I walk all around Macy’s. Nothing is worth taking the time to try on. I need a casual outfit that can be dressed up a bit, something that looks “with it” as we used to say. We will be in Ohio in another few weeks for Irv’s 50th medical school reunion, and I can’t wear my usual thrift shop clothes for that. The last nice outfit I bought was for a friend’s daughter’s wedding and that young woman has four kids now.
I’m looking for black narrow-leg pants in a soft jersey that can be dressed up or down, with a stylish top in a creamy beige or taupe print. I load my arms with a dozen pairs of black pants, all different brands, and a Michael Kors black top with white polka dots, not what I had in mind but I am partial to polka dots. None fit well, nor are they comfortable. The top is too snug, the dots plastered with too-thick white paint. I couldn’t find any tops in good colors; everything is printed in summer colors, but I’m a spring. Lots of blue––not my color––and lots of orange, which could be okay if the prints weren’t so weird and the fabrics so flimsy.
I stop by Kohl’s, a store that I expect will have basic black pants in the current style. I see shelves and shelves of pants, labeled in a logical manner with sizes and brands separated. But when I get close, I see I must plow through a jumble of mixed-up names and assorted sizes. Nothing is in the right spot and I will have to get lucky to find anything. I see twenty size 16s for every size 6. I finally find four pairs that I try on, but they aren’t right either. I go home with a pair of dark blue leggings, which I hope will work with a little skirt that needs another layer when temps are in the 60s, but I know they won’t.
And the tops! Oh, my. Big, blousy things. The patterns are strange and bold or filled with little flowers, sizes are large, colors are all wrong. Everything looks like it should be paired with a 2-X-L pant and worn by a grandma driving her motorized scooter at a Walmart in Iowa. Middle America rules. I blame Trump.
A week goes by and I am still on the hunt. My friend Kathy-with-a-K suggests I try Stanford Shopping Center to have a bigger selection. I find more at Macy’s than at the Valley Fair store, more at Banana Republic than at the Los Gatos store, and more blooming flowers than anywhere, which makes for a pleasant afternoon. But I don’t try anything on until I get to the Eileen Fisher store, where the selection seems better, or at least different, from that department at Macy’s. And––bonus––the sales clerks, all wearing clothes from the store’s racks, are so nice to find the right sizes and to tell the truth when something looks downright laughable. I find an outfit I love––dressy but not too; pants are loose, brown mid-calf, not slim or black; silk shell has brown and taupe splotches, which I love. I go back a few days later to buy a sweater because it will still be chilly in Ohio. It’s like priming a pump––once you start buying, the process comes faster and easier. Part of the secret, also, is not to look at the price tag, not even when you sign the credit card slip. Don’t look. What difference does it make in the long run? And if you can put it on a card that is paid automatically, as I do at this store, you’re home free.
I still need something casual to wear to the microbrewery tour the second night of the reunion weekend. A different friend, Cathy-with-a-C, tells me to try the Lucy store in Old Town. I’ve never even noticed that store, but I go and find some super-comfortable black capris. They are meant, I think, for exercising or hiking, but I won’t wear them for that. If I expect to sweat, I wear old clothes or something from the thrift shop. I buy them without hesitating––the pump has been primed. Then I make a trip to the LuluLemon store at Santana Row because they might have leggings in a color to match that little skirt. The navy blue ones looked terrible, even to me. There, the LuluLemon’s sales girls, who all look to be in the seventh grade, pass me from one to another. “She’s looking to match the blue in this little skirt. She wears a yellow top with it,” each will say as she pushes me toward a more experienced clerk. I don’t look at their faces because I can hear their eye rolls in their voices. One clerk, maybe a senior in high school, makes a suggestion that perhaps they are all thinking, “Why don’t you try black? It will make the colors in the skirt, ‘pop.’ And you can wear a little black top too.” I say I have a pair of black leggings at home and I’ll try those, then I head to Kohl’s and exchange the navy blue leggings for black. I try them on at home, and she’s right. Young people are so smart.
When I describe my new clothes to my sister, she says something about shoes making or breaking a look. She’s right, of course, so I walk over to my favorite shoe store, the one that used to be called Shuz, but now has a different name that I can’t remember. I go when I know the manager will be in because she is wise and truthful. I take my new outfit in with me and find a perfect pair of strappy shoes in a shiny gold leather with a zipper up the back. I never thought I would wear a pair of shoes with a zipper up the back, a clothing detail that to me in the past seemed appropriate for a streetwalker. But both the store manager and an old-lady customer who reminds me of myself, think they look good with the new outfit and also with my new black capris that I wore in. The strappy shoes are comfortable and I buy them. I just hope that no one at the dinner, where dress is listed as “business professional” whatever that means, makes an assumption about my profession based on the shoes with a zipper in the back.