I am not a clothes horse. I am nearly the opposite of a clothes horse. I mostly wear t-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and jeans of various lengths. That's about it. I only own two dresses, and one of them is a blue velvet ball gown and the other is a diaphanous Hawaiian dress which is mostly suitable for beaches and island hotels.
I hate shopping. I hate clothes shopping in particular. Especially since Jet, as everything has changed that I was once familiar with. Even ten pounds lighter, the weight has gone to places other than soccer thighs and arms big from running and pushing off against wingers. Ahem. I didn't say that.
So actually shopping for some nice clothing that actually fits me and suits my coloring has been something I've put off for... hmm... Jet's now six, I take it... so pretty much six years. *laughter* I've been going to church in Hawaiian shirts and shorts and I get some interesting looks when I go, but they've pretty much accepted us and our shirts and year-round sandals. Still, I feel odd about doing that all the time.
I'll admit that it would be *nice* to dress up once in a while, more for my sake than for others. And then Mimi, an artist that I respect immensely, offered to take me thrifting sometime.
I'm always mildly intimidated by thrift stores, and I know that some of the things that I like looking *at* don't look at all good on me. So I eagerly took her up on the offer. And she proved wonderful, especially since she was as willing to offer me her opinion when she felt that I looked terrible. That is something I needed more than anything. To have her say that at the right times meant that the things she thought I really did look good in had real value to me. Unlike the shop owners who said that I looked great in anything.
So it is...
There are two fairly large thrift stores right next door to each other near 8th and Main, and Mimi had me meet her at the slightly more upscale one. It was huge compared to what I'd thought when I first saw the place. And I got there before she did, long enough to feel mildly awkward as I browsed haphazardly and got my eye caught by a few things. A lime and pink and blue striped vertical rib sweater was very eye catching, but... to wear or not to wear?? Hm... a paisley jacket with salmon, gray-blue, and moss green amid gold highlights sprinkled throughout. The evening sun caught it and it gleamed.
I was glad when Mimi came, and we worked through some things. I tried on a somewhat long, turtleneck sweater with jeans colors in stripes, and it was smooth and soft and warm. She noted that it went well with the jeans, and would likely be warm for the winter. And for three dollars, why not? The paisley jacket underwent a lot of scrutiny, and I ended up not getting it, but a gold brocade Chinese-style jacket went on the pile of wannabees. Especially after I tried it on and it was a good fit.
She asked me what I wanted to get, and so we went into the more formal area, and looked around. There were some pretty terrible dresses and suits and things, and suddenly out jumped a black jacket with a diagonal grid and dot pattern of what, at first, looked like crystalline beads. It swung like a beaded jacket, but I noticed that the sparkles seemed to leap into the air around it when I furled and unfurled it. But the sparkles were definitely jewel tones, exactly right for me, and it would look wonderful during Christmas or for the holidays. Especially with a red shirt underneath and either a black skirt or something else.
We had them hold our finds as we went to the second thrift store. I hadn't known one could do that! But they said that they'd hold them until the end of the business day.
The second store, the Ares store, is very, very much more utilitarian. Instead of sorting their clothing by type and colors, they sorted by size. So you could, mostly, just go to one area for the dresses and suits. There was a gorgeous gray, black, and burgundy pinstripe with big wide stripes cut by skinny stripes as a skirted suit. And Mimi found a very nice smocked blue dress with a diagonally textured bodice that I would not have chosen, but she was sure it would look great on me. There were a few shirts she found, too, print shirts that she thought I might like, which was really cool of her, but I have lots that I love at home...
The suit was very striking, but the waist was nearly three inches too small. The odd thing was that the skirt fit okay over my hips. The waist looked like it had been brought in pretty thoroughly. And for a moment I thought about having it tailored for me, but then I thought about fitting prices compared to the price of the suit and I shrugged. I'd rather get my banker's suit to expand just the one inch it needs to so that I'm comfortable in it and pay the price for that rather than that kind of price for a suit I wasn't that sure about anyway...
The dress was astonishing. I looked like a *girl* in it. Yeesh. And I looked good enough that when I got home and modeled that dress for Jet he said, "Mom! Mom! It's too bad you're married, because you should have gotten married in *that* dress."
I can't ask for more than that.
