Monday, September 12, 2011

The ding dong guide to the fitting room

Sometimes my kids are amazing. They tell me imaginative and amazing stories about how the world works. They hug me tight and kiss me and tell me that they love me so so so so much. They dance and spin and make music and make my day. Today is shaping up to be one of those days. Friday? Not so much. It was one of those nonstop whining days when nothing I do is good enough for them, and I get beyond sick of trying. By the time we got home from the tear-filled grocery store trip, I was more than ready to pass them off to Daddy. I went into the office to catch up on facebook and e-mail, but my usual 20-minute Mommy detox didn’t have the usual effect. I needed a more serious intervention. It was time for some retail therapy.

Honey, I love you. Take the kids. I’m going to Ross.

I joke sometimes that if it weren’t for Ross and Marshall’s, I would be naked. The Old Navy clearance rack plays its part in keeping me from getting arrested for indecent exposure, but mostly, it’s Ross and Marshall’s. I have sticker shock everywhere else. I am used to paying $30 for a Calvin Klein dress, $20 or less for a pair of jeans, and $25 for a good winter coat. That’s how I roll. So Friday night, I closed that place down. I bought some kick-ass black boots (for just $18! And yes, for those in the know, that is a pink clearance sticker on the price tag), a pair of jeans, some black pants, a sweater, a strapless bra, and some clothes for my kids. I came home euphoric. Retail therapy is magical, like drugs without the health risks. Retail therapy does carry its own risks, to the budget in particular. But in my budgetary defense, I tried on my fall clothes recently, and they all looked like pajamas. It turns out that spring and summer attire is much more forgiving of a 30 pound weight loss than the fall wardrobe. Which makes sense. In spring and summer, you show skin. In the fall, your clothes actually have to fit you, and mine just don’t.

Clothes shopping is not as easy as it used to be. Before my metabolism thunked to a stop, I had a very good clothes body. I could try on 10 things and they would all look good, so it was just a question of style. Gaining weight made things a little more challenging, but I still looked pretty good in most clothing. And then I had twins. I weigh 20 pounds less now than I did when I got pregnant, but everything has moved around. Between the diastasis and the abundant extra skin on my belly, my body has become much more difficult to dress. But after a few years in this new body, I am once again a well-oiled machine in the fitting room. Here are some of my best tips:

1) Wear your favorite jeans and a cute top to go shopping. Look at yourself. This is how good you should feel in everything. If you don’t like those new jeans as much as you like your favorite jeans, don’t buy them.

2) Never try on a top without pants or jeans on. It may look really nice with your undies, but the important question is: How’s it gonna to look with your muffin top?

3) Slouch. If you’re like me, when you look in the mirror, you stand up straighter. Maybe you even suck it in a little. It’s a reflex. Let it hang out. Slump a little. Do you still like it? Oh man, if you do, buy it.

4) Try on everything. If you like it, try it on. Make the fitting room attendant hate you. It’s their job to put all of your discards away. It’s probably not a fun job, but in this economy, they are probably happy to have it. Be friendly. Smile, with genuine warmth. Be a bright spot in their day. And keep them in a job. My ratio in the fitting room is maybe 10% yes. Maybe less. I try on a lot of no’s, because you never know, and the things I buy are not usually the things I thought would look good. You have to try it on.

5) You don’t have to try on everything. I know. I know what I just said. But here’s what. If you’re a DDD cup, you can look at a top and KNOW that that “under bust” seam may not even make it under your nipples. So don’t bother. If you like the cut but you don’t like the way the fabric feels, that will be even more true when it’s rubbing on your tender armpit skin. Don’t waste time.

6) If you even THINK the word “Spanx,” it’s a no. I like a good corset as much as the next girl. Really, I like a good well-made corset way more than the next girl, with a steel busk and spiral steel boning and at least a 6” reduction in waist measurement… *blush*… but I digress. So, um, yeah, corsets are awesome. For a special occasion dress, sure, rock your Spanx (or better yet rock a luscious Dark Garden corset). But on a random Tuesday, you just want to wear your clothes without having to wear some torturous foundational garment. Some deliciously torturous... um, never mind. Here’s my point. Don’t buy an outfit imagining how good it will look with Spanx. You’re not gonna want to wear Spanx out to dinner. If you do, I don’t think we can be friends.

7) If it’s a maybe, it’s a no. Almost right? No. But it might be cute if maybe... no. If you don’t love it, it’s a no. But but but... what about? No. Save your money for stuff you love.

8) This should be obvious, but if you have to lose weight to wear it, no. Not even if you’re PMS-ing or bloaty that day.

9) Sweater dresses, just no. Save yourself the trouble. They look really cute on the hanger. Because hangers don’t have any fat. If you’re shaped a little bit like a hanger, have at it. For the rest of us, with bulges and whatnot, they are a nightmare. If they don’t show the bulges, they look like a sack. If they fit properly, they. show. everything. Save yourself the body image issues. Don’t even bother. (The exception to this rule is sweater dresses with some kind of belt or structure in the waist/belly region. If they have something that is going to cut across the problem area, by all means, follow rule #4 and try it on.)

10) It’s not you, it’s the clothes. When you start to feel like your body is freakish, put your favorite jeans and your cute top back on. See how cute you are? Stupid clothes don’t fit you. Your body is perfect and can look awesome in the right clothes. These are not the right clothes. Look how much money you’re saving by not buying them.

11) Plan alterations with caution. Those makeover shows talk a lot about getting clothes altered. “Fit to the biggest part of you and take it in everywhere else.” Um, that’s awesome when you’re buying $200 jeans on “What Not to Wear,” but when you’re buying $15 jeans at Marshall’s, you’re not gonna want to shell out another $15-20 to get the waist taken in and the hem taken up. If you have a tailor you trust and you know what it will cost to make the alteration you need, go ahead. I have a friend who has to alter every pair of pants she buys. She just figures it into the price of the pants. If that’s not you, you’ll probably never get them altered. They’ll probably sit in your closet with a price tag on them until the day you give them to Goodwill.

12) Do the ebay thing. No, don’t buy clothes on ebay. It doesn’t work. But you know how on ebay you figure out your maximum bid? Do that. Don’t look at price tags when you’re putting stuff in your cart. Just try it on. And then say, “What would I spend?” Be honest. And then if it’s more, don’t buy it. This is kind of a Ross/Marshall’s/Kohl’s strategy. At a department store, a pair of pants might be like $200, so save yourself the trouble and don’t bother trying that on, because they could come with a built-in vibrator and I still wouldn’t pay $200 for a pair of pants. But at Ross and Marshall’s you can do this. Nothing is likely to be more than $40, and most stuff will be under $25. So you think, “Hmmm, cute top. Maybe with jeans. Ummmm, $16.” And then you turn over the tag and it turns out it’s a BCBG Max Azria top for $29.00. Don’t buy it. Or you turn over the tag and it’s on clearance for $7. Score.

13) It's OK to buy nothing. Some days, you don't score. That's OK. As in life, don't settle.


  1. Awesome. I'll use this next time I get to go shopping (instead of calling you from the dressing room when I have "Store Coma").

  2. The thing I like most about the area of Cali that we're planning to move to in the spring is that you can't swing a cat without hitting a Ross.

    I love your list! I can say that with absolutely no additions, it is worthy of printing and laminating and sticking in my purse. :)

    I definitely understand the extra tummy skin. Having lost about 80 pounds in a couple of years I just wonder if it will ever get better. Dressing that part of my body is my nightmare!