Tall, Dark, and Mysterious

12/29/2004

Clothes shopping: the reckoning

File under: XX Marks the Spot, Know Thyself. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 5:03 pm.

Midway through last term, I observed that my students were relating to me very well. I was, to them, something of a peer; I was close to the youngest ones’ ages, and I was younger than around a quarter of my students. This had its advantages and its disadvantages. On the one hand, my students saw me more as an ally than as an authority figure. On the other hand, my students saw me more as an ally than as an authority figure.

This development, coupled with the fact that - irony of ironies - people in Island Town tend to assume I’m a student far more often than anyone ever did when I was actually studying at Large Urban Grad School, led me to decide that it was about time I started looking like a grownup. The two easiest ways to do this - get haircut, and wear makeup - were out. No one, including me, would recognize me with short hair and a painted face. No one.

This meant new clothes - suits, or some approximation thereof.

I had a list of nonnegotiables:

  1. Limit of $200 per outfit, and even that was pushing it.

  2. No garish colours. I’m trying to be taken more seriously, not less. Even allowing that neon pink and bright purple have their uses, businesswear is not among them. Brown or olive green would be ideal for a suit. Black would be fine as well.

  3. On the same theme as 2), only moreso: “sexy” is quite decidedly not the image I’m going for. I’m not interested in flashing leg. Ditto for cleavage, which is a nonissue for me anyway.

  4. On that theme, clothes must fit. I am the arbiter of fitting. A salesperson telling me that “it’s supposed to be that tight” does not have the final word.

  5. POCKETS. This is a dealbreaker. Pants and jackets must have pockets that are cumulatively of sufficient size for transporting items such as wallets, pens, small papers, and cell phones. I refuse to tote bags with me whenever I wish to bring more than my person from one place to another.

I don’t think I’m that picky, but a trip to the largest mall on Vancouver Island left me emptyhanded. The only jacket with pockets would have set me back $150. The long skirt that looked fine from the front, had a massive slit right up to the ass in the back. And I had tried on the lovely, well-fitting, $40, chocolate brown pants when I realized that they were manufactured by a POCKET TEASE, a designer who puts little folds near the hips that look like pockets, but that go nowhere. Apparently it is considered fashionable to appear as though you have pockets but don’t.

This doesn’t even take into account the frustration engendered by the sheer arbitrariness of women’s clothing sizes, which are apparently functions of a multitude of variables, including, but not limited to, the woman’s size; the calendar year; the price of the clothing; and the alignment of the planets. I am of the tall, thin variety, with apparently the majority of my body fat concentrated in my thighs and ass. Somehow, though, it’s not uncommon for the size n pants to fit just fine, while the matching size n+4 blazer is a little small. There’s also the perplexing experience that I routinely try on pants that fit me at the waist, but that are around three inches too long. I have a BMI of NINETEEN. I cling naively to the view, unpopular on this coast, that the market responds at least somewhat to demand, but (evangelical Marxists, take note) damned if that belief doesn’t take a beating every time I shop for clothes. I guess it’s possible that although I’ve never met any six foot tall, 120 lb women, they not only exist, they also buy a helluva lot of pants - but I’m skeptical.

In any case, I decided to put the clothes shopping on hold. It wasn’t worth the stress, and Island Town apparently had little to offer me.

This week, though, I found myself in Big Ontario City, and decided to try again. The clincher: the local paper’s horoscope for my zodiac sign, which I reproduce in full:

You will acquire some new clothes.

And - THANK YOU, Mercury in retrograde! - I did. For three hundred dollars, I obtained three pairs of well-fitting, dark, pocketed pants; two blazers (one black, one orangish-brown) with pockets; and two shirts. The sizes were arbitrary (I can feel my ribs and spine, which to me indicates that a size large shirt should not restrict my breathing, but whatever), and the mall was a zoo, but I can wear something other than jeans next term. Without needing to carry a purse.

And best of all, I won’t have to do this again for another year or two. Unless the stars encourage me otherwise.