Tis the season, and all that fancy, shiny, sparkly stuff. Or almost, anyway. So far, I am ignoring all the difficult parts of the season, which include traveling, making plans, buying presents and trying to not explode. Instead, I am concentrating on the exciting part of the season, which includes parties, which include, if they are proper holiday parties, egg nog, figgy pudding, and Santa hats. Additionally, fancy dresses. It’s the fancy dresses part that I am most interested in, because fancy dress! It’s like prom, only with less losing my virginity in an ‘89 Camry.

This year there are many parties, ranging in size from our annual holiday gift exchange evening to the giant enormo-parties given by both my company and E.’s company. Mine, they do not allow dates. Rumor has it that this is because the wife of an employee tried to sue, vis a vis the debauchery that occurred, and ruined everyone else’s good time. Therefore, we are only allowed to bring ourselves and our senses of adventures, dressed to the absolute nines, full-on, full-out. Shiny!

The other party, I am the date and as such, have certain obligations in
regards to embarrassment and the avoidance of, and a sense of pride. It
is, additionally, full-bore and totally gonzo super cocktail totally
formal awesomeness.

Therefore, you see—and I credit you with coming to this conclusion at
least three paragraphs ago—I need an incredible dress to carry me
through both occasions, and also to wear while scrubbing the toilet,
taking out the trash and reading Proust. Obviously.

Formalish/cocktailish dress shopping sounds a little terrifying,
though. Department stores full of racks and scariness and also there are
wildly varying price points and a dizzying amount of high ceiling and
wide floor space. I get both claustrophobic and agoraphobic, and then I
sweat, pass out and die, in department stores. However—I walk past
Banana Republic every day, and they’ve got several dresses of varying
levels of cuteness, hanging out in their window and looking satiny, and
I am a magpie, and the Republic, it is not so intimidating a place to
shop, so I ducked in on my lunch break, yesterday. Boom in, yank things
off hangers, try on, get out. An operation that is military in
precision, and possibly wrought with failure, but a way to get my feet
all wet and my loins all girded.

Of course, as soon as I started plucking through racks, looking for my
size, a sales person bounded over and offered himself up for help and
introduced himself as a stylist. Ordinarily, I say “No, I’m just
browsing. Thanks!” But for some reason, my mouth opened, and out yarfed
“I have fancy parties to go to! Make me gorgeous!” or idiot words to
that effect, and I was trapped, hustled to a dressing room, and things
began to be hurled at my head. “This!” he’d scream, and a pile of
taffeta would land on my head. “SO YOU!” he’d howl, crawling under the
door with a silk shift clenched between his teeth. “WE ARE GOING TO BE
BEST FRIENDS!” he shrieked, taking me by the shoulders and spinning me
around until I fell to my knees and begged for mercy.

He crammed my feet into shoes, ran for accessories, swore I looked
fabulous in a baby doll halter (I do not), insisted I try pants after I
explained patiently that these were not really pants occasions, and
talked so much about me slicking back my hair and wearing a lot of eye
makeup that I started to wonder if maybe there was something I should
know about my general, everyday personal appearance and why my friends
hadn’t told me.

I was standing there in tuxedo pants that were a full six inches too
long for me, and another sparkly black babydoll halter with a ribbon
tie that somehow both managed to make my boobs look low and tragic, my
waist look tree trunk-ish and my hips look triplet-bearing, when I
realized that my lunch break was over, I was no where near finding a
dress (surprise!) and that I really wished he would have contradicted
me when I said “No more sheath dresses—I’m lumpy.”

No! he was supposed to gasp. You’re not lumpy at all! You are a
delicate, willowy flower, a model of modern womanhood!  I am lumpy; I
did not want more skinny dresses because of it, but a protest, that
might have been nice. Yes, I have shame in that.

He was manic, and kept flinging things at me, regardless of my body
type, and I know he was focused on selling something, but I felt
simultaneously exposed, ridiculous, fat, flabby and completely
invisible. He wasn’t really seeing me, when he insisted that I was
absolutely a size 6 or an 8 (what? Thank you?); he wasn’t paying
attention to me when I insisted I was lumpy—what salesperson lets a
customer think “lump” when he’s trying to sell gorgeous? And I was
relieved when I realized I was so late, that I had to apologize, run up
the stairs, folding his card in my pocket and wondering how fast I
could lose it.

8 Replies to “stylin’”

  1. This is why you need to bring a frank, yet totally lovely (and with great taste that you love) girlfriend with you to tell you what to try on. I do this with my mom–she is freaked out about shopping, so I will talk to her about what she’s looking for, and then will go into her stores and simply picks things out for her–she doesn’t even have to look! And I am completely honest (in a really nice way) about whether something looks good. And then go out for drinks after :)
    Cheers, Wilma


    I understand what they are supposed to do. I never object when they approach and ask if I need help. That is, the FIRST time I do not object.

    No, I do not need help. I really hardly ever do. I do not like salespeople and I do not trust them (they will tell you that you look good in everything–they work on commission, don’t forget) and I very rarely agree with their opinions. Newsflash: if something comes in my size? Doesn’t necessarily mean I will look good in it.

    I personally do not like to shop, I don’t like to make it a big social outing, I don’t bring girlfriends or anyone else with me (I know, I’m in the minority here. Whatever).

    I go, I shop, I buy (or not), I leave. So, yes, by all means, do your job, you overly animated salesperson, and ask me if I need help. When I politely and very firmly say, “No, thank you, but I will call you if I do” then Back. Off. NOW. And don’t return until I call for you.

    (Which, admittedly, I do when I’m in the dressing room and need a different size and I’m too lazy to get dressed and go all the way back out to get it. In those circumstances, I do appreciate the dressing-room-hover that they have perfected, if only to command them to do my scut work for me.)

    Banana Repulic is a good start, Anne. Go back, politely eschew twenty-nine offers of help by various salespeople, pick out what you want, take it into the dressing room, try it on, and keep trying–there and elsewhere–until you find something that makes YOU feel confident and happy and sexy and good.

    And then by all means, take Wilma’s advice, and call a friend and go out for a drink or four. Nothing better than martinis after a successful shopping adventure.

  3. Anthropologie!

    Ann Taylor?

    BCBG and Betsy Johnson are probably too wildly priced, but since you’re still in the “just touching!” stage of shopping maybe you could pop in there and take a look around.

  4. Ugh. I hate salespeople. They need to learn to leave people alone and let them freaking shop. I’d go department store next time – usually the salesladies are less exuberant and also more scarce because the store is larger. And you can always escape to the appliance department if things get too crazy (or is it just me who enjoys daydreaming about perfect stoves?).

  5. I totally agree about Ross Dress for Less or even TJMaxx. I have found beautiful “party” dresses in Ross for a wonderfully low price. Try it out if there is one nearby!

  6. You should try shopping in England. No one offers to help you here, oh no. You just get to wade your way through racks of hideous clothes, slowly getting sweatier and grumpier, until you find ‘the one’, whereby you queue for 7 hours to try it on, and then stand in a changing room where the lighting has been bought from, and the mirrors make you look even more greasy, by which time ‘the one’ has morphed into ‘so not the one, I didn’t even realise my arms were a problem area. Until now’, and you are crying.

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