Survival Strategies for Discount Shopping

Fall leaves arched above us in a golden canopy as we tromped down the mountain on a perfect October day. Our minds, loosened from the stress of daily life, turned to ponder deeper issues. Politics, love, the human condition, and how to shop at a discount store without completely losing your sauce and melting down like a child.

“I know you can find some great deals in there,” Lynette said. “I just get so overwhelmed.”

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It is a little scary looking.

While I don’t have answers for most of the questions posed that day, I do feel qualified to speak on the topic of TJ Maxx. Because I’ve become a bit of a ninja when it comes to discount shopping.

Hunter boots, Max summer blouses, Lucky Brand jeans, an incredible $384 Nicole Miller cocktail dress for $60, a no-name maxi dress for $10 that I have worn regularly for 9 straight summers; these are just a few of the items I have scored at TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack and other discount retailers. I go to these stores in hopes of finding a few trendy pieces to enliven a basic wardrobe, and maybe find a high quality piece that would otherwise be out of my budget.

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I think I may have cracked the code.

But it’s not like I walked in one afternoon, picked them all up and got home in an hour. And this list of great finds is a lot shorter than the list of items I bought, then returned, at discount retailers because I got over excited and made bad decisions on the spur of the moment.

Similar to second hand shopping, but with more snares and a larger potential impact on your wallet and the environment, these stores can be tricky. Here are a few rules I use to keep myself on the straight and narrow:

Know what you’re buying

Where do they get all this stuff, anyway? TJ Maxx purchases past season deadstock, cancelled orders prepared for other stores, overstock, and merchandise not originally made for the American market. Nordstrom Rack stocks items that didn’t sell in the regular Nordstrom stores, but also orders goods specifically for the Rack.

So they’re like my Grandma’s Last of the Garden Relish; some stuff’s fresh, some stuff’s a little past it’s prime but it’s all good after sitting for a month in a little vinegar and salt.

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This zipper pocket camel coat didn’t sell well the first time around, but there’s a lady out there who could rock this.

Part of the success of these retailers is the speedy inventory turnover. TJ Maxx boasts new shipments daily, and they have a “door to floor” policy that results in new merchandise on display throughout the day.

Get to know their strengths

Before choosing a discount retailer as a serious destination to meet your wardrobe needs, get to know their strengths and weaknesses. In Eugene, OR, the TJ Maxx has excellent luggage. Nordstrom Rack has great shoes. Our DSW has a fun sneaker collection, but I rarely find classic boots there. Explore the stores, then go when you need something they do well.

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I can’t justify one more piece of luggage.

Never shop in the middle of a Saturday afternoon

Discount stores are often crowded and picked over by 3:00 on a Saturday. And because sale associates are busy helping customers, new merch isn’t being shuffled to the floor. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are the best time to shop, as new goods are still flowing in and items that did not sell over the weekend are further marked down. Saturday and Sunday mornings can be good for a quick trip. Mid-week evenings aren’t too bad. Basically, the fewer people shopping, the more time sale associates will have to put out new items and discount older ones. Plus it doesn’t feel like some hideous, inhumane 19th century zoo.

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Smith Rock is a much better destination for Saturday afternoon.

Narrow your search

In a store that holds everything from novelty napkin rings to infinity scarves, you can get sapped of energy and time pretty quickly.

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Completely overwhelming.

Choosing one or two areas of focus can be really helpful. Make a plan to shop for pants and tops, or shoes and pillow cases, or whatever. Don’t try to cover the entire store.

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Not overwhelming at all.

Don’t panic

When I stopped by Nordstrom Rack to take pictures for this article, this is the sight that greeted me.

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At least 50 pairs of Frye boots, all discounter over 50%. I think my hands were shaking.

You may imagine my reaction. I approached the boots with as much restraint as possible. It wasn’t pretty. When I finally surfaced for air after tearing through the boxes I was miserably disappointed. No size 6.5.

I reminded myself why I was there in the first place (What is this thing hanging around my neck? The camera? Oh. I’m supposed to be taking pictures for the blog…) It took some doing, but I got back into the task at hand.

