I recently got it in my mind that I wanted to look less like the aging hipster I am and more like *shudder* a grown up.
I had a carrot hanging over my head: A party that didn't include balloons or pin the tail on the donkey. This would be a fete where people my own age would actually speak to me and not just to tell me my kid was putting something dangerous in his mouth. It was to be an evening in which adult beverages would be consumed and tiny plates of succulent savories would be passed that only folks under three feet tall could reject.
Oh, the invitation said it was to be casual affair, but I knew better. I knew half of those in attendance would be dressed to the nines and the other half would be dressed to the eights. I did NOT want to be the only person at the gathering dressed like an integer in boy-style Levis' jeans, a boxy sweater and clogs.
I did NOT want to be me; Not this time, I told myself. This time I was going to go shopping and I would buy something that would scream "SHE IS HIP. SHE IS IN TOUCH WITH FASHION. SHE LOOKS GOOD. HER CLOSET DID NOT CLOSE TO NEW TOGS IN 1989."
My mission was to have people take one look at me and think: "Gee, she cleans up well."
But with two kids and a husband (who's idea of helping is standing just outside the dressing room door asking the sales folks if they've got anything that would "fit tighter") I needed a plan.
I'm not a planner. I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal.
So I did what everyone (except the males of the species) does when standing in an unfamiliar place: I asked for directions. I reached out to friends and begged them to give me a primer (with photographic examples) of clothing styles that would make me look skilled in the art of dressing myself.
They were good. I could feel their fingers on the pulse of the fashion district’s artery as they came to my aid. While I was absently paging through catalogues looking at fonts and wondering why the models had bare feet, they were telling me to "turn to page 30 of the most recent jcrew catalog and look at the clothes."
They even gave me rules-of-thumb to help me make the best decisions should I get to the store and find the catalog and the inventory didn't jibe. They offered advice such as "shop in the petite section," "select jackets that are 'cropped' and that 'nip' at the waist," and "choose funky colors as accents."
I felt ready. I felt charged. I felt emboldened. I was going to look for a wrap dress and espadrilles, or wide-leg slacks and shimmery top. I was on a mission to find heels and chunky jewelry. I was going to click through those racks with authority. If something stood out that I liked I was going to PUT IT RIGHT BACK. I may not know much, but I know I can't be trusted with my taste in clothes.
Standing in the store, with the Champ in one arm and Ittybit pulling the other out of its socket, I knew I was doomed.
"How can there be more pants than tops?" I wonder aloud, noticing a seven-to-one ratio of styles. There were pedal pushers, capris, hipslung, ultra low rise, city cut, short and long ... and yet only a single tank top in seven different colors.
I felt like a deer, blinking in the glare of headlights.
The store clerks were cheerful and accommodating, but ultimately unhelpful.
"Oh, we're getting petites in JUNE!" said a lovely woman, touching my arm in solidarity.
I try on a few things, but nothing looked right. I hung my head in defeat, but I dove in anyway.
After an hour I came up for air, settling on some comfortable things with outlandish price tags.
Even before I saw the total, though, I knew the score:
Flattering jeans, $100;
Blue silk shirt, $89;
Black strappy sandals, $125;
Comment from host upon arriving: "Thanks for not dressing up," Priceless.