Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What Not To Wear... Ever, Ever Again

We all have things that we are not good at. Some people have trouble saying no. Some people have trouble keeping things closed (mouths, ovens, liquor bottles). Some people—who shall remain nameless—are not terrific at managing companies without losing millions of dollars in the process.

For example.

I myself am not exempt from this. Though I realize that I normally appear flawless—an image which is relentlessly encouraged by my PR agent—I, too, have things that I do not do well.

One of those things is shopping. Any kind of shopping, really—I experience the Christmas season the way a blind person experiences pinch hitting for the Mets. There’s lots of darkness and blunt trauma to the head. But it is shopping for clothes that really makes me want to mainline strychnine.

No, I am definitely not a “fashionista” in the same way that I am not blonde, age seven, a boy, et cetera. When I was in high school (an age where most girls need to be tied to a chair to keep from spending other people’s money), my mother used to bribe me so that I would go shopping with her. (I realized years later how nice it is to have other people pay for your clothes. Fortunately, my former viewpoint still stood, and I still had the same generous mother.)

It is much the same now, and as a result I own approximately four outfits:

-The Work Suit. As I have mentioned before, I wear this so often it’s basically my default setting. Black pants, ugly but sensible shoes, some sort of blousy thing, and a blazer. It is almost never a problem to go straight from work to a funeral.

-The Weekend Lounger. Jeans and a shirt. The shirt may change depending on whether I am going on a date, hanging out with a friend, vandalizing public property (in which case it would be a black shirt), et cetera.

-The Bedtime/Workout McComfy. Boxers, T-shirt, sweatpants and/or sweater, camisole, or any variation thereof depending on the weather and my mood.

-The Dressy Dress. Until this weekend, I had one. It is black, strapless, and inexplicably sexy even on me, hater of all things strapless. I bought it for ten pounds in London when I was sixteen, and it continues to fit me like a glove to this day. Allergic to wrinkles, machine washable, and very tiny (thus placing little demand on storage space), it is the perfect dress for me. Utterly low-maintenance. I have no accessories for this dress. No shoes, no shawl, no jewelry, no nylons. I wear it approximately once every two years.

That’s it.

You probably think I’m kidding.

Another thing: I don’t do dry cleaning. I have always washed my blazers with the rest of my clothes, which was fine at my first job when I wore a kiddie blazer that I’m pretty sure was made out of cotton. But with an actual blazer, that doesn’t really work. As a result, my solution to a blazer being dirty is generally to buy another one. Either that or wash it, which I can usually get away with once before the thing is completely shredded.

We’re talking 20+ years of this attitude, my friends. That is a long time to remain ignorant of fashion basics. I consider it something of an accomplishment, but it can also be a liability. I have literally never cared about clothes, and this extends to other people as well. An ex-boyfriend of mine once showed up for a date wearing an obscenely ugly pink-and-green horizontally striped shirt. It took me half the night to figure out why I was throwing up in my mouth a little when I looked at him—this was a handsome guy. I kept thinking something was wrong with me.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that when I enthusiastically agreed to come to Washington DC—a city to which I had never been before and about which I had heard no end of good things—to hang out with some friends of mine, shopping was not on the agenda. It never crosses my mind that some people find that a fun way to spend an afternoon. To me, it's every bit as enjoyable as flying.

But here’s the thing about hanging out with four people who like to shop and complaining loudly about how badly you suck at shopping: You might just wind up shopping. Or “being shopped,” as I like to call it.

And I’ll be damned if being shopped wasn’t—I can’t believe I’m about to say this—fun! Before I knew it, we were in a store called Express.

Express sure has a lot of clothes.

I felt very vulnerable.

“I am totally in your hands,” I said to my friends. “I’m your Barbie doll.”

“What’s your budget?” one of my friends asked.

I laughed. Lately my fiscal management style has been a combination of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Dumbo the Flying Elephant—out of control and completely out of touch with reality. Parenthetically, this is a really bad time to be experiencing a bout of financial immaturity. I’m hoping it passes soon.

“I need everything. Just have fun.”

Boy, did they take that seriously. It was like their own personal commandment.

Before I knew it, I was trying on dresses. Me. I think the last time I looked at dresses was, literally, five years ago when I was planning to get hitched.

Not just dresses, though. My friends drew on their deep, impressive reserves of fashion knowledge and picked out quite a lot of stuff that looked good on me. I definitely remember at least one pair of pants that didn’t make me want to immediately amputate my legs.

Other things too. But mainly I remember the dresses. Despite my friends’ patient and insistent proclamations that I looked good, judging from the pictures, I was quite obviously not of that opinion. Even I can tell that the pictures are hideously unflattering not because of the dresses, but because I radiated tension the way the sun radiates warmth. My slumped-over body language and pained expression do not an attractive fashion statement make.

Alas, getting out of that store without buying anything would have been harder than getting through an obstacle course on a land mine while being chased by ravenous wolves in an acid rainstorm. I ended up buying a blazer (remember how I needed a new one?), two nice work-friendly sweaters, one of which I am wearing right now (it’s cute and keeps me warm), and…

…a dress.

A cute dress.

Don’t ask me how it happened. I wasn’t involved in the selection process.

I wore this dress on a coffee date the following day, and I was absolutely stunned by the reception it received. I’ve never had so many cute guys checking me out before that I can remember. Leaving aside the obvious feminist implications, I must admit that this was flattering.

Okay, I kind of get why women dress like this more often than every two years.

On Thursday, I am going to a Broadway show. I will be wearing a dress. Yes, two times in one week! Stay tuned for updates on the Apocalypse.

In summary: Being shopped doesn't suck too much. There’s a lesson here, friends, and I think we all know what it is.

Lady Snark could really benefit from having a team of personal shoppers at the ready.


Mommy bird said...

I know you are not kidding about your wardrobe, I have seen it. I have worried what my friends would say if they saw it. ("Doesn't her mother care that you can see through her pants?, Who picked out that outfit, Hell's angels?" etc etc.) I have tried to dress you, and I am just glad you have found someone who was successful. Now the surprising thing in this email is that you were "trying on dresses when you were thinking of getting hitched." To who?????? Don't you think a mommy deserves to know if a kid is thinking of getting "hitched?"

Anonymous said...

1. Where are the pictures?
2. Why won't you ever let me dress you up?
3. WHERE are the pictures?!?


K.R. said...

methinks we should duplicate this experiment in Vegas. I see sequins in your future... and feathers!

Yeah, I have the same aversion to shopping that you seem to, and there's nothing Mommy Birds can do to change it. Don't fear Mommy Bird, we know you tried! Want to share pictures of Baby Snark for proof?

Jonathan said...

So I guess you finished your DC trip? I could see you having fun here, with our culture of clean-cut professionalism. It's too bad about the crime though.

tamie said...

I am so with you on this. In the sense of also needing a team of personal shoppers at the ready. I've thought this for years! I can look pretty decent in the right outfit, but the question is: how the hell does one go about finding The Right Outfit????????? Beats me.

Lady Snark said...

mom... Come on now! I never dressed like a Hell's Angel. Except that one time. You have got to let that Halloween party go.

anamreh... 1. In a secret happy place. 2. I have let you dress me up so many times I could be your personal Barbie doll. Let us not forget that summer party. 3. The secret happy place is all the happier because you do not know about it.

jonathan... I was only there for one afternoon. But I will be back at least once more, we should try to meet up!

tamie... Let's agree that the first one between us to hit it big as the next Anne Lamott will hire a professional shopper for the day, for both of us.

tamie said...


Jonathan said...

Yeah, send me a message before you come here again. Awesome.