Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shopping Nightmare

Yes, I am working on a blog about Madagascar, but in the meantime, life still happens.

I had very little scheduled today besides checking out a space for the potential future MotherWit Headquarters (which, by the way, looks like it just might work out great), so decided to do the dreaded dress shopping excursion I have been putting off. It has been knawing at me like a toothache that won't go away, so I figured I'd get it over with. My sister Jennifer is getting married to her lovely man Jon in a couple of weeks. They are coming here all the way from England with my delicious little nephew Antony so we can share in their special event. I'm thinking this occasion warrants some fancier duds than I usually wear. Usually, I'll buy a little stretchy wrap from H&M, those being just about the only things that fit me from that store, but my sister's wedding is worthy of something a little more special.

I have to say that I abhor clothes shopping. I am not the type of person things fit easily. I am 5 foot and half an inch soaking wet, with a very wide rib cage, a postpartum tummy (nobody has to know that I haven't had a baby in over 5 years), barely any hips or bum, and boobs that are over DD. I refuse to even know how much higher in the letter scale they go, but let's just say that for my frame, they are big. Shopping for clothing is a freakin' nightmare. Especially when I'm looking for dresses, as my waist is size 6 to 8, my hips size 2 to 4, and my top at least size 10 for tailored shirts, even though it's not even possible for me to wear buttoned things. If it buttons in front, it will be laughably huge in the shoulders, back, and sides. Shopping makes me feel misshapen, and feeling misshapen makes me feel angry. Not at my shape, which I'm happy enough with, but with the people who make dresses.

I traipsed all along St. Catherine Street, popping into this place and that, marvelling at how slim the pickings were for appropriate dresses. They either looked like they were made for prom queens, club chicks, or dowagers. There was nothing in between for a 40 something, reasonably concerned with style person. Nothing I liked, anyway. I usually depend on Winners to get me through difficult shopping sprees, but trips to 3 different Winners yielded nothing. BCBGs clothes all looked like sparkly candy. Betsy Johnson had cute stuff, but holy high price tags, Bat Man! Mexx and Tristan all looked business casual. Everything else was in shades of black and gray or were ridiculously strapless. I just don't have enough interesting accessories to spruce up these colours, which don't generally look so hot on me anyway unless I'm striving for Jaundice Chic.

Even Mango had nothing to offer. Then I found Olam. Right away 3 cute, interesting, well cut, reasonably priced little dresses popped into my vision to say "hello". A nice young sales lady took my finds to the changing room. Finally, feeling confident I would find something wonderful, I went to the changing room....only to find they did not have mirrors inside! On PRINCIPLE I will NOT buy clothing from places that don't have mirrors hidden privately away inside the changing cubicles. I will NOT emerge from these tiny caves of furtive clothing tranformation to bare my unchecked, lumpy underwear-ed and dingy bra strapped self to a store full of onlookers. It is not that I'm that vain. It's just that I think this is the sneakiest, most underhanded way of insisting you are "cared for" (sales pitched) by a sales person probably hustling for commission. And I strongly object! I do not WANT the store to assign me an "ooher" and "aaher" (despite what's really going through her mind), or an accessory draper whose favourite colour is puce. If I have my own private shopping doula with me, like my friend Nat, she fulfills that role for me, but with honesty. I refuse to have some stranger oggling my body and making suggestions without my express consent. When you have no mirror to look into privately and must come out to be viewed by the awaiting sales person and any other stragglers who are dragged along with other dress seekers to "shopping doula", you don't have much of a choice about the matter without sounding like a bitch.

I asked the lithe, perfectly decked out girl who was young enough to be my daughter if there was a changing room with a mirror. She said, "No, but I can hold the mirror up in front of the cubicle if you want so you don't have to come out." Yeah, like that wouldn't look to everyone observing like some person too unconfident to come out of her hidey hole! That just makes people want to oggle even more. Besides, given that she was tiny and the mirror was about 7 feet tall, I felt doubtful. And pissed off. Nothing against the girl, as she didn't design the store or make the rules and is, after all, just trying to make a living. So I kindly said, "No thanks," and left. Too bad for them. I would have shelled out some cash. Alas.

I wandered along the street feeling glum. Surely there must was an affordable, not too ugly dress that fit me SOMEWHERE in Montreal? Though I kept meaning to grab the Metro and head for home, something kept pulling me to the final Winners on the strip. I didn't want to go. I resisted, knowing another attempt to find something there was futile...yet why did I feel compelled?

I dragged my feet into the Alexis Nihon Mall Winners for one last look. I went to the dress rack that in the other Winners yielded absolutely nothing cute or interesting. And lo and behold, several sweet little numbers looked somewhat appealing. I had not seen in them in the other stores. I took 4 different dresses in varying sizes. I always have to try a few. I took them to the changing room (WITH mirrors...bite ME, Olam) and became very discouraged when everything made me look heinous. Then I tried on the very last one...a black and white Calvin Klein dress with wide shoulder straps, a high waist, and pencil-y skirt...all things Stacey and Clinton say are good for people with my shape. And wouldn't you know...BAM! Except for a teeny little adjustment that will need to be made in the strap to make it smaller, it fit my monster boobs, it fit my rib cage, it camoflauged my post baby belly (I will claim that until Finn is 40), and came just below my knees. And it was less than I thought I was going to have to pay for a dress appropriate for my sister's wedding.

I could have cried with relief! I called my husband right then and there in the changing room, jumping up and down saying, "I found it, I found it!" He wasn't sure what I was talking about at first, but when I clued him in, I knew he was extremely glad to hear I had found something, thus eliminating a wasteland of weeknights of him having to trek through stores with forced cheer, me trailing in an absolute funk of dejection, listening to my arguments to convince him that I am simply not made to wear nice clothes. I felt like we had just bought hours of time and spared us nights of heartache.

So that was my day. Ladies, if we all refuse to shop in stores that don't allow us the right to look at ourselves in the mirror privately, thus allowing us to choose whether or not we want to reveal ourselves, practices would change.

Lesley