Friday, January 09, 2009


Or, reason #453 I should not have been born.

I hate shopping for clothing. Seriously, I'm perfectly happy to go shopping for used books, for bike stuff, for hardware stuff. I'm moderately amenable to shopping for footwear, so long at it's Tevas, sneakers, or hiking boots.

But clothing. How I loathe shopping for clothing.

But, you know, once you get to a certain age (say, six months?) and if you live in a less than hospitable climate (not rain forest), then you pretty much have to wear clothes, and I hate clothes, mostly. If I had my druthers, this time of year I'd wear long johns under grey sweats every day, all day. But I don't have my druthers.

You know when you read bloggers about how the writer went for retail therapy and bought heels or some outfit? I totally don't get that. I can't think of much worse torture than having to go shopping. (Don't tell the CIA or whomever, okay?)

My Mom's idea of clothing me when I was little was to go to a store, have me try on endless different stuff, then go to the sewing counter and search for similar patterns. She was an amazingly good seamstress, but you get the idea that I didn't learn to get a sense of immediate gratification from the activity of shopping (I should probably be grateful for that, shouldn't I?). And the whole growing up in the 60s wearing stupid dresses that I couldn't really play well in sucked. Seriously sucked. (I think I last wore a dress to an interview in 1995. I may have worn a skirt three times since. Thank dog for my job where I don't have to wear torture devices on my feet, either!)

Remember when everything was crappy polyester? It was the 70s, and during even the mild winters of my teens, my skin was incredibly dry, so that polyester stuff always hurt, like it caught on and pulled at my skin. (Cotton is MUCH better, and the soft high tech whatever stuff is also really good. But the old polyester, my dog, what nasty stuff.)

I understand that I have to wear clothing to avoid arrest or freezing, so I do. And so, by the time I was in college (and thus could wear what I wanted) I learned some shopping strategies. Jeans. 501s. You know your waist, your inseam, you go to the display grid, choose two pair, pay, go home, wash, and you're good to go. They're comfortable, wear well, good for lots and lots of activities. Two pairs of jeans, some T shirts, a couple flannel shirts for cold days, and I was good to go for the year. (I loved college.)

And then in grad school, one of my friends showed me her Land's End catalog! Did you know you can order clothing by size, without going to the store even! Over the phone!

Now, I've lived in the midwest for upwards of 12 years, and the closest I've come to a winter coat is a light fleece jacket (see skiing pictures). Only two years ago did I actually buy winter boots. (Denial, anyone?)

Some of my friends are convinced that I'd do better in winter if I would just get a good winter coat. So, a group of my friends got together and got me a gift certificate for my birthday with a strong suggestion that I get a winter coat. I have nice friends. They want me to be warm.

My birthday, by the way, is in summer.

This week, I decided to try to find a winter coat to use the gift certificate. I'm a little slow, but a winter coat, right? We have four more months of winter ahead, easy, so I'm not actually that late.

I went to the web site and looked at the coats. There are overwhelming screens of "outerwear." I found three or four coats that looked like they'd do, not too overwhelmingly hot, because I really don't need to go out and walk around for hours at minus 20. I'm much more likely to need to go out at 20.

Okay, I'm looking at four coats, and decide to try to do the "my fit" thing with the virtual model. There's this whole bit where you're supposed to choose skin tone, and eye shape, and hair style, and blah blah. Seriously? (I wanted to choose a nice green, which fits how I feel about shopping.) I found my tape measure and stood in the room taking measurements. Well, that's depressing. I entered the measurements, set up the model, and found my size. Then I got to wondering about how the fit would work over clothing, because it's not like I go out in winter nude except for a coat.

(My typical winter upper body has on a bra, long johns, shirt, sweater (light or heavy, depending), and then an outer layer. If it's really cold, I add another shirt under my shirt, or a light sweater under the heavy one.)

And what if my diet's really successful?

I finally gave up worrying about the over clothing question, acknowledged that in the unlikely case that my diet's super successful, I'll wear my coat a little big, and started to look at colors. I have my choice (available in my size) of beige (except it's not called that, it's got a fancy name I can't remember), light pink, baby blue, blah blah. Because, really, I want to walk around in pastels. NOT. Where are the bright, bold colors? (Or grey?) Where are the "I'm visible, don't mistake me for a deer and shoot me!" colors? Where are the bright colors so cars will see me if I go for a walk? But, of course, women aren't supposed to actually go outdoors to do anything!

