undressed

Reddress
What precipitated my total meltdown the other day—my I am fat and I am furious moment of
ugliness—was, of course, dress shopping. I say "of course," though
there are lots of things that could precipitate that kind of meltdown. A tumor.
Naked skydiving. Trying to squeeze a round butt through a square peg. And a
million other things like that. Dress shopping, though, should be at the top of
the list of "things that can be dangerous to your self-esteem." And
it is such a betrayal, because dress shopping should also be full of excitement
and sparkliness and fun and happy because…dresses! Fancy! Fancy occasion!
Disney tells us that we should be crapping
our pants
because we get to go to the goddamn ball, but I say bite me,
Disney. Where are my mice?

Mice would have been welcome on Sunday, when I spent three hours at Macy’s,
dragging my ass back and forth from the dressing room to the floor to the
dressing room. Of course when you need sales people, sales people are not
forthcoming. I am never satisfied—but they were very irritating, and made me
cross.

In the face of overwhelming ennui on the part of the
sales force, I tried to be methodical and smart, to swing around the room once
and assess my options, and then swing back around and start choosing dresses
carefully and with an eye toward the color I wanted (red) the style I wanted
(sassy) and the price range I had (less than one million). Waiting in line for
a dressing room, I was holding 15 heavy dresses and my arms were going
numb and only two of those dresses were red. The others were blue and gold and
black (though I wanted to avoid black) and green and bronze and silver and
beaded (though I did not want beading. Except shiny!) and some of them were
four hundred dollars. Whoops.

I arranged them in order of price, because I didn’t want to
take the expensive ones seriously. I just wanted to kind of see what they
looked like. Because I am a magpie. Of course, the four hundred dollar one was
exquisite. And four hundred dollars. It was dark blue satin, a column dress
with interesting gathers that hid my belly and made me look elegant and long
and expensive. Probably expensive like a well-paid escort, but still—expensive.

And I sighed and took it off, and started climbing into the
less expensive dresses and discarded them one by one—lumpy, sad, too short, too
gappy at the bust, too lumpy, too lumpy, short and gappy at the bust. One I
liked—the bronze one. Gathered at the waist, with ruching at the bust and a
scoop neckline, a bubble skirt, but not an obnoxious bubble skirt. Made my
waist look small, hid my belly, did not squeeze out any arm fat in a terrifying
way. I looked—nice. Lovely, even, if my hair wasn’t such a mess. But it wasn’t
the one I wanted, the dress in my
head.

I kept my eyes averted from the mirror, when I was in there,
because I did not want to see myself in my underwear. I wanted a dress that
would hide the things that made me feel ugly; I wanted dresses that would make
me forget what was under the fabric. Other women were popping in and out of
their dressing rooms, to look at themselves in the three-way mirror in the hall,
and they were all tiny, in expensive sheath dresses, and complaining that they
looked fat, and every time they did, I tensed, and had to go back in my
dressing room and unzip and climb out of my dress without looking in the
mirror, because I did not want that juxtaposition, I could not deal with those
women sighing "God, I need to lose ten pounds" while I stood there in
my socks and wondered what they thought of me, when they glanced at me from the
corners of their eyes.

All the dresses but the bronze one on the return rack. Two
more hours, circling the floor, grabbing more dresses, discarding them, wishing
I could wear the dress that the blonde was twirling in—short, and clingy, satin
and gorgeous and absolutely lovely. Those dresses run small, and they are not
something to try on, in your second hour of staring at yourself in a
full-length mirror.

In my last pass through the floor, I found my red satin dress, and I ran back to the room.
Filled with optimism. I mean, you find the dress you have in your head, and
it’s going to be perfect, isn’t it? It’s the fulfillment of a beautiful dream,
it’s the happy ending, it’s everything coming together. I slid into it, and spent ten minutes looking
at myself and trying not to cry. I sent a picture message to a friend—do I look
ridiculous? No, he wrote back. You look awesome.

I took it off, and went and bought the bronze dress.