Even if you have a narrow search, it’s likely something off-list will catch your eye. Go try it on if you’re so inclined. But if it’s not something you came in for, and it doesn’t fit so you don’t buy it, no big deal, right? Which leads me to my next point.

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Enormous rope/twill acorn and matching squash, anyone?

Don’t buy the next best thing

Never, ever buy the consolation prize. It’s like eating carob when you want chocolate.

Ultimately, you want a flexible wardrobe filled only with pieces you love. This concept has been covered in various posts but I’m going to keep harping on it. Run it past the Allan test, Lessons From a Chronic Closet Cleaner.  What you don’t buy is just as important as what you do buy, Shopping 101

Don’t buy it just because you can afford it

You will find some incredible items that might not be in your regular budget at these places. Twice I have nearly made it to the register with Rag and Bone sweaters in hand. Neither sweater looked particularly good on me. But they were Rag and Bone! And I could afford them! The “comparison price” on the tag should have no value to you whatsoever. Yes, this is cheaper than it was originally, but it’s only a good deal if you love it and wear it with joy.

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This rock-and-roll look is never going to be me, no matter how much of a steal that jacket is.

Years ago, I was in regular contact with another mom from my children’s preschool. She was extremely wealthy. I envied what I assumed was the freedom that came with having so much money. Standing in the long, candy-and-wrapping-paper laden checkout line at TJ Maxx one day, I noticed this mom at one of the registers. Her cart was heaped high and over flowing with stuff: sweaters and ponchos and table clothes and shoes and clever black and white signs commenting on the value of family. She was buying with a sort of frenzied haste, laying one item then the next on the counter, a nervous steam of chatter directed at the check out attendant. I turned away, not wanting her to see me witness this panic-filled excess.

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How fun would it be to have a pillow fight in this aisle?

The image of that frenzied mom sticks with me every time I shop at a discount store. Like any other shopping experience, I have to make the choice to buy responsibly with the goal of creating a wardrobe that makes my life easier and more fun. We can use discount stores to score some quality items we might not otherwise be able to afford, to try out new styles or brands, and to experiment with fun trends.

Keeps your goals in mind. You are in the store to build a wardrobe, not to buy twice as much as you would elsewhere. Ultimately an easy and functional wardrobe should equal less time shopping, less time attempting to get dressed, and more time hiking and pondering life with friends.

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One of my favorite discount store finds. Lucky Brand.

For more tips on making the most of your discount shopping experience, check out Seattle-based blogger Morgann’s post on the topic from Glitter in the Grey. This woman knows shopping!

http://www.glitterinthegrey.com/2013/06/how-to-score-best-deals-nordstrom-rack.html

Choosing Beautiful

 

Humans want to look good. Through our 5,000 years of recorded history and before that, we have chased beauty. The corners of history are filled with recipes for beauty creams and makeup tips from every civilization. The covers of textbooks feature a bust of Queen Nefertiti or a tapestry of the beautiful young Medici brothers.

It’s OK to want to be pretty. It’s human.

But apparently it’s also human to make things as complicated as possible.

We shame ourselves for not being pretty enough, while shaming ourselves for wanting to be pretty in the first place.

That’s just messed up.

Choosing beauty doesn’t make you any less smart or capable. A low self-esteem is not the opposite of vanity. Deciding to be beautiful is no different than deciding to have a lovely rose bush next to your front door or a great painting hanging above your desk.

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Bobbie Willis, proof that being beautiful and capable are not mutually exclusive.

Pretty has very little to do with how closely you align with society’s beauty standards. It has everything to do with how you treat yourself. Gorgeous women comfortably walk the fine line of enhancing their looks with just the right beauty routine and wardrobe. They don’t need a truck bed full of makeup and hairspray to leave the house. They don’t walk out the door in a wrinkled blouse and ratty hair. They practice self-care, rather than self-indulgence.

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Melissa Brown has always had fabulous hair and that look of mischief in her eyes.

