with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: Clothes

Buying a dog bag by accident: Or owning the thing you have, no matter what

by SweetMidlife
Yes, it's a dog bag. But it's super cute. and I can work it.

Yes, it’s a dog bag. But it’s super cute. and I can work it.

About a month ago, rummaging through the local Goodwill for winter-type clothing for myself and my kid the day before heading north, out of Florida and into places where they have winter, I ran into the cutest bag. It was pink tweed, very Nancy Reagan at a press conference meets hipster bowling bag. It had a weird long zipper at the top, and some mesh zippered flaps on the side. I couldn’t quite figure out what those were for, but it was big enough to stick my laptop in for the flight, super attractive and easy to carry, and the weird side zippers made it a cinch to stick bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper in, which is totally a problem that needed solving. Totally.

Also, it was like $8. So welcome to the family, New Bag.

I wasn’t the only person to dig my bag – my sister and mother immediately told me how sharp they thought it was, and a few other friends specifically stopped to tell me how much they liked it. It was a very long trip, hanging out with Lynne to help out after her surgery, seeing friends and family when I could, and writing a random story for work when necessary (RIP, Ziggy Stardust), and I found myself shoving a lot of things into the new bag and its weird zippered portions, finding it spacious and easy to fill – there was always another corner to shove things into, and I have never met a bag I couldn’t fill till it looked like a hobo pack.

By the time I got home, I was rather in love with it – not the least of which was because it’s big and huge and easy to find in the crazy thrift store storeroom that is my living room.So a few days later, I grabbed it on the way out the door to go visit a friend for an after-work glass or two of wine. I plopped the bag down on her counter next to the wine and plunked into a chair, noticing her notice it as she walked by to get the corkscrew.

“That your new purse?” she asked.

“Yep!” I said, anticipating the compliments not only on the stylishness of my choice but an opening to brag about the deal I’d gotten.

“You know that’s a dog bag, right?”

No. No I did not know that.

Suddenly, everything made sense – the odd roominess of the purse, that was not actually a purse. The weird, helpful zippers on the side, that I could shove a soda in but that was actually made so that little Fifi and Fluffy could stick their precious head out of. The fact that it was $8, because not everyone needs a dog bag. Or realizes that they bought one, sans dog.

So I wondered – was everyone looking at me weird? Was it like when I walk my kid to daycare and then walk the empty stroller back home with people peering in looking for a baby but seeing a bag of spinach and spaghetti squash and thinking I’m crazy? Did I look dumb? Should I head back to the Goodwill for another non-canine bag?

I don’t know how I looked to others, but I can answer the last one – No, no I am not replacing that bag. Because I like it. Because it’s big and roomy and cute. Because it’s possible to repurpose a thing as another thing because it’s not hurting anyone. And because even if I look a little crazy to other people, I have decided to work my dogless dog bag and let it rock.

Because I can.


I love this dress. I still wonder if I should have bought it.

by SweetMidlife
I dunno.

I dunno.

You know that Monkees’ song “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You?,” the non-committal argument anthem for the ages?I’ve been singing it to myself lately, about the above swanky-Sue leopard print dress. Leopard is a thing I am trying to explore in my 40s without looking ironic or like a cat-eye glasses-wearing granny Hon in a John Hughes movie. It’s funky, comfortable and doesn’t make me look like a jaunty iceberg. It was a great find in a local consignment shop, and even though it was, at $34, more than I usually spend on non-label items at consignment stores, the price is not the reason I have just the wee case of regret about the purchase.

It’s because the woman who sold it to me initially mistook me to be so large that she didn’t think I was going to fit into that, or any dress or article of clothing that lived beyond a tiny rack shoved depressingly in the back. And although I have reasons for believing that this makes her dismissive, exclusive and bad at her job, if her job is encouraging people to spend money in her store, I’m also concerned that I am so brain-washed by our fat-shaming circus of a society that the suggestion of an extra “X” to my XL sends me into some self-righteous tailspin, like “How dare you! I say good day. Nooo…I SAY GOOD DAY!”

And that part of my regret makes me want to punch myself in the face, repeatedly.

Here’s what happened – I came in,  waved at the lady in the back of the store and headed towards the rack with the giant “End of Season” sale sign on it. I am, as I have discussed, not currently a size I love, but at a point where I love myself and see no need not to be cute in the body I am currently in, because that body is fierce. I am anywhere from a very, very stretchy medium to an XL in dresses without zippers, and since it’s summer in Florida I tend not to love zippers in the first place. So I start going through what appeared to be the larger end of the sale stuff, but in the middle, pushing the mediums to one side and the XXLs to the other, concentrating on the L and XL situations. My plan was to grab the cheaper stuff first and then head to the regular rack. And then I heard this.

“I think the only things that will fit you in the store are over there. We go up to XXXL.”

I’m sorry what? I immediately tensed up, and I admit my first thought was “How could she think I was an XXXL?” And that thought, again, was both fed from an annoyance that a woman who is supposed to be a professional would just eyeball me and not only get my size wrong – because getting them right is her job – but be so dismissive about it. Like a lot of women – and probably men – I know what it’s like to walk by a store and know that you can either not fit into anything, or that the category is so small that you feel singled out, like “There’s the scraps for you, Fatty. And you’ll pay us for them.” I don’t usually get annoyed by that because it’s just what happens. When I went bridal shopping I called a lot of boutiques that advertised sample sales before I went, because not only are samples very small, some boutiques don’t carry more than one or two dresses in larger sizes, which meant there would be nothing for me to try on. Everyone deserves the opportunity, if they choose, to have their “Say Yes To The Dress” moment. So I only went to places that could give me that.

