naked

Skepticism
Annalisa, who is fancy and runs and knows what she’s talking about, says that 20 pounds will, in fact, change my body up. It is hard for me to believe, for some reason (see skepticism, at left)—I mean, I still have fat in my butt, and hello there, thighs, and maybe at my waist there are some inches to pinch, but really, that will go away? That seems, again, miraculous and strange, since it has taken so many pounds to get me to where I am now. Compared to that, 20 pounds is a drop in the bucket…that will take forever to drain. So I will believe it. And look forward to it, because, cool! Goodbye, thighs! In the meantime, though, I think I will be about here for a little while, and I need clothes. All of them.

Clothes shopping continues to be weird, and I continue to realize how very little I know about the world of stores in which to buy them. Which solves the problem I have every year, when my family asks me what they should get me for my birthday (incoming!), and for the holidays (incoming!). Clothing gift certificates (hi, mom!)! Brilliant! But that is about as far as I’ve gotten. Gift certificates to where? And for what clothing?

Up ’til now, my shopping technique has been “Oh, shit. My pants are too
big. Uh, more pants! Cheap pants! Skinny jeans? Sure!” I go to Old
Navy, which is comforting because I used to go in there when they still
had plus sizes and the store seems familiar and it’s only one
widely-spaced floor, so it is not too overwhelming. But it is still all
the clothes in the world, and my eye starts to twitch and I sweat and I
grab an armful of things I do not actually want or need, and by that
time, I want to throw everything at a salesperson and leave because I
realize I have no idea what I’m doing, at all.

I race through trying them on in the dressing room and then I race back
out of the store, because I have started to have a mild panic attack,
because it is too much, and money I don’t have, and I don’t know if I
look good in any of it. One size is slightly too large,  one size is
slightly too small, and it makes sense to get the smaller because I
could lose more weight but I look all bunchy and do I really need
pants? Can’t I just get a belt? Can’t I just have a pony? Ponies are
nice! And then I put my head down and cry a little bit—tiny, golden
tears, because my diamond shoes are too tight.

I have tried to get over it; I went to the mall last week, and wandered
through trying to figure out which stores had clothes that wouldn’t
bankrupt me, but would still be decent quality but wouldn’t be cut for
lithe, oral sex-having teenagers with no butts to speak of and wouldn’t
make me look ridiculous and without salespeople who would look at me
and my sticking-up hair and snoot me out of the store, and I realized I
have no idea. I am completely out of touch with what is sold where and
what is good and what is meh and what I am supposed to put on my body
that will not make me look like a crazy maniac who is trying too hard
to recapture the youth she never had. Babydoll dresses and glow sticks
all around!

Recently, I thought I’d need a fancy dress to wear to a fancy party,
and I realized I had no high holy idea where to buy one of those; I
wanted a black cardigan, but didn’t want to spend $75 on it and
got terrified in Express, and got glared at in some weird little store with
a French name. I wanted to stop panicking and feeling overwhelmed,
except I fled from the mall and back onto the train, heading for home
and feeling like maybe I could just sew a sack out of a sheet and in
that way, be happy. Maybe I could belt it with a rope. Hobocore is what
I will call it. It will be a new way of life.

Forays into Forever 21 and Old Navy—where I am a full 10 to 15
years older than their target audience—are not going to do me forever.
Standing in the middle of a sea of racks and racks of options should
make me excited and thrilled, not fill me up with dread and hopelessness.
I know a lot of women have problems with the way clothes are cut, with
the frustration of trying things on and not finding things they like,
with sizing and length and shape and cut and color, and I know it sucks. But right now, I kind of want to have
those problems. I want to get to that point, to get past the feeling
ridiculous, get past the indecisiveness and sweaty terror, to have a
whole new set of problems that I will greet cheerfully and with great
enthusiasm, I swear.

In the meantime: I want your advice, please! From which store should I request a gift certificate?

26 Replies to “naked”

  1. Ann Taylor Loft is always a good bet for me. Their prices are a bit higher than Old Navy but they always have a sale rack. The clothes are sexy and sophisticated at the same time, as well as very well made.

  2. Definitely request gift certificates from Nordstrom department store. The clothes are pricey, but the sales staff is incredibly helpful, and non-judgmental. Hemming/tailoring is generally free/low cost if you need it. They have several different lines of clothing to suit your tastes and body shape. I have always enjoyed my shopping experiences there when I can afford it, and I request Nordstrom gift cards from anyone who asks what I want for birthday/holidays.

  3. What you need is a friend to go shopping with. Someone whose taste you trust to hold your hand when you start panicing, to tell you how you look in those pants, and suggest things to try on that it would never have occurred to you to try on. Actually, I wish I had one of those.