Admittedly, I finally hit the nerve I've always had about dresses, and realized why I'm still mildly nervous about it. I have a deeply ingrained feeling that I should NOT dress like a girl because otherwise the boys at work were going to treat me like a stupid girl rather than an engineer. So I thought uhm... I'm NOT AT WORK ANYMORE. Ahem. So... it's okay to dress like a girl, damnit. And be pretty, too.
So I bought the dress and a silk, long-sleeved shirt that Mimi thought went really well with my coloring, and since I have absolutely no clue what goes well with my coloring, I thought I'd get it and try it and see if it grows on me. I felt a bit like a very, very well treated contestant of "What Not To Wear" because Mimi was very nice to me, but quite adamant when something did NOT look right on me.
We then went back to the first store, and when the owner saw that I'd gotten the jeans striped sweater, she said that they were having a "buy one sweater get another for a dollar" sale. So she said that I HAD to get another sweater. Then I saw the oddest thing. It was an inside-out Fair Isle sweater all in gorgeous blues, grays, and snow colors, but all the stranding was on the outside. "Is that inside out?" I asked. "Well the label's on the inside." "Yeah... don't they put it on the outside sometimes??" But when I turned it inside out, all the seaming had been done on the patternwork side! Yeesh. Even the plackette was sewn using the patternwork as the wrong side of the sweater. I was flabbergasted. I guess that's something designers do or something. Maybe it was really expensive... as the wool in the sweater was exceptionally smooth. I'd never seen that before...
Then Mimi pounced on a super bulky handmade sweater from Ecuador. It had lovely mottled colors, and was thick and warm and had gorgeous, huge, wooden buttons. The buttons alone were probably worth five or six dollars, and the yarn was a super thick, unspun wool. She said that the colors were perfect on me. So I bought it for a dollar.
I almost regretted it when, on the way home, I had a mild allergic reaction to the sweater. I could smell beast on it... and I suspect that the former owner walked their white haired dog in it frequently, as the cuffs had ground in dog fur, and everywhere else had some clinging white hairs. As soon as I got it home, I dumped it in the laundry tub with Synthropol to keep it from running into itself and detergent and lots of cold, cold water. I let it soak during dinner.
Part of our afternoon shopping spree had included a two pound, butt end tenderloin roast. It's not the best end of a tenderloin, but with a bit of judicious cutting, it yielded several very nice steaks and a bit of meat that could be shaved for some very upscale cheese steak sandwiches. Over the summer, with all our parties and the camping trip and such, someone left American cheese slices in our refrigerator, and the only way I can eat them is on cheese steak sandwiches with onions. We froze the remainders (another four steaks and trimmings for sandwiches or soup), and had two good steaks along with grilled asparagus and baked potatoes (mine was a sweet potato, John's was a Yukon gold). Jet ate nuggets, fries, and asparagus with a three fruit salute afterward of Grandpa's bananas, one dried lychee, and one chunk of freeze dried rambutan.
After dinner was homework, playing with fortune tellers, and requests to dye wool, please, Mom?
Tomorrow I'll set up the steamer and get everything together and we'll dye wool. Jet wants to do blues and greens, all of them I have. I am willing to experiment with his leftovers and see what I can get on a different length of wool. Crown Mountain has dyed superwash again, and I'm deeply tempted.
Then I wrestled with the sweater in cold water. Kneading it a bit in the soaps, and then rinsing it three times before throwing it into the washing machine to rinse one more time (without the agitation. I spun it once, filled it with cold, and hand kneaded it in the tub full of water, and then did another spin cycle). Then I pulled it out and spread it on the floor and blocked it so that the cuffs look like cuffs again instead of a well worn rope, and thinned the body and shortened the arms just a bit by widening them a bit. Better fit through blocking. It does have great colors. I don't think I'm going to unravel it for the yarn, now, and I really do love the buttons. Perhaps enough to move them to my phoenix sweater... or... perhaps not...
So... in the end... I got one very nice dress, one gold brocade jacket, one glitter jacket that looks like beaded work, one silk long-sleeved t-shirt in pumpkin, one jeans turtleneck in very soft yarn, and one super bulky wool coat all for just twenty-two dollars.
I guess I have to go thrifting again, sometime. Though I'll admit it's a lot easier with someone with a clear opinion of what they don't like, rather than me, who likes everything...