Saturday, September 30, 2006

Somewhere along this dusty road, the clotheshorse died.

On the Monday after I graduated from high school I started working for an East Texas law firm. On Friday of that week I got my first-ever paycheck: $47 after taxes. I paid Mother $10, the amount we'd agreed would be reasonable room and board for someone of my new "adult-working-girl" status. Because I'd never learned to drive, a neighbor who worked across the street from my office took me to and from work each day; in exchange, I gave her gas money. I went to lunch every day with another secretary, mostly to places where we could get a good, hot, plate lunch for $1. Those were my only expenses. I spent the rest of my money on clothes.

My lunch buddy, Jo, had established relationships with the owners and managers of all the best clothing stores in town. They'd call her a day or two ahead of each big sale they planned, and we'd schedule our daily lunch hours around that insider information. We'd choose a restaurant near our target store, eat as quickly as possible (I still eat too fast as a result of that training), and shop until it was time to go back to work.

During that year, I bought beautiful clothes, dresses I could sketch in detail today if I were talented in that way. I loved them all and wore them well. The sizes were consistent from label to label, so I could pick my size off the rack and it would fit as if it had been designed for me. At 50 percent off, and with the help of layaway, I bought pretty much what I wanted.

Some days we shopped only for shoes, and I had shoes in every color. The most popular shoes in the early '60s were pointed-toe pumps with stiletto heels, much like the ones I see for sale today. I remember specifically a pair of wedgwood blue pumps that were so beautiful -- and so inexpensive at their sale price -- that I bought them even though I didn't own one thing to wear with them. Over the next couple of weeks I managed to find a shirtwaist dress and a purse in that exact shade of blue. The dress and purse were not on sale, unfortunately, so those "cheap" shoes ended up costing me a sizable amount.

Are you wondering why I'm spending so many words to describe my clothing excesses of more than 40 years ago? The reason, I guess, is to help you understand how much I've changed in all those years. Today, I would rather spend an hour strapped naked to a tree in a mosquito-infested rain forest than spend that same hour shopping for clothes. Sizes are inconsistent, age-appropriate styles are limited, plus-sized fashions are generally unfashionable, and prices, in my opinion, are ridiculous.

Still, I bit the bullet earlier in the week and spent a couple of hours to supplement my deteriorating work wardrobe. You want to know what I bought? Three pairs of black pants (each cut differently to accommodate varying levels of water retention) and four sweaters, all identical except for the color. The part of me that used to be aghast at repeating a look within a two-week period has grown to embrace the idea of a "uniform."

There are advantages to growing older, not the least of which are (1) I've become more or less invisible, and (2) I couldn't care less.


  1. I read this post when in two hours I'll be heading to the Galleria with multiple floors and wings and the darn skating rink to take my neice shopping for jeans. What a bunch of bunk for a Saturday. Time with her = good. Time shopping = yucko. Sigh.

  2. Oh, this made me sad for you! It is a little tougher to find those stores that cater to voluptous, mature women like us...but they are out there and carrying some beautiful things. I still love showing up for a meeting dressed to the nines. (Do people still say dressed to the nines?)

  3. when sister came to visit she brought me new cloths. if not for her i would go to my grave wearing the same things i have wore for 5 years. mostly i wear night gowns around the house!

  4. Your 40-year-ago self made me laugh! Exactly like my today-daughter. The dear child has more shoes than Imelda Marcos and has yet to meet a black purse she doesn't like.

    She doesn't get it from me, I was never much of a shopper. I'm just happy she's away at school 9 months of the year - she's always after me to wear mascara, lipstick and nice clothes. Well, not really, I miss her a lot when she's away.

  5. And I thought I was weird because I hate to shop for those exact same reasons. ;-) Sometimes when I have to take my mom shopping, I wish doctors still handed out Valium like M&Ms.

  6. D.I., you must love your niece a LOT!

    Kat, please don't be sad. If I were still going to meetings, etc., I'd be more interested in dressing up, too. But there are only two people in my office -- myself and my boss -- and I rarely see the same people more than once a week. I find it totally freeing not to have to worry so much about wardrobe. And the "invisible" thing? I'm an introvert; invisiblility is a desirous state.

    Patsy, I know how you feel. My favorite shirt to wear with jeans is 10 years old. It's soooo soft now.

    Sunflower, don't know about your daughter, but I think what drove my shopping frenzy was being able to make clothing choices without considering my mother's approval or disapproval (or the confines of her budget). One more thing I bought with my first paycheck was my own personal jar of stuffed olives, because I'd never been able to eat as many as I wanted. I might add that all that spending came to an abrupt halt a year later when I got married. Those clothes had to last me a long time.

    Janet, maybe the truth is we're both weird, but weird's not necessarily a bad thing, is it?

  7. At least my choices are pretty straightforward. I have to wear a suit, shirt and tie. No choice.

    In my "youff" I always thought I looked sharp in a suit...but oh, how I loathe wearing them now. What a waste of time and effort, hey?

  8. TC, I wouldn't like being trussed up in a suit and tie either, so I feel for you -- but, if it's any consolation, I do think men look good in suits.

  9. It's so good to read my feelings! I actually have in the past and currently pay someone to shop for me (this, by the way, includes groceries). The variable to this is buying on the internet (for me) and "social shopping" which I do with my 15 year old granddaughter and my younger (44) daughter. She still has the body of a teenager as well as the funds and need to gild the lily. Shopping is about the only time I get to spend with either of them. My older daughter still has to maintain her dress appearance, but she's in and out and nothing social about it! I am self employed and live on an island. My clients are accustomed to seeing me in jeans and Keds -- but I always have jewelry on!


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