  4. I second Ann Taylor. The clothes there range from business to low-key fun (read: not suitable for raves), and while a bit more expensive, they are well-made, and last a long time, and age well (meaning they don’t fade horribly with washing).

    The clothes are actually made for people who wear under garments, so large bra-size women rejoice! You no longer have to stuff yourself into something bra-less and worry about flashing everyone, or you don’t have to buy special underwear to wear it. I bought a dress there, and it had decently wide straps with little strings with snaps on the end that hooked back to the dress, designed to hold the bra strap and keep it from moving around and showing.

  5. I had a problem with finding the right fit in jeans. I ended up going to a large department store – Macy’s – and just trying on all the designer jeans in all of the styles and as couple of sizes until I found the ones that fit and looked good. The department store salespeople are super duper helpful.

    I also recently went to Victoria’s Secret and had myself checked for the fit of my bras. It had changed and the new size looks fabulous and makes my boobs look as good as they should look. They deserve it!

    – Elizabeth

  6. I’ve lost 70 plus since my RNY and am having good luck in consignment shops but my standbys (stylish clothes for REAL people who don’t want to look like our mothers) are JJill, Coldwater Creek, Ann Taylor Loft, Talbots — Talbots and CWC have online outlets.

  7. I have to give consignment stores a big thumbs up and also… this may be “shocking”… Target. Sometimes, I’m more willing to take risks with new things if I don’t feel the risk is going to cost too much. My other fav: JJill.

  8. Twenty pounds will make a huge difference. When I started losing, it took me forever to change sizes, but now that I’m near my goal, a loss of five or six pounds will completely change my size. I too am overwhelmed by the stores and clothing choices, but it helps to know what your style is. Even though I wasn’t able to dress the way I wanted at my heaviest, I still knew what looked good to me on other people. I generally dislike fashion and celebrity magazines, but I found that looking through them along with fashion blogs (email me and I can recommend a few), catalogs and websites from places like Banana Republic, J.Crew, J.Jill, Ann Taylor, Macy’s, Nordies, etc. gave me at least some semblance of an idea of what I wanted to try to wear. But ultimately there is no substitute for trying things to see what works and doesn’t work.

    I was just in SF two weeks ago and you have amazing shopping there. Take a day off, arm yourself in comfy easy to remove clothes and shoes (and maybe a girlfriend whose style you like), fuel up with some coffee and spend a day wandering the Westfield to try things on. Don’t buy anything unless you love it, but try on everything that interests you to learn what works and doesn’t work. The associates at Nordstrom are amazing; have a bra fitting there. By now it’s cliche, but the right bra can do wonders for how your clothes fit.

    Good luck!

  9. The best book on dressing I ever read is “Simple Isn’t Easy” by Olivia Goldsmith and Amy Fine Collins. It’s out of print, but there are some cheap copies available right now on Amazon. You decide on a “uniform”, yes, I know–it sounds horrible–but it works. For me, it’s pants, jacket and a top.
    That can be a suit, and blouse/sweater, or jeans/tee/jacket.
    I shop at Ann Taylor, Talbots, Nordstrom & Macy’s. Beginning of season (full price) for suits & pants/jackets/blouses, end of season for sweaters (sale). I only have 3 pairs of pants per season. I loooove my suits. You can wear suits ANYWHERE. It never hurts to be over-dressed! I dry- clean once or twice per season. It’s worth it. I don’t have to buy many clothes after the initial outlays. This has worked well for years. It only gets expensive when I gain or lose 10lbs. But I’m not a fasionista. I’m a classics type. Kinda dull, I thought I was Too Frumpy For This Blog, but maybe not?? ;-)
    Some of you are not quite as hip as Anne, lol ;-)!

  10. PS:my 18 year old daughter picked out my FCUK (french connection UK jeans) and everyone loves them. (That name is so stupid!) Can you take a teenager with you to get the jeans?

  11. I don’t know if your family is nearby, and I know you need good basic clothes (how about Lands’ End, or JCPenney for affordable clothes? Seriously, their stuff is not bad) but I agree with Melis that you should take advantage of the fact that you live in SF. Maybe your friends and family would be willing to just pick some cool little independent store in town that they like the look of, and give you a gift cert. from there. That would force you to consider places you might not have otherwise, and maybe find some new favorite stores.

