On the Shopping Block
Why I can't wear a shirtdress anymore.
I can do a magic trick. When I go to Reston Town Center to shop for clothes, I am invisible in most of the stores. I am the absence in The Gap. I am a member of a missing tribe in Anthropologie. I am not part of the J. Crew.
I used to have a place in each of these stores. In fact, I was once the keeper of Victoria’s Secret. Now, I walk into each and the music is too loud and I remember the songs from when they were on the mix-tapes I made. The staff members do not peg me as a regular and often go back to their folding and stacking. Nobody is anxious to offer me a tiny room with a three-way mirror so that I may better see how that shirtdress fits.
In actuality, I never shopped at Anthropologie because, when I was young enough for their wares, it was called the thrift store. I do get the joke. I understand the irony of 21st-century youth wearing retro-print maxi-dresses which hearken to the days of fondue parties and Ford Pintos. If I were a clever young woman with a soft spot for mohair and sailcloth, I might participate in the fun.
However, I am now a mortgage slave who cannot leave the house without make-up and proper foundation wear. There is nothing whimsical about that. My clothes cannot simply adorn my body. They have jobs to do. Anthropologie does not recognize women with problem areas.
When I was younger and The Gap sold jeans made of cotton, I remember going there and buying clothes to wear to my post-college job. I had an acid-green twin set which I wore with velvet slacks. This particular ensemble was lost, along with my memories of it, in the changes my life has taken since 1990. Imagine my surprise to be reunited with these items when I strolled into The Gap this weekend foolishly looking for casual pants.
Of course, nobody had the temerity to display the sleeveless sweater and cardigan as the top half of a mannequin whose lower limbs shimmered in the luxury of boot-cut black velvet. However, both halves of this power combo were indeed awaiting purchase as New Order sang about a “Bizarre Love Triangle.”
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, and I need a personal shopper. The Gap is for women who didn’t wear those clothes the first time. It is a store for whom Esprit means nothing more than the word for unlimited shopping. Am I the only one who remembers when Benetton ads were the only place to see a couple like Seal and Heidi?
And that shirtdress I mentioned before? That one was from J. Crew and it almost lured me in until I remembered that a shirtdress is essentially a short toga. It is a loose, jaunty item designed to express frivolity and imminent fun. It also makes the wearer look ancient.
To quote Prufrock, “I grow old … I grow old …I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled because a size ten has an inseam of 36 inches and I’m kind of stocky.” That’s how the poem goes on the version printed on the cute tote bag I got at Abercrombie & Fitch.