My journey to beauty got off to a rocky start as a pudgy, awkward kid, adding on braces, acne and a short bushy haircut in the 7th grade. I was raised by great parents who wanted me to value creativity and intelligence over beauty, which I do. But as a child, that often translated into ill-fitting clothes handed down from my cousin Danny and complete bewilderment at my own desire to be pretty. I spent hours in my bedroom, drawing dresses, imagining what my beautiful, grown–up self would look like, and studying the end-all, be-all authority on style, Princess Diana.

I grew up and out of that most-awkward stage, but the uncomfortable 7th grader had lodged herself in my psyche. Throughout my teens and 20s I didn’t like my hair, my face, the shape of the line between my hair and face. My earlobes were weird. I hated the way my cheeks looked when I smiled. I was still me, and grumbling about it.

My first experience with a woman who chose to be beautiful was Lisa. Freshman year in college she came rolling into the costume shop where we worked. She wore cute, form fitting clothes with confidence. She wore just the right amount of makeup. I thought, “If only I had a body like hers. Then I would wear great clothes and walk around with that confidence.” After two years of working on and off stage with Lisa, sharing classes and heartbreaks and endless cups of coffee, I took the opportunity to steal a glimpse of her measurements card in the costume shop. Our body stats were nearly identical.

Her body, by this empirical evidence, wasn’t significantly different from mine.

The conclusion was obvious. Lisa had some crazy magic that I didn’t have access to. She was hot and I wasn’t, and that would be that.

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Lisa Weiland is still hot, 24 years after we met in the costume shop.

As time moved on I met more and more women like Lisa; women who weren’t waiting to lose 5 pounds or for their hair to grow another 2 inches before they decided to be beautiful. These women were rocking what they had.

They wore nice clothing, took a minute to put on lotion, ate well, expected to have time to themselves, not because they were vain of self-centered, but because they valued themselves. They enjoyed looking good.

It’s taken about 20 years of observation, but I finally feel able to harness a piece of that magic. Here is a path that can get you there.

Appreciate the beauty of others

Being beautiful is never about being more beautiful than other people. That would be like saying one tree is more beautiful than another. Trees are just beautiful. One tree’s beauty does not diminish another’s.

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This sunset was beautiful. Other sunsets will be beautiful, too. We’re not going to set them all up against some arbitrary sunset standard, we’ll just enjoy each one as it happens.

Appreciating beauty in others, rather than dreading it, helps us open our eyes to our own beauty. Take a walk through a crowded public area and keep an eye out for gorgeous. You will find it everywhere, in the old, the toddling, the in-between.

If you are feeling dwarfed by a friend’s beauty, look at her a little more carefully. Chances are she is no closer to society’s standards than you are; she has just chosen to consider herself gorgeous, and grooms herself accordingly.

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Yvonne Fareas, redefining “grandma.” Yes, you can spoil your grandchildren and be crazy-gorgeous.

You do you

Recently a friend of mine was picked up in a private jet and flown to LA for a party. (This never happens to me.) She was naturally apprehensive about dressing for a hip restaurant in downtown LA. She could have bought expensive, all new clothes and tried to pass as a southern Californian, feeling awkward and inadequate every step of the way. Instead, she packed her favorite black dress, and boarded that plane with the gorgeous skin and outdoor fitness of an Oregonian woman.

We don’t need to be, and in fact can’t be, anything other than what we are. How awkward is a 14-year-old dressing like a 25-year-old? A 70-year-old working overtime to pass for a 30-year-old? Both are sad, and neither works.

But a 70-year-old, comfortable in her skin, wearing a great outfit and showing off a fabulous silver mane? That’s beauty.

I’m a mom who gets mud on her boots and really loves clothes a lot. I am beautiful when I embrace that fact. When I try to dress like the ladies in the Nordstrom catalog I just look like a poser. And I’m cold.

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Sarah Lloyd is down to earth, and she runs really fast. When you’re holding the first place ribbon and a hundred dollars cash you really don’t need anything else.

Refurbish, and maintain

When my husband and I first walked into our home, we could see its potential. Banks of windows and wood everywhere made the home feel like a well-appointed tree house. But it needed a lot of work, a ton of work, fully 2000 pounds of work. We replaced windows, repainted every wall that had paint on it, pulled up some nasty carpeting. We did this because we felt our family deserved an awesome home.