    I have come to the sad (or not-so-sad, since although I am not wearing plus right now I am still totally pissed at Old Navy for discontinuing in-store plus sizes) realization that nothing from Old Navy looks as good as it is supposed to. I suppose this is because it costs $10 and is made god knows where. They have a commercial now with a cute blouse and my friend and I were like “Ooh, cute blouse!… Oh, it’s Old Navy. It won’t look that good in person.” I later found out that my friend had succumbed to temptation and gone in to try it on. I asked her if it looked as good as it should have based on the commercial… and of course it did not. On the whole I think Old Navy is a big source of shopping stress because their sizing and quality is all over the place, and you never know when something is going to be in some horrible bizarro cut that couldn’t possibly fit any human being. I get that anxiety you describe when I shop in there too. So pfft… good riddance, Old Navy, I say.

    I get most of my clothes at Kohl’s, JCPenney, and sometimes Target but there is a little of the Old Navy stress with sizing and styles there too IME.

  12. A couple of websites that will help you with stuff that will look good on your body are: zafu.com and truejeans.com

    You have to do your measurements (kinda scary) but be honest and you should have good luck. So far the stuff they recommended has worked for me.

  13. from your pics, i think anthropologie is the store for you– beautiful, funky clothes. they can run a tad expensive, so i say you ask for th gift certificate from there, and then buy the cheaper basics yourself. you can check them out online— best of luck!

  14. I tend to patronize banana republic and ann taylor loft and regular for my basics and classic pieces and then throw in stuff from Target, Old Navy and Forever 21 to jazz things up and for variety since they’re cheap. I’ve found amazing things on the Ann Taylor sales rack though, I must say. Jeans and a pair of beautiful wide leg black slacks for $10 each.

  15. Seconding anthropologie. Also, Nordstroms. Nordstroms has excellent sales help and are perfect for inexperienced/uncomfortable clothing shoppers.

  16. Come on now.

    I follow your blog for years, and you only start putting up pics once thin?

    Where are the pics from your fat days? You owe your loyal readers!

  17. Anthropologie is great, but sizing can be limited, and it is quite expensive.

    I agree with Ann Taylor loft as a place for great, higher-quality basics. Ann Taylor is even more expensive, but perfect for work. And Target always has something fun nowadays.

    In response to cd’s post about the pics, I’d like to say that you shouldn’t think you owe us anything!! You give us so much beauty and truth already.

  18. The Gap & Banana Republic. Go to each store and try things on so you can figure out what size you wear in their clothing. Write down your sizes and walk out of the stores. Then shop online. Their sizes are pretty true across all of their clothes – if a small fits you in one style of shirt it’ll fit you in another. Also for underwear I recommend freshpair.com (or also the Gap because theirs are well made and hold up; seriously I have some pairs of underwear form there that are six years old and still look brand new)

  19. If your current shape is tending to be heavier around the thighs, Talbots tends to have some terrific dresses for hourglassy girls. They’re inconsistent on whether there is adequate room up top for the girls, but that’s probably about right, because women are not consistently shaped within the same size. What I would suggest, if you don’t have a friend who can Tim Gunn you up, is:

    1. wander into a store that looks like it has pretty clothes, and talk to the saleslady about one thing you might want.
    2. If the sales staff is friendly and helpful with regard to that one thing, throw yourself on their mercy, and see how many things they have that you like. Grab anything that might fit, and get the nice saleslady to brainstorm too. Tell her you’re at a new size and you don’t know what looks right. You lose nothing with honesty here.
    3. Try on -everything-. No matter how cute and slim you are, there will always be things that don’t work, and that’s fine; an 85% failure rate is normal, if you’re spreading the net widely. Anytime you don’t hate something, get out of the dressing room and solicit advice from your saleslady friend, and from other customers.
    4. If the store has $100-200 worth of things right there that you like, then ask for a gift certificate.
    Almost every boutique has a basic body type that does well there; you just need to figure out which ones are aimed at you, right now. I can wear any Talbots A-line skirt or dress and look great; I cannot wear any Jones New York skirt, dress, or pants, ever. So, I keep an eye out for sales in the one store and don’t bother with the other.
    Twenty pounds will make a difference, but you’re now in the territory where, if you’re an Ann Taylor shape now, you can count on being an Ann Taylor shape 20 pounds from now.

  20. You know, I heartily agree with Target, and I will give you very startling fantastic reasons.

    Often, really good designers do lines for Target. Proenza Schuller did a line a little while ago (maybe a year or something) and it was fantabulous. It gives you the opportunity to buy clothes that are cut correctly and look ultra neat for the fraction of the price. Also, it’s Target…less horrific than Walmart..yet also full of people that don’t demand you immediately have a venti something and comment on the tragic use of block prints for fall this year.

    H&M is also good. I say this because mostly they are super cheap, and chances are if you find something that you liked by a designer they will have the same damn thing in H&M for five dollars. I would try poking around online first as their stores are full of people and lights and things.

