we aren't. *g*

On the shoes...I've found some I ADORE. They are the most comfortable heels on the planet, because they are made for dancers. But if you have to spend any time at all in heels, these are worth their weight in gold (which is appropriate, since they do tend to be a bit spendy.)

Check out and click on Footwear, then Dancesport. Love 'em! You can probably find a store near you. :)

MaryF said...

Lynn, I'm so sorry, but I laughed my BUTT off. What do you write, because I think you'd be GREAT at chick-lit.

And I'm a year older - my reunion, if I'd gone, was last year.