Monday, December 8, 2008

In Which Express Earns my Repeat Business


I haven't shopped seriously for clothing in the non-plus departments for... oh, about 17 years. My staple clothing stores were K-mart, Target, Lane Bryant and Torrid. With occasional forays into Fashion Bug Plus. From time to time I'd shop Catherine's, as well.

I haven't been inside a Limited since my mother dragged me along while she did shopping for her clothing, back when 10-button tees and long, frothy, faux-western style skirts were in fashion.

My husband's employer, Evil French Company, is having their annual Holiday dance on the 20th, and he always wants to go to these things. I'm never quite sure why, but he thinks it "looks good" and that he gets "face time" with people he doesn't otherwise rub elbows with while at work. Whatever. (I do remember one place I worked where if we didn't go to the company party, we were "in trouble". I went just long enough to be seen by my boss and his boss and then left. Did I mention my boss brought both his girlfriend and his wife to the company picnic?)

So, I need a dress because nothing I own really fits these days. The smallest dresses I have in the closet are 16s and 18s. I tried the 16 on, but it sagged all weird, especially around the collar. I no longer have enough shoulders to keep it from ending up drooping somewhere around my navel.

Not. Remotely. Attractive.

So, Saturday we go shopping for a dress.

It took Darcy all of about one and a half stores to get completely bored. Also, terrified. She was playing with one of the clothing racks and I moved about three feet away and she panicked. "I was looking and looking and I couldn't find you!" she wails at me. I don't know what we're going to do when she goes to school next year. So Thomas took her off to the play area and left me on my own.

I tried Kohl's first, on the advice of my step-mother, who said there were "really good" bargains there.

Maybe there were, but honestly! The store was a madhouse of disorganization, with sweaters and dresses and t-shirts and jeans all on the same rack with signs that screamed "70% off price already marked!!" If there was a dress on the rack in a color I liked, there'd be only one, and it wasn't in my size. I couldn't find any more dresses that were the same as the one I'd just seen. 70% off might be a good deal, but if I can't find anything, I'm not going to buy anything, no matter how cheap it is.

JC Penneys had a skirt that I'd seen on their website, and I managed (after about 20 minutes of looking and asking a saleslady) to find it, but it didn't look good on me. The hem came to exactly the wrong place... just below the knee. Shorter and the skirt would have been sassy, longer and it would have been elegant. Where it was and it screamed "hotel cleaning staff". Seriously.

Sears was another madhouse. Took me 30 minutes to find a single skirt that wasn't black, black, or black. And then when I did, it fit fine. And I couldn't find a single top that went with it.

I looked around Limited, but only looked. The price-tags there were frightening. I don't know about you, but the idea of spending $190 on a dress I'll wear twice just doesn't appeal to me. I wouldn't even spend that much cash on a dress when it was prom! (OK, so my wedding dress was ungodly expensive - about $1,600, but I really loved it, and a wedding is entirely different from a party!)

I beeped Thomas to say I was going to check one more store and then I would give up on a nice dress and hit Target for something "acceptable."

I walked into Express.

I fingered a couple of shirts and skirts. Size 0. Size 4. I shook my head, feeling like a stranger in a strange land. What the hell was I doing here? Surely I didn't belong in a shop where all the sales clerks looked like paper cut-outs of human beings.

"Can I help you, ma'am?" one of said clerks - if she was larger than a size 2, I'll eat my hat - came up to me, her Lee-press On Smile firmly in place.

"I'm just wondering what I'm doing here," I mutter, looking around the shop uneasily.

"How so?" Her smile dimmed a few watts.

"Well, I've lost over sixty pounds this year, and I've never shopped anywhere like this in my entire adult life. I have no idea what will look good on me, if anything..."

"Wow!" Her Lee-Press On Smile vanished, replaced with utter astonishment, then her face lit up like a Macy's Christmas display. It looked much nicer than the professional expression. "That's incredible! What size are you now, then?"

"A twelve," I said. "I don't even know if you carry size 12s. It seems in a weird grey area between fat and normal... "

"Oh, yeah, we do!" She grinned at me. "So, what do you need? Jeans? Tops? I've got a great sweater here that will just accent your figure perfectly!"

"I have a figure?" I raised an eyebrow at her. She has tiny little hips and is wearing one of those cowl-necked shirts that are used to hide the fact that she probably has breasts the size of a pull-handle on a dresser.

"Oh, my goodness, yes," she said. "Quite a nice one!"

