Monday, July 15, 2002

How do you buy a dress without throwing a fit?

In My Life

By Jan McManus
Enquirer contributor

        It had to happen sometime. It couldn't go on like this forever. The last time was Easter 1999. Years had gone by and the solid, indisputable fact was I needed a new dress.

        In my profession, dresses are not practical. Try working with kids all day in a dress. I'm a khaki-and-cotton kind of person who thinks dressy means a new pair of shorts and running shoes.

    Jan McManus is a second grade teacher at St. Vivian School in Finneytown who lives in Springfield Township with her husband, Tim, and three sons, Mike, 20; Matt, 19, and Dan, 16. She actively avoids clothes shopping.
        But weddings are one occasion where female guests must wear a dress, and that was the reason for this evening's hunt.

        I trudged begrudgingly to the universal palace of despair under one roof: the mall. I repeatedly whispered my shopping mantra as I entered, “Simple Abundance has the right clothes at the right price for me.” In my mind's bargain basement, who was I kidding?

        I entered a department store whose former name used to mean you had a chance at finding something you liked at a price you couldn't refuse, especially during a full moon. I poked through the “Better Dress” department, grabbing a few of my alleged sizes off the rack. If this were Better Dresses, I'd hate to see the “Worst Dress” area. Either the size standards have changed or my fitness program stinks.In a huff, I left the dressing room with the hip huggers strewn on the floor.

        Off to the next department store. If this store's namesake could have risen from the dead, surely it would have a dress to fit. The first thing I discovered was that the first floor was really the Mall Level. The basement was the first floor.

        Sensing a conspiracy among the mall shopping, fast food and dieting industries, I cautiously explored the first floor, formerly known as basement level.

        Tons of petite, fuller women and prom queen choices, but I couldn't find my niche. When I asked the clerk where the dresses appropriate for a wedding were, she pointed to two racks. “There. Or you can wear a formal. After all it is a wedding.”

        I left the store without having tried anything but my patience. My mantra had now turned to a mutter. As I wandered helplessly through the mall, I looked in windows, hoping a store with women in mind had opened. The specialty shops are great if you're prepubescent, 5 feet tall or willing to pretend you look great in things that look awful. I discovered the peasant look is back. (If that look was so great to begin with, why did the serfs rebel?)

        There was one more major player to try. This store's dress organization was more like a flea market than a big-time department store, but I was desperate enough to hunt for my game. Then it caught my eye: a sleeveless black button down with a six-panel drape to cover my hips. I tried it on. Nothing gaped through the armholes, no “wide load” arrows flashed down the back, and it was lengthy enough to fit my frame.

        Then a mistake: I glance at the size. It was two sizes above what I normally wear! “Numbers don't define me, numbers don't define me,” I silently chant while trying to breathe and regain focus. So much for those six-day-a-week workouts.

        Even worse, the dress wasn't on sale. I quickly paid for it before anyone discovered my sin.

        An additional hour was spent accessorizing and shoeing. The outfit now cost close to $200, and I hadn't even bought a gift for the bride and groom.

        All I can say is this marriage better last a long time or I want my money back. I'm saving the receipts, just in case.
        Share recent moments in your life. Fax 768-8330; e-mail: Columns submitted to the Enquirer may be published or distributed in print, electronic or other forms.


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