November 06, 2005

The well-dressed woman

Saturday afternoon, I braved the mall. All by myself. I hate shopping, but I needed a new pair of black pants. I am going to a conference this week, and the outfit I usually wear when I have to present at a conference is black pants and a nice shirt. It's pretty much the only conference outfit I own, unless you count a blazer paired with jeans, which is what I wear on the days that I am not presenting. Yes, my wardrobe is pathetic by academic standards. I like casual clothes or I like sexy dress-up clothes so long as they are comfy, but the whole conference look - dark, tailored, and professional -- is just not me.

Anyhow, I went to the first women's clothing store I came to, right by the entrance to the mall. I don't like to wander too far into any mall alone because I always get lost. Malls make me nervous. Ever notice how you can never find a clock or a window in a mall? Nothing to keep you grounded in real time? It's like being in the twilight zone. And I can't be the only person who gets lost in malls. All those circuitous paths. My architect students tell me that malls are designed so that you can't find your way out, planned deliberately to force customers to wander through shops for eternity. Someone like me, who has a dismal sense of direction and a gut dislike of shopping, has no chance in a mall.

Anyhow, this store was filled with soft music, thick carpeting, and racks of clothing that were carefully color-coordinated. The customers were skinny middle-aged white women with dyed blonde hair cut chin-length. The mannequins looked serious and kind of mean. Well-dressed, but intimidating. Nice clothing stores always seem to have mannequins that look like they got shipped by mistake from a martial arts studio.

I grabbed black pants in my size and quickly ducked into the dressing room. Wow, the light seemed bright. I really prefer the dimly lit mirrors I have at home to the dreadfully well-lit mirrors that dressing rooms always have. I never think about clothes much, so it is a shock to look into the mirror and realize that my t-shirt should have been turned into a rag years ago. And the big problem with buying pants is that I am too tall to wear petite sizes, but regular pants are often several feet too long. Who are all those women with eight-foot legs? What I really should do is hem a pair of pants but I am too lazy to do that.

I noticed that the dressing room smelled kind of funny. Almost like cow manure, a smell strangely out of place in this store full of sophisticated women, all of whom were better dressed than I was. So I went into a different dressing room to pull off my jeans and sneakers, the sneakers I had just grabbed hastily off the front porch on my way out to do errands. Funny, but the smell followed me.

That's when I realized that the smell was coming from my sneakers.

Yeah, they really shouldn't even let me in those stores.

34 comments:

Jane Dark said...

I do all right in malls, probably because of the fact that when I was a foster kid, hanging out in the mall was one of the easiest and cheapest entertainments (and really, source of tranquility, since the family loved watching the OJ trial 24/7).

But out here in Washington, there's a whole section of a small town designed like a mall. All the buildings for about 4 square miles are built according to the same red brick design. None of the streets are straight, and they do not function according to a grid. I used to have to drive out there regularly, and it made me crazy with a capital K.

So, condolences. Did you eventually find the right pants?

bridgett said...

I would say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes...but that would make me a plagiarist. It sounds like you need sneakers more than you need pants, however. I had a similar experience yesterday at a performance -- mortified to realize that the funky smell in the auditorium was the shoes that I had grabbed going out the door.

jo(e) said...

Jane: Yeah, I just left the sneakers in the farthest back dressing room and came out in my socks to where the mirrors were, and all the well-dressed women took pity on me and helped me find a nice pair of black pants. That's the part of shopping I do like -- perfect strangers will helpfully scurry around and get clothes and such for me. I think women who like to shop are always happy to find someone like me who will willingly let them pick stuff out for me. So I end up just having to try stuff on and let them tell me what looks good.

ScienceWoman said...

I sympathize on the pants-length-issue. If I buy "ankle" length, when I sit down I feel exposed to mid-calf. If I buy "regular" length, I have wear heels (but of course I don't). I think women's pants are designed for 3 inch heels. BTW, I really enjoy reading your posts.

peripateticpolarbear said...

Was it, I hope, manure from your garden on your shoes? As opposed to the cat contributed kind? I find it ludicrous that the clothing industry sells men's pants by length but not women's. What? We're all 5'2, 5'5 or 5'10? (Apparently that's how petites, regulars and talls are hemmed.)

jo(e) said...

PPB: I had taken a walk in the woods earlier in the day so I think it was some kind of animal scat. I didn't stop to analyze it that closely ....

will smama said...

CLASSIC!!!

You should go over to St. Casserole's and demand a pine cone!

Any chance your kids set you up so you no longer had to rely on them to be funny?

Pink Cupcake said...

LOL at the sneaker smell. :) I'm glad you got some pants in the end, and enjoy the conference...

Friday Mom said...

I love your description of the mall. I hate shopping too!

As for pants length: I'm 5'10" and have the opposite problem, so I too wonder who those pants actually fit.

