Friday, August 24, 2007

Fall Into

When did I start hating shopping? I used to like it, but I find that I have very little patience for it any more, and unless something looks either smashingly good or horribly bad, I am stricken with indecision about whether to buy it or not.

Last week, I realized that I only have one pair of pants that actually fit me comfortably. I can sort of fit into three other pairs of pants that I own: one pair is so tight they've been relegated to out-on-the-town pants and even then, I wear a belt and leave the button undone; one pinches me uncomfortably in my poor belly; and the other fits me in the morning and stretches out so much over the day I spend all evening hoiking them up.

The thought of buying new ones filled me with dread. The choosing and indecision certainly. Also, now that I have the luxury of being able to afford stuff that is not made by poorly paid people in terrible conditions, I really didn't want to. But I didn't really know where to go. Eric and his nimble internet fingers helped me out some with that.

And thank fucking god Shelley was in town this week to help me in my time of need.

We met yesterday at the Rideau Centre for a long lunch. I felt like I was entering the trenches. The first shop we went to was Mexx, because a skirt in the window turned my head. We walked in and I was dazzled. Very quickly, Shelley found a beautiful brown tweed pencil skirt. "Megan! This is your store!"

I looked at the tag. Didn't say where it was made. My hopes were not high, but I loved that skirt. I found a sales clerk just in case.

"Where was this skirt made?"

She looked at me like I'd spoken to her in a dead language. "Umm?"

"Where was it-"

My words clicked in. She waved her hand dismissively. "Oh, China." My face fell. I put the skirt down. More hand waving - this time expansively, to take in the whole store. "It's all made in China. Cheap, you know." And she laughed. We turned and walked out. Shelley told me later that skirt cost $95.

American Apparel was our next stop. I am of divided opinion regarding AA. The money I'm forking over profits a man who is possibly a private harasser and definitely a public asshole. And those ads fucking squick me. Add to that: I would not be surprised to find out that the material is made by poorly paid people in terrible conditions. And though the AA plant is in Los Angeles, there have been murmurs that they find ways to skirt American labour policy. Now, none of this I know for certain, no one's been convicted of anything. So I file my doubts and think, this is about the best I can do. Because I will not buy pants over the internet from a certified organic fair trade fair labour company. I will not spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of clothing that has not already made the pleasant acquaintance of my ass in a changeroom.

After much on-ing and off-ing, I ended up with two pairs of cords and a dress which I may or may not take back. The pants are definitely not going back, since they caused much appreciation of, and subsequent handsiness on, my posterior by my paramour. God bless the skinny pant. And the boy who loves them.

The final stop with Shelley was Benetton, which we went into on a whim because it seemed like the kind of store that might have stuff made in countries with decent labour policies. There was a beautiful dress made of the softest material ever. Shelley checked the label. Italy! Hooray! She scoured the sale racks and together we came up with a nice pile of stuff besides the dress.

Sadly, that dress looked awful on me. I put it on and laughed. "Hoo boy," I called across the curtain. "This looks awful." There are some clingy fabrics cut to emphasize your curves into more luscious curviness. This dress just kind of hung off me except where it got hung up on my belly, which instead of looking soft and round looked hard and lumpen. I couldn't stop staring at myself. I didn't even feel bad about it. It felt more like I was the outcome of a random poorly-thought-out sartorial experiment. Shelley started to make a mollifying sound until she drew back the curtain. She stopped mid-coo and said "Wow, that looks awful on you." The salesperson was a little shocked, I think. "Ooooh," I heard from doorway to the fitting rooms. "No one wants to hear that."

Except when it's the truth.


Evey said...

My word of the day: "hoiking". What is it about pants that they fit in the morning and then by the end of the day, your ass just doesn't look the same.
To avoid the Mexx-type incident, you should try consignment store shopping. Cheaper, and there's great stuff, without adding to the demand for clothes made "cheap". One great place is The Clothes Secret on Bank near Sunnyside. You can go in there and tell them what you're looking for (like a great pair of pants) and they'll help you find it (good for people who hate shopping). Good luck!

coyote said...

Too bad you don't have the time-honoured guy solution at your beck and call, ma'am: settle on the brand and model of jeans you like (usually when you're eighteen-ish or so) and just keep buying them. For, like, ever. Whether they're still stylish or still fit your changing body, or, um, not.....

Evey said...

I'm so sorry I missed your reading tonight! I was looking forward to it, but I was wrangled into a family outing last minute, which, while fun, was less cool than a reading. I hope it went well! Please let me know when the next one is.

Ariel said...

Hey Megan!

I hear you on the AA squeamishness. I have a few articles of clothing (including two fabulous dresses) from there that I wear all the time ... I hate the ads, I hate the guy who owns them, but they are marginally better than many companies ...

I would check out the Maquila Solidarity Network, for info on various companies, along with detailed info about their labour conditions.

In many cases, the people organizing for better working conditions in various countries (Indonesia, etc.) have argued against consumer boycotts. they would rather that you continue to shop at certain retailers, but also actively participate in their worker justice campaigns .... consumer activism.

Still, none of us are going to shop our way to a revolution. I choose to kick ass in lots of ways, but when I find decent pair of inexpensive pants that make my ass look foxy, I buy'em. I don't want to spend all of my activist energy paralyzed in the mall. What a waste.

Hathor & à travers said...

i think shelley is in fact an awesome shopping partner. if there's anything i had it's a shopping date that goes on and on and on about how "this is SOOO your colour" and that looks "sooo good on you". she sounds like the sales clerk but doesn't work there... and somehow your mom likes her more than she likes you!.. i mean erm. me. personal rant.

i came in late - but it was a great read.