    Being vaguely agoraphobic (is it really so wrong to hate people coughing and moving around and looking, I ask?) and having recently located to the middle of nowhere, I do a lot of my shopping online these days. Sometimes it’s a pain, sometimes it’s a life saver. I like…

    http://crowdedteeth.com/index.php – funky t-shirts

    http://www.ladyluckrulesok.com/ – crazy weird accessories

    And http://www.chateaubizarre.com/ which lists thousands upon thousands of indie stores all over the internet. You could literally spend hours there.

    As for dresses, I am so not good with helping you in that regard. But http://www.irregularchoicestore.com/start.php
    is full of really really neat shoes that surprisingly fit almost anyone.

    Hope I helped…I kind of build a wardrobe of weird t-shirts and knick-knacks. It’s a hobby, what can I say?

  21. You know, I heartily agree with Target, and I will give you very startling fantastic reasons.

    Often, really good designers do lines for Target. Proenza Schuller did a line a little while ago (maybe a year or something) and it was fantabulous. It gives you the opportunity to buy clothes that are cut correctly and look ultra neat for the fraction of the price. Also, it’s Target…less horrific than Walmart..yet also full of people that don’t demand you immediately have a venti something and comment on the tragic use of block prints for fall this year.

    H&M is also good. I say this because mostly they are super cheap, and chances are if you find something that you liked by a designer they will have the same damn thing in H&M for five dollars. I would try poking around online first as their stores are full of people and lights and things.

    Being vaguely agoraphobic (is it really so wrong to hate people coughing and moving around and looking, I ask?) and having recently located to the middle of nowhere, I do a lot of my shopping online these days. Sometimes it’s a pain, sometimes it’s a life saver. I like…

    http://crowdedteeth.com/index.php – funky t-shirts

    http://www.ladyluckrulesok.com/ – crazy weird accessories

    And http://www.chateaubizarre.com/ which lists thousands upon thousands of indie stores all over the internet. You could literally spend hours there.

    As for dresses, I am so not good with helping you in that regard. But http://www.irregularchoicestore.com/start.php
    is full of really really neat shoes that surprisingly fit almost anyone.

    Hope I helped…I kind of build a wardrobe of weird t-shirts and knick-knacks. It’s a hobby, what can I say?

  22. Also, http://www.bodenusa.com – somewhat limited selection but very fun and funky.

    All my pants for work are from Ann Taylor Loft – they are made for people with bottoms! Then I get fun, funky tops from wherever – I’m sure SF must have good stuff? I find it easier to shop for tops pretty much anywhere, as well as shoes.

    I do love anthropologie, but it’s pricey and not always well made. And – although I hate looking like everyone in DC – I have succumbed and occasionally bought things from J. Crew and Banana Republic.

  23. Here’s what I do:
    1. Take a Xanax.
    2. Go to Old Navy. Hate everything in there. Wonder if people really wear shorts that are shorter than some of the panties I own.
    3. Go to the mall and hope that Aeropostale isn’t back on the We Only Sell Sweatpants crusade again.
    4. Retreat to Lane Bryant and discover that you’re too small for anything there. Feel odd mixture of disappointment and satisfaction.
    5. Try on things at Forever 21 and resist the urge to tell the salesperson that you didn’t buy the shirts you tried on because they were ugly, not because they were too small for you (because they weren’t).
    6. Go to Target and laugh at the Rolling Stones faux-faded concert t-shirts.
    7. Try things on at Kohl’s and Goody’s that are too old or too young for you.
    8. Go back to Old Navy and buy ugly pants.

  24. H&M is great for cheap & cute – I wish I wasn’t too fat to shop there. I still love Old Navy, even though it’s a scary warehouse. Kohl’s is great – the new Anna Sui line is gorgeous – and Target, especially their Go! and Isaac lines, is fun to shop at and has great stuff, too.
    Buy cheap and have fun!

  25. I’m still a big fatty :), so I haven’t personally had to shop for skinny sizes yet. However, my mother lost something like a hundred pounds, and she gets a lot of her clothes from Ann Taylor Loft, The Limited, and from Ross and TJ Maxx.

    It sometimes takes a while to wade through the racks at Ross and TJ Maxx, but she’s found some great bargains; and their stores are generally big, high-ceilinged places with shelves on the sides and the clothing on low, flat racks in the middle, so hopefully it’d be less panic-inducing. :)

    Also, if you can get to one of the Prime Outlet malls around San Fran (Vacaville, Petaluma, and Alpine are the closest I think), you can often find some spectacular deals there. The Ann Taylor in my local mall had a rack of $5-10 pants and skirts last time my mom and I went shopping.

    Good luck!

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