EmmaNadine said...

I'm usually okay with the length, I just want to find a pair of jeans that aren't super low rider. That style isn't flattering on most women, and definitely isn't on me.

It makes me wonder though, because no woman I know is happy with the selection of pants available, so do we all buy pants we don't like, or is there a separate population of women out there that actually fits the clothing and they just won't talk to me because I'm obviously wearing the wrong jeans.

will smama said...

Well now I know when those shop women look at me with their faces twisted instead of thinking they are judging me, maybe I should just check my shoe!

Impersonater, lolf. I know the inventors of low riders were men... or at least women who did not give birth ever and therefore do not have that extra weight nor the need to quickly bend down and grab a screaming or running away to danger child.

There are women I dearly love in my congregation who still think the low riders are their friend. My husband is threatening to carry around a small camera and making a bulletin board: is this butt crack yours?

kathy a said...

i used to do ok in malls, butnow i can't stand them. get lost. can never find stuff i like, never mind stuff that fits. hate the cheerful-helpers who hover, hoping to sucker me into a sale.

i'm short, oddly proportioned, and most things never fit right even when i was skinny -- and when i had the patience for trying on a million things. it is much worse now that i'm heavier and older.

hemming, i can do in a pinch -- iron-on hem tape is the absolute best thing ever invented!

found some nice presentation black pants in a catalog last year -- nice, right length, fit well. but i can't find casual pants to fit me anywhere...

Phantom Scribbler said...

Low riders were invented by someone like me, who's incredibly short-waisted. I dread the day they go out of fashion. Perhaps I should buy some more now, just to stock up..

I'm the same in-between length, jo(e). I've gotten so used to wearing my pants too long that it sort of weirds me out when they fit properly. Good thing I don't have to go to any conferences...

*statgirl* said...

Oh..this post made me smile. It's nice to hear that someone else hates shopping as much as me. My "girlie" friends always tell me I shop like a man-- "Must find pants, found pants, try on pants, purchase pants, leave mall".

Additionally, I have the opposite problem, I am the woman with 8 foot long legs--best thing about it is that it limits the number of stores I can even enter--many do not have "longs".

Hang in there and get those shoes by the door cleaned up. :-)

Sarah Sometimes said...

Yes, buying pants can be a trial. I also find that I always have to hem them (or, more realistically, spend money to have them hemmed). Which entails figuring out which shoes or boots I am going to wear with them, another sometimes mind-numbing decision. Or sometimes I switch off the shoes and if the pants are the wrong length pretend that I meant to buy Capris--I kind of like it that it's okay to wear short pants now. Or at least I think it is.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I HATE malls. I buy most of my clothes on-line to avoid malls and women's clothing stores. And I have resigned myself to paying someone to hem my pants when I get them because I have neither the time nor the patience nor the skill to do a decent job of it.

KathyR said...

8 foot leg woman here. I have a very hard time finding pants. They are always too short. Whenever I see in a catalog that the only pants inseam available on the otherwise perfect pants is 29" or 31", I want to scream.

I still kick myself for not buying two pairs of my favorite black pants. These pants are magical. They are comfortable, they look great, they make me look thinner (!!) and they are the perfect length -- just a little bit of a break on top of my shoes. Why did I not get a second pair? Why?

I am also 40-something, white, & have chin-length self-inflicted blonde hair. Does this mean I should be hanging out in malls?

Lucy Tartan said...

I have a similar problem only with buying shirts with sleevels long enough for my armsfor my arms - my arms are too long - actually, scrub that, everyone else's arms are too short.

Bad Alice said...

I'm with the iron-on hem tape! Or take them somewhere and have someone else hem them (but I never actually get there--I have a skirt that needs altering that's been in my closet for a month).

I hate clothes shopping in malls. I find it more bearable at Wal-Mart or Target, because the selection is so drastically limited I can't get confused. Or used clothing stores. Actually, my husband usually gets disgusted with my clothes and buys something for me, which is best of all.

ccw said...

I honestly love to shop, but not for pants. This is why I own one pair of jeans and one pair of dressier pants, but tons of tops and sweaters.

This is truly one of the best stories. I spit coffee at my monitor.

Kait said...

On a similar note to pants length, why do hats come in different sizes for men, but "one size fits all" for women? The standard woman's hat size is about 3 inches too small for me, and knitted winter caps sit well above my ears, looking like some kind of creepy beanie on me. I would love to wear hats once in a while, but I can't, because apparently all women have the same head size according to the hatmakers out there.

liz said...

I have to hem petite pants. Sigh.

I am still laughing at your description of the shoe smell following you.

Yankee T said...

What Liz said. Too short for my own good over here.

BotanicalGirl said...