Fast forward to last month,, when the woman told me that her store was not for me. If that were true, it would be a burn, but a factual one, because she can’t make the dresses bigger or make some fabulous size 14 woman show up with a haul or gently used treasures at that moment. What got me, though, was that she saw a not-skinny woman walk in and just dismissed me, which should have been my cue to leave. But I didn’t. I felt the need to defend myself or something, which is weird. Why should I be defending myself against something that is not an insult? To some, being accused of being big is insulting, but it is what is. If you are comfortable with yourself that shouldn’t be an insult, unless you know that person specifically means that observation as a pejorative. Anyway, I needed to say something.

“Um, I’m a Large or Extra Large, at the most. I think this dress is a large I’m wearing right now!” I said and tried not to sound indignant. The lady came a little closer, looked me up and down, and shook her head.

“I’m sorry!” she said, because I think she saw my face and imagined a possible purchase walking out the door, although I am not sure if she wasn’t re-sizing me up to see if I were in denial At that point I can’t honestly say whether I really wanted to buy a dress because I wanted one, or because I wanted to prove I could, which is a dumb waste of $35. Meanwhile, I took some nice things off the regular rack and took them to try in, near the back area where the lady was watching the aftermath of the Charleston shootings on TV. We had a conversation about the shooter, and whether or not his uncle had turned him in, and whether he was going to be safe in jail (Neither of us felt so, although that didn’t bother us, either.) I stepped out into the sales area in the leopard dress, which instantly felt right to me.

“Well that looks great!” she said, earnestly. “I’m sorry again for so misjudging your size.”

That was nice of her to say, but what was she saying? Was she regretting her inability to size me up properly, or worried that she had been dismissive? Or was she, like me, afraid that assuming there were more Xs afoot than there were was an insult? I don’t know. But I headed across the street with my dress in a bag, and told the friend I was meeting for dinner what happened.

“And you bought it?” she said, incredulously. “Huh.”

So now I have this dress, and I love it. It’s sassy. It’s swingy. But its origin story, if you will, makes me doubt just how secure in myself I am.

Huh.

 


Stitch Fix update: My Pinterest page helps dress me! What a novel idea!

by SweetMidlife

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Howdy guys! This is Leslie, and once again I’m doing my own version of home shopping – Stitch Fix, which provides a box of clothes selected for you by stylists based on your sizes and stated preferences. I’ve been doing it for a few months now, and the boxes are now getting more on the nose than they originally were, when I either didn’t like the clothes or didn’t love them enough to pay full price for them. It’s a real find – I get to try out clothes that I like but still might bypass in a store, chosen by someone with a fresh eye. And getting the boxes and opening them is like a monthly Christmas gift, albeit one I pay for.

Yesterday’s offering was the most successful,  and apparently it’s because the stylist checked my Pinterest page, specifically the one marked “What I want in my Stitch Fix box” before filling the box. She took a look at the things that I Pin from other people’s pages or around the Internet and got a clearer picture of what I really like, or at least what the page says I like. And for the first time I almost bought all five items in the box – a dress, two shirts, a scarf and a skirt – which would have triggered a 25% discount, with which the $20 monthly “styling fee” you pay every month would have made $246 worth of clothes cost only $169.50. Sadly, one of the shirts didn’t fit in the chestular region, and without the discount the other shirt was just a shirt, you know? And the dress was cute but not “me” enough for $58 bucks.

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So I kept the above amazing skirt, and that boss bird scarf (that peasant blouse is my own and doesn’t really match), which with the $20 styling fee I already paid this month come to $66 bucks. And it’s worth it – that skirt goes with anything and I always like adding to Leslie’s Collection Of Scarves – my whole house is covered in drapey fabric to dress up my sweaty workout wear when I’m running out to get diapers and don’t want to look crazy.

The Pinterest thing really is brilliant – it’s one of the things that Stitch Fix inquires about when you fill out your profile. The first time I did it I didn’t fill it out, maybe because I was like “Who wants to know?” But my Pinterest is public, and if seeing the things that catch my eye and viscerally get me to click “Pin” helps someone who does not know me find things for me, it’s awesome. Pinterest is aspirational in that it’s unlikely that I am ever going to recreate a Moroccan tent in my backyard or redo my kitchen to look like something out of Elle Decor. But when putting things on my “Stitch Fix” page, I am not just clicking pretty things. I am thinking about the things I might wear, even if I’ve never bought anything like that before. Looking at the page this morning, I see that it’s mostly dresses – I love dresses – scarves, interesting cuffs and bangles, as well as sleek blazers and pants – it’s my Executive Stevie Nicks look. And the stuff I got this month reflected that.

It can get expensive if you buy everything, but you aren’t obligated to, and I’ve spent an average of $50 a month, which is a decent amount to spend on new clothes (I should also note that the majority of my clothes shopping is in consignment and second hand stores, because I’m way cheap and because the Palm Beaches have really good thrifting.) I’m looking forward to next month’s box. Maybe it’ll be worth the extra cash!


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