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Do I seriously live here? I am so lucky. Plus I work really hard to make it look nice.

Sometime we need to refurbish ourselves. Get rid of pilled sweaters, find a hairstyle that looks good without a lot of maintenance, sleep for 8 hours, go see an esthetician about your skin. This is an investment. It’s a message to yourself that you matter.

Of course a makeover or a remodel is exhilarating. But then there’s the maintenance…

As you get a handle on your beauty routine, you will find maintaining it takes time. Just like cleaning this big, awesome, refurbished house I live in. I’d love to skip the daily, weekly and monthly cycle of household chores. The same is true of my beauty routines. I am lazy, lazy, lazy when it comes to self-maintenance. But I do it, because I like me. I like feeling pretty.

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I dealt with my hair AND put on lip balm.

Harness the Power of Habit

Find every opportunity to engage in positivity about how you look. Thank your friend when she tells you your top is fantastic, rather than trying to dodge the compliment. Give your spouse a kiss when they say you look great, rather than asking, “Really?” Listen to you hairdresser when she tells you you’re gorgeous. Take these compliments as facts, and store them up in your heart.

Watch your words with yourself. I won’t tell you to look in the mirror and blandly yammer on about being beautiful. But when you catch yourself looking hot, acknowledge it. Thank your frontal lobe for deciding to take an extra 30 seconds to put on lip-gloss. Thank your past self for dragging you out of bed to workout, resulting in some sweet looking biceps. Compliment yourself for choosing to wear the bright blue scarf with your camel jacket.

All of this positivity will become a habit. You will begin to scan for the good in yourself, and others.

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Celina and Eva Johnson-Hess. It’s hard not to feel beautiful when your gorgeous daughter looks exactly like you.

Be Content

Go find your favorite picture of yourself. Chances are, it was taken on a day you felt fantastic. If you want to be beautiful, you need to be content with your life and yourself.

You get to shape and control your destiny. If that means reevaluating your job, taking up a particular hobby that’s always spoken to you, working through a difficult relationship in your life, get on it.

My happiness is dependent on regularly spaced chunks of time where I can be alone, doing whatever I want. I guard these chunks fiercely, and it shows in my skin. Occasionally I’ll come across a horrible picture of myself and laugh. The worst pictures are taken when I’m not tending to any of my own needs, but running around like some deranged squirrel trying to take care of every other human on this earth. And looking like a deranged squirrel, too.

 

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Ann Hettick is beautiful. Put her next to her horse and she starts glowing.

It is your decision, and your opinion matters

Several years back, a seventeen year-old student was grinning as she said, in front of the entire AP History class, “I’ve decided my body is fabulous.”

That a student came to declare her body confidence in the classroom is a long story, but suffice it to say, we were impressed.

“How?” someone asked.

“I just decided it was,” she replied. And it was.

Choosing to be beautiful is about making that decision. When you decided your body is fabulous, you begin to treat it as such, feeding yourself good food, exercising and caring for your skin and hair.

There will always be crazy standards and people who think you don’t meet them. The good news is, you make the rules for your life. You can look at your jawline and decide it’s great. I can see my earlobes as unique, rather than weird.

Most people don’t look very closely at anyone, and certainly not closely enough to opine on your earlobes. They just have an overall impression of what you look like. “Pretty.” “Sloppy.” “Elegant.” “Over-done.” You have considerable control over that impression. You’re slouched over, tugging at an ill fitting, worn out coat? “Frumpy.” You’re happy, and wearing an outfit that fits, looks and feels good? “Put together.”

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Lynette Williams always looks put together, even when it’s 100 degrees outside.

We all know people who don’t conform to traditional beauty standards yet walk around like they’re Cleopatra.* We can too. Choosing beautiful means caring for and appreciating yourself. Look for your beauty, care for it and don’t be afraid to let it surround you. Your inner 7th grader will be thrilled.

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Hi little 7th grade Anna! It all turned out OK. I do wear substantially less velvet than you had hoped, but guess what?! We have a goat! And I get to feed it and everything.