I got so frustrated shopping for new pants the other day. I gained a little weight over the summer, and they had literally 2 pairs in the whole store that might have fit. (Most everything was 14 or smaller) I gave up and went back to what I did in high school: men's jeans. So much easier to find your size, and not all with the clingy.

Bad Alice said...

Hey, Kait: I hear you about that hats. Nothing fits my head either, unless I want a self induced migraine. We just have bigger brains, that's all. :)

Jesse said...

I am fairly tall, 6'5". Which is bad height for clothes shopping. Pants, I am at the very high end of what you can find in the regular sections/stores. Which limits availability on many makes and models of pants.

But shirts are the big problem. I am to tall for regular sized button up shirts. And all the big and tall shirts, are all for BIG people. Not simply tall. And the xlt is still too short. so I have to get the xxlt, which are for people far thicker than me, so it looks like I am wearing a tent.

And if I order tall shirts, they are always way too tall.

I think I have like 2 shirts that fit me nicely.

Woe is me, right?

mindspin said...

Dislike malls. Love this post. My most frustrating shopping challenge is shoes. Just look to see how many of your favorite styles come in size 5 (wide).

Seeking Solace said...

Wow, I had no idea so many people either detest shopping, are lacking the shopping gene, or both. I like to shop, but I am not obsessed like so many people I know. My husband’s theory is that when women go to the mall, they get a surge of energy. When men go to the mall, they become tired. Wait until I tell him about these posts!

There is not much out there for the thirty –somethings, or for a real woman’s body. Everything is either small or skin tight for the twenty-somethings, or something containing polyester that my grandma would wear! I like the Ann Taylor Loft. They have trendy clothing that does not look foolish.

I have the worst time with pants, especially jeans. I am 5’4’, which means that everything is either too long or too short! GRRRR!!!!

jo(e) said...

Seeking Solace: Going to the mall makes me tired and gives me a headache.

It is funny that you mention Ann Taylor Loft because that is the store I was in. And I too am 5"4" ....

Seeking Solace said...

LOL! Sometimes I feel the same way about the mall.

Doesn't it just suck to be our height? We can't win. I either end up with floods or I have to send my pants to a tailor ($$$$). You may want to try Land’s End. They will hem pants to your specifications. Plus, no dressing room required. They have some nice business casual clothiers.

So, did you bail out of the dressing room after you found the source of the ‘odor”?

Laura said...

Reminds me of my only trip to Reno. No clocks, no windows, everything plastic, mirrors everywhere, everything dark except for the flashing lights, totally disorienting. I too cannot find the right length of pants. They need an "almost-petite" length.

Rana said...

Agh, women's clothes. _Such_ the pain in the a-- (sometimes literally!).

My beefs: pants that are too tight in the hips and crotch, too loose in the waist. I love the low-riders, for the same reason Phantom does. I can't wear most jeans, because they are so stiff and give me wedgies. So... yoga pants. I love yoga pants and L.L. Bean pants. This is my secret: I find a company that makes pants (or whatever) that fit me, and I buy only from them. Patagonia is good too (but expensive). J. Crew on the other hand -- cute clothes that NEVER fit me. (LandsEnd has a few good things, though most of the clothes remind me of my mother. What's really cool is that online you can make a virtual model to try on clothes for you.)

Hell, most pants annoy me, especially non-stretchy ones. Pants and bras both have too high a reject:approve ratio for my comfort. (Who wants to try on 10-15 pairs before one fits?)

I am also not fond of shirts with sleeves that are too short/torsos too loose; dresses made for women with big boobs and no hips (being the opposite myself); uncomfortable underwear, and stuff that itches.

My problem with malls isn't so much the getting lost thing (though I have -- until I got in the habit of visiting the Mall of America -- four floors of nothing but shops, aiiee -- which is the equivalent of learning to drive stick-shift in San Francisco) as that I hate how the clothes are either (a) boring, (b) crappily made, (c) expensive, or (d) all three.

Is it too much to ask that I have clothes that fit, are comfortable, look both nice and interesting, and don't cost the moon?

Apparently so. Good on ya for finding some pants, jo(e)! That makes it a successful trip. :)

I know you'll knock 'em dead at the conference. :)

iBeth said...

See, if I didn't know better, I'd assume you were me! Hope you have a great time at the conference!

Allison said...

I'm also 5'4", with a smallish waist and biggish hips. I also like Ann Taylor Loft (although the pants are too long, at least they're shaped right for me. I'm bad about hemming, though). I also hate malls, but especially department stores.

A couple years ago I got lost for over an hour with my friend trying to figure out how to leave a large department store in a huge mall. It was like being stuck in a time warp loop. We started to cry by the time we finally, randomly, got to the right parking garage. At the time, I figured it was because we were both pregnant and our brains weren't getting enough blood flow. But I'm glad to know the place was probably designed to confuse.