March 13, 2012

My Best Shopping Day

I hate shopping for women's clothing.

First, it takes time. I'd rather be doing just about anything on my list of things to do.

Second, I'm short, as in too short for many petite sizes, so many things that I'd love to wear are out of the question.

Third, I have extremely broad shoulders and I'm barrel chested. When I'm fit, I'm built like a giant cone cut off above the point and mounted just above two small half-spheres (my bubble butt) and two relatively small legs. When I'm at my least fit I'm built like a giant cylinder perched atop two larger half-spheres that hover over two medium size legs.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating -- when I had to order my lab coat at University, I was an NCAA division 1 athlete and my lats and shoulders and pecs were so big I needed a 42 so it would button across my chest. This meant I had a larger lab coat than most of the men in the lab. Of course, the sleeves were ridiculously long and I had to roll them up into a 2-inch thick cuff, because, as I mentioned, I'm short.

You will note that neither of the geometric configurations I've described is common for female mannequins. So, generally speaking, women's clothes look much worse on me than on the hanger. Add florescent lighting, my general dislike for smalltalk, and a generalized feeling like I just don't understand women in groups and you can understand why shopping is not my idea of a party.

This is why I'll put off shopping until it's unavoidable. In fact, the majority of my wardrobe is composed of travel purchases. If I forget to pack something, I treat that as a need and I buy it. Then, when I come home, I donate the old version of whatever I forgot to Goodwill.

Today, after putting it off for quite some time, I headed to our local mall with a grim task -- buy a professional outfit to wear to a new client pitch tomorrow.

Thankfully, I've learned a few tricks over the years to ease my shopping pain.

The best trick is online shopping. But, that requires thinking ahead and actually committing time to shopping, which, even online, I dislike. Given that I needed the outfit for tomorrow, you can see that this was no longer an option.

The next best trick is to take a friend or family member that likes shopping. This one can backfire, though. I want to get in and out in as little time as possible. Friends that like shopping often want to linger. Also, I hate to trade quality friend/family time for less-awesome (for me) shopping time.

The third trick is going to a small store that carries a limited selection of stuff where I've liked stuff in the past. Assuming something they have works, I'll just buy it and be done. (In other words, unlike everywhere else in my life, when it comes to women's clothes, I'm a salesperson's dream. I just want to close the transaction as quickly as possible and move on.)

Today, deploying the last of my tricks, I headed to my trusted White House Black Market. They are the source of the last dress I bought (almost a year ago) and I've received tons of compliments on it, so I figured they would be a good option. I was shocked to arrive at 11 AM and find the store closed.

Turns out, this was a good thing.

I left White House Black Market and headed over to Ann Taylor, another goto smaller store where I've had some success in the past, which was open.

I picked out a few items and they informed me that today's special was 40% off any one item. Now that's something I can get excited about! If I have to buy a professional outfit, 40% off the most expensive piece helps.

Then, they informed me that they'd done mark-downs just last night. So, they encouraged me to check out the sales racks. Ordinarily, I hate sales racks -- disorganized collections of reject pieces desperately trying to worm their way into your closet when you really don't even want and definitely don't need them.

But, these sales racks were pristine. I was the first customer to have touched them since they'd been arranged -- identical items were grouped together and ordered by size.

Much to my surprise, I easily found several very cute sale items that fit me well and would be much needed supplements to my meager professional wardrobe.

I wondered, "Is this what it's like to be one of my friends who enjoys shopping? Is this how you go into a store wanting one thing and come out with 3 unrelated things?"

And then, I met Peggy.

Peggy enjoys shopping and thinking about putting outfits together more than anyone I've ever met. She announced to me that she'd looked at my selections before I got to the room and she felt like she knew me.

You trust me. I pick things for you. You will like.

Oh, thank you, Peggy.

20 minutes later, I was at the check-out counter with Peggy's recommended options: a gorgeous professional dress, a killer pair of heels, a necklace, my own-hand-picked sale items, and a very nice professional blouse that Peggy had insisted I try on.

The teller informed me that the on-sale sweater I'd been thrilled to see marked down to $29 was actually $9.

And there it was. The glimmer of joy. "This might be it," I thought, "This might just be why many women love shopping."

But wait, there's more. The teller asked me if I wanted an Ann Taylor card. I responded with my standard, "No thanks." She asked if I was sure, because I'd get 20% off of everything, even the sale items and the shoes that already had the 40% off. 5% back on everything. A birthday bonus. I did some quick math and realized that the credit card benefits maximizer in me had been hooked (plus, I love eliminating options.) So, I now own an Ann Taylor card and will likely go straight to them every time I need clothes until frustrated enough to change loyalties.

And that's how I walked out of Ann Taylor with a dress I love, some awesome shoes, a necklace, a long sleeve sweater, a tank sweater, and a professional blouse for $320.91 including tax.

Also, this may be the first time in my life I was happy about shopping for women's clothes.

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