*Truth be told, even Cleopatra didn’t conform to the beauty standards of her own age. In all contemporary descriptions of her, no one ever comes out and says she’s particularly good looking. The very few likenesses we have show a fairly ordinary set of facial features. By the time she was enthralling Marc Anthony she’d had a few children and was pretty busy running the wealthiest country on earth. But she was the Queen of the Freakin’ Nile, baby, and that looks good on anybody.

 

 

Rules to Live by in a State of Fashion Anarchy

“There are no rules! Wear what you love! Fashion is what you make it!” –The establishment gleefully proclaims. Visit any street style blog and you will find women wearing all kinds of crazy conglomerations. Open a magazine and you get the sense that so long as you are wearing incredibly high heels, anything can be high fashion.

No rules, huh? In that case I’ll be wearing my pajamas… everywhere.

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Me and my sister, not following fashion rules. Or any rules, actually.

But of course, there are still rules. Subtle enough that most of us can’t quite figure them out, but pervasive enough that everyone has felt the slap at wearing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

The fashion industry is like a teacher with bad classroom management. You know the one. They say there are no rules, but in truth there are rules all over the place. In that situation, nobody preforms well.

Here are a few guidelines to use as a jumping off point as we weather the current mayhem of style.

Wear three colors or tones

Three is a magic number. Joseph Campbell could probably explain why but for the purpose of this blog we’re just going to go with the fact that it’s magical. Three colors, or three tones of a similar color, calm the eye and create visual harmony. Think a rust colored top, blue jeans, brown leather boots and a brown leather cross body bag. Or light grey t-shirt, a darker grey cardigan and a black skirt.

If you are incorporating a print, like plaid or a floral that has more than 3 colors, just keep accessories neutral.

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Red pants, black t, grey sweater. Done.

Solids photograph better, prints are more fun

You may have heard that you can’t go wrong with a solid color. You may have also heard the cacophony of people shouting at you to add more colorful prints to your wardrobe. Both are correct, it just depends on the situation.

If you are going to be photographed, and if you particularly care what those photos look like, wear a solid color. If a print makes you happy, wear it and go have a good day. Since most of our family photos are taken outside on some sort of adventure, all of my coats are solid colors. Since I don’t care what I look like in other people’s wedding albums, I wear fun dresses to celebrate marriages.

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I look awful in any picture of me taken in this dress, but I feel like a fairy princess.

Be thoughtful about the logos you wear

Just try to imagine Grace Kelly or Jackie Kennedy with splattered logos on their handbags, or wearing sweatshirts advertising mountaineering gear. In this world of fashion confusion, many people have taken to using labels and logos in place of style. My middle school age son talks about boys who wear Nike from head to toe on some days, then Under Armor head to toe the next, but would never mix the two brands. We really do not want to look like middle school boys. Seriously.

That said, there are times a label can be incredibly helpful. Levis say, “I’m not a fashion slave, and I like high quality jeans.” Lululemon pants stay on when I am exercising, and that’s a win-win for everybody.

The trick is to limit the labels showing on your clothing, and to be very comfortable with the labels you rock. Both my daughter and I wear Patagonia caps. Patagonia is a great company. The materials they use are responsibly sourced, the employees are treated and paid well, the quality is unmatched. I am happy to advertise for their company. Plus I like their caps. Ultimately, don’t be afraid of a label you can stand behind, but never use labels as a substitute for style.

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Walking advertisement? I’m OK with that.
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And it’s even better on Margaret with a few mosquito bites. Also note the power of three here.

Remember that you are dressing in relationship with other people

Other people are affected by what we wear. That’s why we care so much. Wearing “What you love!” and “Whatever makes you comfortable!” may not make other people comfortable.

I worked with a woman years ago who wore clothing that made everyone around her uncomfortable; cleavage, short skirts, thin clothing, all the time. While there are certainly times and places where she would have looked great in such outfits, being an adult working in a school was not one of them. When she was called out on this, she defended her choices, saying she was just wearing clothing that she found comfortable.

Clothing is never about just our comfort. It’s about everybody’s comfort. Kind of like bathing. Everything we wear sends a message to others about who we are and how we expect to be treated.