And, now, of course, you know what I did. I clicked over to the men's side, found the exact same coat, except it's in a nice bright blue, maroon/red, sunny yellow, in addition to the beige and yes, grey. Okay then.

So I clicked on the my model part, and... my model is apparently not allowed to try on men's clothing. No doubt they're worried about dykes showing up trying on their clothes. Because this upper midwest place the retailer is from doesn't have dykes around. Or lesbians. They might have the occasional spinster aunt, but really, they don't talk about her. (One of my queer dinner group friends told me to try the my fit virtual model thing. You know there are executives at this retail outfit who would squirm in their suits at the thought.)

A male model avatar showed up, instead. I tried in various ways to get the thing I'd already set up to work, but no luck. So I entered the measurements for my male avatar (but there's no skin tone, eye shape, hair style crap to go through for the male avatar!). But, of course, with my hips, the men's jacket thing isn't really going to work. (Even though I buy men's sweaters and pants aplenty, and they fit okay.)

By this time, I was almost in tears. I could choose a blah colored coat that probably fits okay, or a bold, nicely colored coat that probably doesn't. On the women's side, one coat I like otherwise has elastic wrists. Another coat I like otherwise has no hand pockets. But they all have pockets for your mp3 player.

I really just want a basic coat, you know, in a nice color that will stand out against the snow and not look like a baby's room, that's reasonably comfortable without 22 pockets to put all this stuff in I don't want.

I stopped to take a break. Another benefit of shopping at home. I ate breakfast, showered, had another cup of coffee. Breakfast helped a lot. I should never go even virtual shopping without proper nutrition.

And so, I went back and clicked.

Fortunately, my dinner group is having dinner tonight, so I can kvetch with my friends about the avatar situation, and I know they'll understand and laugh with me, and help me feel better.

Maybe I need to go out and try this skiing thing again if it gets a bit warmer?


  1. also hate shopping, but internet shopping is a million times better.

    Try London Fog for coats. Sometimes they have colors. Also there's a Sierra Trading Post online - it's big in CA, not sure if it's warm enough for there. It's like sport stuff, not sure if that's what you were looking for or a more dressy look

    London Fog might be good for less outdoorsy look, simple stuff but nice.

  2. Whew -- very sorry. I hate clothes shopping too. I appreciate when you write about it because it makes me feel a little less bizarre.

  3. Anonymous12:01 PM

    If you decide to visit Montana and/or Yellowstone, you must come visit me in Dillon. We have a Patagonia Outlet with loads and loads of good deals. And pretty colors. And no weirdness about trying on men's stuff.

  4. How miserable! Is it possible to go to a store that takes the gift certificate and try on coats? That might actually be less of a hassle (and you can determine whether the coats are too warm, have room for clothes under them, etc.)

    I know you hate shopping, but I always have better luck with coats in person. YMMV.

  5. Oh, I am SO with you on this. I've been catalog-shopping for coats for a while (I live in a warmer place, so have no immediate need, but once a year or so I travel to cold places and am woefully unprepared.) Inevitably there are three or four guys' coats that I love, and crappy stuff for women. I really want an inside pocket, so I can travel without a purse, but of course nice women's coats don't have those.

  6. much sympathy. i hate clothes-shopping, hate the mall, hate the selection in each and every store. internet shopping is ever so much better, and i frequently take advantage of the handy return labels when something turns out uckey or unfitting.

    the gift certificate was a sweet thought, but it probably limits you to the one retailer, huh?

    i found the winter jacket of my dreams at L.E. -- a parka, sized for shorties who are not svelte, inside and outside pockets but w/o the "safari photograher" look, adjustable at the waist and wrists, detachable hood. i never use the virtual model thing, since the time i stupidly ordered "made to fit" jeans and they turned out to be enormous. most of their stuff is sized generously.

  7. I like getting dressed up now and then (except that I wear sensible shoes), but I hate the process of going to the store, staring at myself in unflattering full-length mirrors under florescent lighting, and dealing with perky salesclerks (who are, no doubt, a size 2).

    Hang in there. A nice warm coat is worth the hassle. :)

  8. Anonymous12:51 PM

    Lands End and Columbia coats are both great choices. Just a thought: I have bought one or two men's coats in the past (since I must have *black* coats and sometimes the black only comes in men's), but the sleeves are much longer and that's sort of annoying.