The challenge of finding “real” clothes

I start a new job tomorrow. Thus, I bought some new clothes this week. This is never a pleasant experience for me, as my husband can attest from the time he tried to take me shopping for maternity clothes and witnessed my deterioration from a confident, happy, easy-going woman to a glassy-eyed, panicky, blithering idiot.  That had nothing to do with pregnancy hormones – my mom has been witness throughout my life to my emotional reaction to clothes shopping.

Part of this reaction is probably due to the general ambience in the stores themselves – bright lighting, elevator music, headless mannequins, cramped quarters, overly cheery sales clerks…  I start wanting to slap someone, anyone, after ten minutes in a clothing store.

Then there is the tediousness of carrying items to the “fitting room” (ironic name, as nothing seems to ever fit).  Try five things on, hate them all, put your own clothes back on, go back out, come back with five more things, try them on…  repeat until insane.  I’d like a store where you can just take your own clothes off when you walk in the door and walk around naked, trying things on next to the racks where you find them.  Hey, it would really cut down on shoplifting, too.

I suppose the number one reason that I hate clothes shopping, though, is that most of the women’s clothes that I see in the stores don’t seem “real”.  I walk around looking at the display racks, and I think “Those can’t be real women’s clothes.  They must be for dolls or something.  Or maybe they are for little girls, or for little girls pretending they are wearing women’s clothes – they are like little girls think women would dress.”

Then I choose a few items to try on, and when I put them on they seem even less like real clothes.  The fabric is thin.  The buttons are tiny and barely hanging on by the thinnest of threads.  The seams look so weak.  The shape of the clothes are such that they might fit you okay if you stand exactly *so*, but if you bend over or reach for something on a shelf or sit down or, well, breathe deeply…  they bind or gap or scrunch up or feel like they are going to pop a seam or a button.

So I try a larger size.  Grudgingly, because I know that I am NOT an extra large woman – I don’t know who makes up these sizes, only that they are ridiculous.  So now I can close the buttons on the shirt without feeling like they are going to rip out if I raise my arms…  but now the neckline gapes open and the back pooches out and I just look misshapen and pathetic.

It’s not just the fit.  Most women’s clothes seem to also have just plain weird features.  Maybe something appears to be a perfectly normal pair of pants, but then you notice some funky zipper on a strange part of the leg, a lace puppy on the back pocket, or some such juvenile nonsense.  Maybe something is otherwise a normal shirt, but then it has sequins in the shape of a heart over one nipple, or some weird ruffle sticking out to one side, or a collar that just keeps falling the wrong way and looking totally dumb.  I find myself looking in the mirror and thinking “Do people really wear things like this?”.  And I can’t even answer the question, since I don’t generally pay attention to what people wear.

So you know what usually ends up happening with me?  I go to the web sites of my trusted companies:  Eddie Bauer, Old Navy, a few others.  I find some shirts that I know will fit, that I have worn before – shirts that feel like “real” clothes.  And then I buy four or five different colors of each one.  Then I go to the local hardware store and buy several pairs of work pants.

So I end up looking almost exactly the same each day, just in different shades of green or plum or grey.  People might wonder if I ever change my clothes at all.

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