So, Alicia introduces herself to me, and we talk about what I need; namely a party dress.

"We will find you the perfect dress! You really deserve something fantastic!" Gone is the Lee-Press On Smile and the How-can-I-help-you-ma'am attitude, and she's all about being my bff. She calls another girl over; Jamie, I think her name was, and they shoo me into a dressing room, bringing armsful of dresses and outfits over. I must have tried on about 20 different gowns, dresses, dressy-pants and sweaters, and skirt/shirt combos, coming out of the room at each for them to hum and haw over.

We looked at sparkly leggings with long sweaters, we looked at crushed velvet pants with silk tank tops and bolero jackets. I tried on countless blue dresses and red dresses and one multi-colored creation that I would have liked better without the $120 price tag. Finally, we picked a short-sleeved teal-green sheath dress with a square cut neck and sequins around the hem and collar. After that, Alicia helped me select matching accessories and tights and suggested places to look for shoes and a clutch purse.

It was somewhat embarrassing, but at the same time, really thoughful, and sweet, and I spent a good deal of that hour blinking back tears. I don't think I've ever had anyone fuss over me like that, not even when I was getting my $1,600 wedding dress, and for the commission she must have gotten on that piece of fabric, you'd think some fussing was owed to me! All this for a shared commission for a purchase that totalled less than $50, even with the matching necklace and earrings...

But you can bet your ass I'll be back.

And I'll make SURE that Alicia is there, before I make a big purchase.

After that, I beeped Thomas again and said I was headed for the shoe store. He and Darcy met me there and I fussed over shoes for a while before picking out a set of black wing-tip style heels. (Also, a pair of high-heeled boots, since the store was having a buy one, get one sale!) I haven't worn high heels in more than 8 years, and I was rather surprised at how... elegant I looked in them. Taller (no duh!). More confident. Also, my feet look tiny. Which is, in no small manner, due entirely to the fact that somewhere in this whole weight loss thing, my feet have dropped an entire two sizes.

The boots in my closet that I bought three years ago are nine and a half wides. The boots on my feet now? Seven and a half.

I have been stunned by how tiny my feet look.

Thomas, on the other hand, commented yesterday that what he was noticing more about the shoes was the way I walked.

"You have more strut in your step," he said, giving me his best bedroom eyes look. "There's a lot more... girlie in the way you walk, now. It's very sexy."

I must say, I'm looking forward to this year's party.


Sara said...

How amazing! I remember buying a bra at Victoria's Secret after losing 70 lbs. Similar experience. Congratulations and have a great time at the party!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am totally experiencing vicarious rapture through the tale of your shopping expedition! I'm so glad you had success and were treated well at Express.

Summer said...

Pictures, si vous plait! I want to see you in teal green and sparkles.

I'm glad you had a good experience shopping. You have earned it, no doubt about it!

Ashley said...

Go you! Pictures, please!

SeaShore said...

What a nice shopping experience. I would have been near tears, too. Enjoy the party, and, please post a picture or two!

I've passed along the Marie Antoinette Award to you, as you're an inspiration to me (see my blog.)

Shelley said...

How fun! I'm so happy you had such great salesgirls - that can make a world of difference! You must post a picture!

Natalia said...

First off congratulations on your weight loss! What a great story. I'm glad that you got such personal attention! I hope that you have a wonderful time at your hubbys party!!! :)

Anonymous said...

I love this post. your sparkle sassiness and GIRLIE is jumping off the screen.

I think I love your husband. and I think he freakin adores you.

Hanlie said...

Woohoo! I also love this post! Can't wait to see you all dolled up!

Cammy@TippyToeDiet said...

Wow, what a fantastic story! And what a priceless salesgirl!

I noticed a difference in my walk in heels, too. With purpose, like maybe I was scurrying to get out of everyone's way before, but now I'm okay being seen. Crazy.

kikimonster said...

Now, I want to see the dress after all that hoopla... and I'm glad you had such a great experience shopping. What a Pretty Woman moment for you...You know, minus the whole, I'm a hooker and my john is paying for these clothes deal.

Anonymous said...

I love it, I mean I completely love it. I am SO excited for you.

You should go get your hair and makeup professionally done for the party too. Go "girlie" all the way. :-) (Don't you love how I spend your money for you? I'm living vicariously here.)

Seriously, I'm very excited that you're having this experience, of getting to see yourself in a completely different light. You know - the way other people are seeing you. You've worked so hard at this - you should absolutely get to enjoy the heck out of the results.