  21 comments for “undressed

  1. anon
    November 21, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    What? I’m confused. Why did you buy the bronze? You look fucking awesome in that red dress!!!

    Oh, Anne, can you not SEE it? Do you not see how hot you look? The fact that you think any of the other women would be thinking unkind thoughts about you in the dressing room tells me that you have NO IDEA how you look.

    Damn, I don’t want that for you. I want you to SEE YOU. You’re hot. And that’s the god’s honest, strike-me-dead-if-I’m-lying (ok, I’m an atheist, but I’m just trying to make a point here) truth.

    I’m sure you’re a hottie in the bronze too. But, damn, I’m loving you in that red dress.

  2. November 21, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    you are indeed gorgeous and ever so slender and delicate and lovely… i hope you come to see that too xx

  3. MB
    November 21, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    You look HOT in the red dress. You must have been looking in the fun house mirrors.

  4. November 21, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Bathing suit shopping is only slightly worse than dress shopping, especially when you’re in a dressing room and overhear things like “I think the size 2 is too big!” Plus the lighting sucks and I usually wind up wearing the Huge-Ass Holey Underwear because I didn’t feel like doing laundry.

    The red dress is sexy but if you don’t feel awesome in it then it’s probably good that you didn’t get it.

  5. spiderbite
    November 21, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Oh, the red. You know I love the red. I think it looks fabulous on you.

    I recently bought a red dress. I tried it on in black, but even then, it was beautiful. Floaty. It was expensive, and I waffled, even as I twirled in front of a mirror while my mother and the dress shop owner said admiring things. My mom took a cell phone photo and showed her friend, who is made of Southern charm and could gently talk you out of a bad idea while letting you think you just changed your own mind. She loved it. Still, I wavered.

    I think I was afraid of committing to the idea that I looked good. Because what if I got it, this perfect dress, and I put it on, and felt fabulous, and then caught a glimpse of myself that made me think otherwise? No one can crush me like I crush myself. And I was afraid.

    I got the damn dress. I deserved it, it deserved me, and while there were some times when I thought, oh, no, I don’t look as good in real life as I did in my imagination, for the most part, I managed to shut myself up and allow myself to look and feel pretty. And bask in other people’s compliments, without demurring, either aloud or in my head.

    You look gorgeous. In that red dress, in other dresses I’ve seen you wear, and, I am sure, in your bronze dress, too. But fuck it, Anne — that red dress looks amazing on you, like it was made for you. If you truly like the bronze better and it makes you feel good, go for it. But please don’t let fear make you settle for second best. Let yourself shine.

  6. SP
    November 21, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    You should never buy a dress that makes you feel insecure, even if objectively it looks fantastic on you. So, good call.
    BUT.
    From here, outside your head, without the evil inner voice? That dress looks fantastic on you.

  7. Mom
    November 21, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    The RED DRESS is a hot dress on you. Return the bronze, get the RED DRESS cause that’s one that says it all – you are beautiful, inside and out.

  8. November 21, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    I agree that you should never buy a dress you feel less than fabulous in, but I have to tell you…

    …YOU LOOK AMAZINGLY FUCKING FABULOUS IN THAT RED DRESS!!!!! IF I LOOKED LIKE THAT IN THAT DRESS, I WOULD NEVER EVER EVER TAKE THAT DRESS OFF — I’D WEAR IT TO BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER, MEETINGS, BE A WHORE IN CHURCH, YOU NAME IT!! YOU ARE TEENY AND TINY AND TONED AND GORGEOUS!!!!

    I seriously gasped when I enlarged that picture. Congratulations, honey — you’re a skinny mini.

    ~Jess

  9. Katie
    November 21, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    the red dress was amazing. but you have to make the choice that makes you feel GOOD when you put it on.

  10. November 21, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    I want to cry for you, because of your disappointment even though you look amazing in that dress and I truly hope that you return the bronze one and get the red one, but I also know that you need to feel comfortable.

  11. November 21, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    I want to cry for you, because of your disappointment even though you look amazing in that dress and I truly hope that you return the bronze one and get the red one, but I also know that you need to feel comfortable.

