Sunday, June 6, 2010


Several times in my life I've undergone an intervention of sorts. A good friend from home visited me shortly after we graduated from college and was appalled to see that my wardrobe basically consisted of everything she'd seen me wear in high school for four years. Even the tshirts that boldly proclaimed dates like 1991 on them. And yes, this was 2003. She begged me, practically commanded me, to ditch the wardrobe and start over. At the time I couldn't as I was living on $700 a month with a car payment, rent and everything else you need to survive in the budget. Clothes didn't make the cut.

I think my personal delight in fashion peaked in high school. Mid-90's, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., etc. No makeup, huge plaid button down shirts over white tshirts. Baggy jeans and hiking boots. I guess it was sort of a clean grunge. Hands down, it was the most comfortable period of my life. I held on to it through college(which was ok bc at least most of my college career was still technically in the 90's) but was firmly told it had to go in the new millennium. Sigh.

I know I'm not gifted in this area and I'm ok with that. I was recently reminded of this when I wandered into an Ann Taylor Loft store with a gift certificate and, apparently, a clueless look on my face. Don't get me wrong- since Daniela's intervention in 2003(which was later followed by a shopping spree courtesy of multiple gift cards at Christmas and dictated by hers truly) I have attempted to occasionally buy myself new things to wear and I like Ann Taylor Loft. Things fit, I usually don't feel completely out of my element and I can often find a good sale. The thing is, when I shop alone, I ALWAYS buy the same thing. Tshirts and jeans. And maybe they are more stylish tshirts and jeans than I used to wear, but I am a creature of habit.

So, when I found myself in this store, thumbing through a rack of shirts, I was a little nonplussed when a young woman walked up to me, rather overexuberantly in my opinion, asking if she could help me. I barely had time to say, "No thanks, I'm just looking" before the following conversation happened.

Girl: "Wait...I've got the perfect thing for you."
Me: "Um."
Girl: "OK, this looks like your size. (Holds up something in a color and style I'm not sure I even knew existed). What do you think?"
Girl: "OK, I'll just start a dressing room. I have a few other things that would be just presh."
Me: "Presh?"
Girl: "Presh."

After this, I proceeded to mutely follow this young woman around the store as she piled a billion things onto her arms, every once in awhile detouring to drop it off in the dressing room. Not once was I able to muster up any sort of intelligible defense, though I knew I could probably afford one or maybe two of the things in her enormous and optimistic pile.

After a while, she put together a bunch of outfits, made me try them on and model them for her. Yes, by the way, I was feeling about 5 years old and incredibly self-conscious at this point and still could not utter anything. Knowing that I'm fashion-challenged often gets me tongue-tied in these types of situations, much like when an overly zealous hairstylist starts talking to me about highlights and sulfates and other stylistic words I've never heard. You throw in the word presh, which it took me several minutes to decipher as slang for precious, and I'm completely befuddled. All my tomboy kicks in and I once again feel like the girl who'd rather wear anything but a dress to school and would prefer to spend her recess running races against the boys.

40 minutes later, I found myself leaving the store with a bag of clothes I would never have picked out for myself. Each item that I've worn since has gotten comments from people I've run into. Usually those comments have a touch of disbelief- "Oh, Carolyn, that's nice. Did YOU buy it?" I just kind of smile and nod. I don't know how to take fashion compliments as these are relatively new in my life.

The funny thing is, every time I walk past this store now, I wonder if this young woman is inside. I wonder if she's cornered some other hapless out-of-date shopper and is busy attempting to transform her wardrobe as well. This girl loved her job and man was she good at it.

So, while I'm eagerly awaiting the time when clean grunge will make it's reappearance (and have resolutely refused to trash ALL my flannel shirts), I appreciate the people in my life out there who are committed to helping me look like I understand that we're in a new millennium. I will also resolutely refuse to ever use the word "presh" in a conversation. But I can't help but think to myself, when I look in the mirror wearing anything that woman picked out, that I do, indeed, look presh. Whatever that means.

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