Monday, April 30, 2007

NYC: Shopping

I have been hearing two things about "my blog + NYC": when are you going to put up the shopping post already? and why aren't there any pictures of you in NYC? Alright already.

I like to think of myself as someone who is not a shopper. But of course, I am. I like buying things. I like having new things. My sister was here this past weekend and referred to me as a collector. I balked a little bit, but had to concede. It takes a huge effort not to buy another typewriter. What prevents me from being a pack rat is that my need to purge items is as big as my need to get new ones.

This trip to NYC at least involved shopping with a purpose:
1) Clothes that fit my happy fat.
1 a) Jeans that didn't make me feel like a sausage.
2) An outfit to match the killer shoes I bought the last time I was in NY.
3) Thrifting.
4) A corset.

1) Forever21 was probably the wrong place to go for this. I'd wanted to make it there, since Suge over at Babycakes had posted some very fun pictures. It was fucking bananas, both times we went. We got there Thursday night, almost at closing time, and I tried on a few dresses that I thought would suit me. And then I thought they might suit me in a better, i.e. bigger, size. I also tried on some jeans that were pretty good, but I didn't love. But bought anyway because they were cheap.

Those jeans. I am going to wear them until they fall off of my body. They are magic jeans. F21 managed to make a pair of jeans that are tight enough in the ass to make me look like I've got an ass, and yet loose enough in the thigh to prevent feeling like I'm about to be eaten. It's a heavenly combination and I have worn them more days than I have not since I got back. They're in the wash right now and I am sad that it will be at least two days until I can wear them again.

Going back Saturday was probably a mistake. It was after our Central Park picnic.

This is what I looked like just before we went in. I am tired of lugging around the giant bag. I am hot from sitting in the sun and wearing a sweater. (I am wearing my new jeans. Look at how my thighs do not look like sausages.) This is not the best time to be going into a store full of empire waists, baby doll dresses, tunics and teenagers. I tried on a bunch of medium-sized clothes and most of them made me look like a 32 year old trying to fit into my high school clothing. I was busting out of the medium and the large looked really large. I came away with one dress and the knowledge that I have hit the point in my life where going into stores like that is stupid.

And I got mall-head. Which made me buy the dress. I like it, and it's pretty, and it was $20, but it's an empire waist and shows off a lot of cleavage. And you know, that might sound enticing in print, but in person, that's going to mean a lot of people giving my stomach meaningful glances. Hopefully they'll actually ask me if I'm pregnant and I can say "Oh no, my belly always looks like that," and watch them writhe in embarassment.

2)Sometimes when I am away, I do weird things. The last time we were in New York, I bought chocolate brown and rose pink high heels. I have never worn those shoes because I have nothing to wear them with. I do really like them though. This time, I was bound and determined to buy something to wear them with. Now I have a pink and brown skirt with sequins on it. Weird skirt to match weird shoes. Now I really like them both, but will have to find somewhere to wear them. New York 2009?

3) We managed to hit one thrift store. Next trip, I am only going to thrift stores. We went to a church thrift store - St. Luke's - and the prices there were about twice what they'd be in Ottawa. Skirts were $8 to $15, for example. But the quality? Holy shit. On one pass through, I managed to find about 5 skirts, a couple dresses, a couple pairs of shorts, a bra and a pair of shoes. And not an empire waist in sight.

I got all Gollum-like at one point, when I found these shoes.

These are Campers. Campers are Very Expensive Shoes. Very Expensive. This pair is in *perfect* condition. When I asked the price, and the nice church lady blithely responded with "Fifteen dollars," I wrapped my arms around them and whispered "My precious."

4) A couple days before going to NYC, I found a corset at St Vincent de Paul. It was $4, so I bought it, even though it was 15 minutes before closing time and I couldn't try it on to see if it fit. It almost fit, and I could see that the ways in which it did fit meant that I really needed - yes, *needed* - to have one that did fit. I thought I'd keep my eye out while we were thrifting.

On the rainy Sunday, Shelley and I spent a chunk of time at a cafe on Orchard St. before trudging through the rain to go to a feminist bookstore called Bluestockings. We passed store after store with their grills closed. And then one sign caught my eye: Orchard Corset - the Bra and Girdle Fitters. We walked a couple more stores and I thought to myself, should I bother interrupting? Do I actually drag Shelley back to stand around while I do yet more shopping? Apparently some instinct knew yes, because I was calling her back before I had decided I would.

It was our most quintessential New York experience for me.

We got buzzed into a tiny room, probably about 12' wide. There was a counter along one side, and a broken sewing machine on the other, holding up a tv with shitty reception that was showing some kind of cooking show. There was a giant man behind the counter, a counter covered in boxes and slips and a laptop where he was watching something that probably wasn't a cooking show. He taking up about a quarter of the available space. There was a short, stocky woman working with him. Sullenly. The only time she spoke was to yell sizes at him from the fitting room.

They stared at us when we walked in.

"Yes. Can I help you?" He was friendly, but confused. I'm not sure we were his regular clientele.

"I'm looking for a corset. Not something frilly and sexy. More substantial."

"Take your jacket off."

I complied.

"Your sweater too." It was weird. I'm not usually ordered to take my clothing off unless something more fun than bra fitting is about to happen. But this was completely asexual, and so there was some dissonant firing going on in my neurons. He was very nice and business like.

He decided my size like he was telling my fortune.

Once he'd assesed size, style and make, he eyed the wall across from the counter. It was floor to ceiling boxes. He spent two seconds roving the shelves, heaved himself out from behind the counter, took out the corset he thought I would want and handed it to his assistant.

"Go with her behind the curtain."

The size was slightly off, but I loved it and walked out of there with exactly what I wanted.

When I was done, Shelley decided that she wanted a bra too.

"Take your jacket off." She was already starting.

"Turn around. Hmm. You're a [redacted]."

"Actually," Shelley replied, "that's going to be too small. I'm more like a [redacted]."

"I -" and he paused to smile a knowing and superior smile, "I have been making bra patterns for 34 years. I'm sure you're a [redacted]. Here." He handed a bra to his assistant. "Go with her behind the curtain."

I took pictures of my rubber boots and the walls. Not long after, the assistant yelled out "She needs a [redacted]." The same size Shelley said she would need.

Our corset man was flabbergasted.

As we were leaving, he eyed her tits some more. "I can't believe I was wrong. I've never been that wrong. Turn around again."

She obliged.

"Your back. Your back is definitely a [redacted]. But, ah! your ribs! You've got depth."

I love New York City.


grace said...

That was worth the wait, lady. Thanks for letting me come along on your shopping trip. Oh, to shop in a thrift store in New York...almost as good as Winnipeg!

zoom! said...

I am laughing so hard I can hardly type - great story!

shelleyt said...

ah, depth, that's what they always say about I'm off to watch more Buffy!
and ps - that rose and brown crazy skirt is perfect on you...

suge said...

I feel bad about the F21 hype I've been spewing all over babycakes. I should have put up a disclaimer saying that a person (that is, a grown, not teenage person) should probably do some prep work before going into one of those stores. and she should definitely prepare herself mentally, too. That's what I'm doing when I troll and troll the web site. On my recent trips I knew exactly what dresses I wanted to try on, and I was still disappointed. I'm glad you got some wonderful jeans, though!

I wish I had access to a Top Shop, though.

I should confess that the dresses that I have bought recently of which I am absolutely in love were both bought from indie boutiques in my neighborhood and cost about 4x as much as the F21 ones. But I will wear them 10x as often.