  12. Gillian
    November 22, 2007 at 4:20 am

    My god, you look amazing in that red dress! Seriously.
    The bronze dress must be pretty amazing if it suits you better than that one.
    I agree with the people who have said you have to feel comfortable – so if the red dress doesn’t make you feel good, then there’s no point buying it. but – jeez, I think you’re losing perspective, you look gorgeous!
    (I know you don’t know me at all, I’m just a lurker popping out, but I had to register how gobsmacked I was when I enlarged the picture and you looked just great!)

  13. Gillian
    November 22, 2007 at 4:21 am

    My god, you look amazing in that red dress! Seriously.
    The bronze dress must be pretty amazing if it suits you better than that one.
    I agree with the people who have said you have to feel comfortable – so if the red dress doesn’t make you feel good, then there’s no point buying it. but – jeez, I think you’re losing perspective, you look gorgeous!
    (I know you don’t know me at all, I’m just a lurker popping out, but I had to register how gobsmacked I was when I enlarged the picture and you looked just great!)

  14. November 23, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    From what you wrote, I totally understand why you bought the bronze dress. But looking at the photo of you in the red dress, I have to say it looks awesome! If the close fit is bothersome, I have found that a good sturdy Spanx undergarment is magic. The way it makes my body feel is great – much more compact, smooth and neat under a fitted dress. Please consider giving it a try!

  15. Denise
    November 24, 2007 at 11:54 am

    The thing is, some dresses, through no fault of yours, may have an uncanny ability to highlight the one part of your body you’re not too secure about. Since WE aren’t insecure about that part on YOUR body, we all think you look awesome in it. I daresay if you saw that dress on someone else who looked just like you, you’d make her buy it. But you have to live in the dress, and you have to buy a dress that highlights the things you love and does not highlight something you haven’t made 100% peace with. This is a dress’s job. Nobody should not have to reach a higher state of being in order to wear and enjoy a damn dress. The thing to do is get ANOTHER dress, which you did. YAY!

    Never buy a dress that does not make you feel like a major hottie, for that dress is not doing its job.

  16. Kat
    November 25, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    It looks like your idea of yourself is taking some time to catch up with the reality – you look beautiful, Anne, and you should get the red dress. Because that’s who you are now. (And doesn’t mean you’re not a bronze dress kind of gal as well.)

  17. Lauren
    November 26, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Hi there, I’ve never posted here before but I really love your site. I just wanted to tell you that you look fantastic in that red dress. I think that every single woman, no matter what her size, seriously doubts her beauty (and sadly, her worth) when confronted with a full-length mirror and horrendous dressing room lighting. As someone currently in recovery for anorexia, I can say that spending any significant amount of time in a dressing room seriously freaks my shit out. I understand the trauma (I know the word sounds a bit extreme, but dress shopping, jeans shopping, and god forbid, swimsuit shopping *can* be traumatic!) of just not feeling good enough. Thank you so much for giving us such an honest and astute appraisal of your emotions with this post. You look great–remember that, and hang in there =)

  18. littlem
    November 26, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    OK, being a hardcore Daffy’s/Saks on Sale girl, I have a different strategy (assuming you have some time).

    RED dresses – even at holiday time – scream “LOOK AT ME”, which it sounds like you were not quite ready for. Bronze dress, only OK and not the “dress in your head”.

    EXPENSIVE, sparkly blue dress that you tried on the first time. Put on hold with a deposit after you sweet talk the salesperson with whom you have some rapport into putting it away for you.

    Come back and pick it up next paycheck with the balance, pre-party. Do NOT buy anything else, so you can still feel virtuous.

    Bonus: in your head, as you dress, will be the mantra “I look elegant and very expensive.”

  19. gretchen
    November 26, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    you are beautiful just the way you are.

  20. November 29, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    I have a fancy event to go to in a couple of weeks and I went fancy dress shopping last night and so, SO wish I had found something that looked as awesome on me as that red dress does on you. I’m still searching for mine.

  21. AJ
    December 4, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Is it that you are too afraid to look so damn hott?

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