I think I have something away from the norm, and that is the misadventure of NYC shopping that I got embroiled in recently. Mostly, this is me showing that I am far, far too practical for my own good in the one aspect of life that practical doesn’t quite work. I don’t talk fashion often – or at all, truthfully – and frankly…the only reason I’m writing this is to make you all giggle. Yes, at my own expense. :)
Now, if you met me in person, you know that I love, love, love my comfortable yoga pants for off-time. You know that I love my coffee, my long walks, and my devil-may-care everyday. I don’t wear makeup aside from lip balm – never needed to. Though I do dress up for the day job, but even then, everything is with comfort in mind.
So when an event surfaced that required major dressing up – and do I mean major – I will admit to balking a bit. I never have to ask myself what to wear, except now. Skirt and blouse? Dress? Too much? Not enough? Gown? Heels, beautiful and yet so impractical? Jewelry aside from the necklace that always stays with me? I’m nothing if not an adventurer, so if dress up I must, then dress up I certainly shall! Which means…
I’m no shopaholic. I don’t shop for clothes often, least of all formalwear. I also have a classic sense of taste when it comes to gowns, and am a fair stickler about sticking to it. Empire waists? Not for my build. Color? Jewel tone or basic black. Cover? Yes, if possible Long? Sweep floor. Stitching, ruching, any of that? Depends on the cut of the gown. Accessories? Minor but pointed. Less is more. Classic is king.
It just so happens that my day job position is in the Garment District, which puts me in close contact with the newest things on the market. Some of these shops are owned by the designers themselves, so if I were to, say, round the block of 38th and 6th, I will come across no less than 10 shops, none of them geared towards the same style. Formal? Yes!
Strap yourselves in, though, because I have had some doozies of misadventures on this hunt…
Stop #1: 37th Street.
Owner takes a good look at me and selects some concoction in black. Lovely! But short, to my knees.
“Long, miss,” I say. “This is too short.”
“But this is long!” she says, and then shows off something that I swear is a tunic, because no one who is taller than 5’5″ can conceivably wear it as a dress. “This is our short style.”
A quick FYI: I’m a natural five-nine.
I do a quick little calculation. Waist right there, hips there, skirt length…HELL no.
Me: “I’ll keep trying.”
Stop #2: Lord & Taylor, 5th Avenue
If you’ve never been to Lord’s when in New York, go for a day trip. They have some amazing things in there, but as far as the department store prices go, they are exorbitant. The only worse I can come up with is either Bergdorf or Barney’s, neither of which appeals to me.
I go with my best friend of eleven years, and we start digging through racks. I find a couple of lovely navy dresses, and go to try them on. Perfect fit! And a lovely style too, just a tiny bit of embellishment, which actually works in my favor.
My friend turns to me. “Well?”
Me: “We have a winnah!”
I get back into my Walking Clothing, and get the dress back onto the hanger, thinking that this hunt ended early, and how lucky was I?
But then I see the price tag.
If you heard that from across the country, that’s us finding out that a good gown costs well into the triple digits. And I mean well into. As in, the dress was more expensive than my flight!
I’m not made of money, honey. NEXT!
Stop #3: Some Shop On 38th Street
Good gravy, I think this one stands out in my memory as the quintessential This is why I don’t go shopping!!! experience.I will admit to making several semi-amateurish mistakes – I lived in New York long enough to not make ’em, usually – but desperation does drive people to desperate measures. I had a deadline to meet to the event at hand, and knew that either I went home with a dress tonight or, in the inimitable words of Tom Hanks, Houston, we have a problem.
I spotted this shop on 38th, somewhere close to 8th Avenue and Gray’s Papaya, and saw hangers upon hangers of formal dresses. I thought, know what, I think they have something good in there. So I go in, solo. That’s amateur mistake #1, if you’re going in for a shopping mission with a target in mind, a backup is always a good idea.
The shopkeeper comes forward, a short, balding gentleman with an accent who grasps me very eagerly by the hand (mistake #2, I loathe being touched by people I don’t know, and in retrospect, should’ve cleared the deck right then and there), and says, “You are so beautiful, I have just the dress for you! What would you like?”
That is a major, major red flag right there, someone who starts complimenting me and telling me he has something without hearing me out first is guaranteed to have nothing whatsoever.
So I give him my shpeel of requirements (long, black, classic-style, minimal sparkly, good fabric, and my size), and he leads me by the arm (mistake #3, see #2 for why) and pulls out…
“No way,” I said immediately. “This is disgusting.”
Yes, it was a long black dress, but the fake flowers down the front, the very obviously horrible fabric – the pseudo-satin that feels like paper – and the horizontal stitching…I cannot imagine how anyone can possibly wear that…thing…and call it good. And this guy was looking at me like, and I kid you not, a puppy waiting for praise. And of course, he was very crestfallen when I told him that I couldn’t stand it.
The other dresses he showed me were along the same lines. Pseudo-satin which hardly even qualifies as polyester, absolutely garish embellishments, and it led me to ask, “Show me your catalogs.”
Mistake #4, and this one’s all on me. I should have laid tracks out of there ages ago, but as I said, desperate times, desperate measures. And some of the things in the catalogs were actually pretty nice, but this guy was showing me everything that I would never put on even if I were paid to.
So finally he asks, “How much would you like to spend?”
Mind you also that his wife, apparently also his assistant, was showing me some of the things in catalogs as well, and was right there.
Me: “I’m not willing to go above $150 if I can help it.”
So he pulls me off to the side and whispers conspiratorially, “I give you good price. Don’t talk to my wife, okay?”
I ran for it right about then. Seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever left a location this fast in my life, and the business card he gave me, I ripped up immediately and threw into the nearest trash can, not really caring if it was privately owned or not. Any shopkeeper who says he’ll give me a “good price” is, by default, not worth the time and effort.
Stop #4: Macy’s.
It was bound to happen, but I generally put that store on a back burner. I love going to the smaller shops, because I can count on finding something interesting in there. However, after the prior misadventure and all that entailed, I just walked in there on autopilot.
The escalators carried me up to the dress department, and all I could think of was, “if there is a dress, a plain, simple, long dress that I can work with in any way, shape, or form, please, with a cherry on top – let me find it!”
Well, suffice it to say that find it I did, and here’s to hoping that my formal needs are satisfied for a while to come. :)
In retrospect, though, it’s just downright hilarious. I am just not the shopping type; I go in, get what I need, and run out, and shopping for myself is always, inevitably, more of a misadventure than it has to be.
So of course, expect something similar when I go for a Netbook in April. :)