Which is not to say you should always wear what other people want or expect you to wear. I know an awesome young woman who wore men’s ties throughout high school, for no other reason than she liked men’s ties. Those ties were a wink and a grin to her more conservative classmates, a subtle but kind note that she wouldn’t be following their rules. I routinely pull on my Frye boots and a plaid shirt if I’m going to be confronted by fancy moms. It’s my way of saying I don’t play your glam game.

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Ties really are so wonderful.

But there are other times when we dress to show respect. As a teacher, there are days (OK, the entire month of February) when I have to work to get myself out of jeans. I teach at a school with a very casual dress code, and could wear sweats if I wanted. But it’s important to let the students know I take this work seriously. I dress up for it and for them.

Fit is everything

More important that the color, brand, or design of your clothing is the way it hangs on your body. We’ve all seen women whose clothing fits beautifully. We tend to assume her clothing fits because she has a great figure, but in truth her figure looks great because her clothing fits.

If you strive for just one stylish improvement in your life, make it the fit of your clothing. Jeans that you have to tug at, blouses that bunch up, dresses that don’t quite have enough room for your hips, these are the real spoilers. As you weed through your wardrobe and continue to make additions to it, look to fit first. A trip to the tailor generally costs less than lunch out. You can hem those pants, take a tuck in a blouse, or shorten a skirt for very little investment of time or money.

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Sheathes are great, provided they fit perfectly.

Add to these guidelines your own rules (I never wear olive when I’m in a bad mood) and you will find a comforting set of guidelines that can make getting dressed easier every morning. Fashion anarchy can rage around us, and we may even find pleasure in the brash and conflicting messages we hear from the fashion industry when nestled in the cocoon of our own orderly wardrobes.

And truth be told, it may have been easier in our mothers’ youths, but also restrictive.

“Should I wear this white dress?”

Is it after Labor Day?

“Nope.”

Are you going to a wedding?

“Nope”

Will they be serving spaghetti?

“Nope”

Then wear that white dress!

These days there’s nothing holding you back from wearing a white dress to outdoor Italian nuptials in February. So long as it fits.

 

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This stylish fox on my deck, in relationship with her surroundings, perfectly fitted, logo-free fur, modeling the power of 3.

 

 

 

 

Size means nothing. Literally.

 

“What size to you wear?” my boyfriend asks casually over the phone. He’s at a scratch and dent sale at Backcountry Gear and they have some good prices on rain jackets.

What size do I wear?

What kind of a loaded question is that for 2:00 on a Sunday afternoon? Are we talking physically or emotionally? What size do I wear today, or what size do I suspect I’ll be wearing next month?

All these years later I can still remember the long and awkward pause that followed his question. I am silent, holding my phone and trying to think of an answer. My boyfriend stands across town next to a rack of Patagonia rain jackets, wanting to buy me one. I can’t answer this simple question. In my closet there are dresses that range from size 8 to 2. I have extra small shirts that are bigger than some large shirts I own. Pants run the gamut. Rain jackets are anybody’s guess.

Because, as you are already well aware, women’s sizing means nothing. You can find clothes that fit and clothes that don’t fit with any number imaginable on it. We can, and do, allow our self-esteem to soar and plummet with each unimaginably inconsistent little digit dangling off the tag.

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The coat I wear to my son’s football games is two sizes larger than the one I wear to my daughter’s climbing comps. So am I thinner in a rock gym than I am on the sidelines?
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This is exactly what I look like when I’m watching my daughter climb. Freaked out but appropriately dressed.

Women of Mud and Grace, it’s time we put an end to the arbitrary tyranny of size.

According to Julia Felsenthal, the US attempt at standardized sizing began in the early 1940s with one of those wonderful depression era WPA projects. Mail order catalogs could be equipped with a sizing system that would increase customer satisfaction (and decrease returns.) Two statisticians, Ruth O’Brien and William Shelton and their team were sent out to measure 15,000 women. They took a whole mess of measurements in hopes that they could create one standardized system of women’s sizing for the United States.

The data, by their own admission, was inconclusive. Women’s bodies were too different to conform to any standard system.

Yes, it took two statisticians and all their operatives taking 59 distinct measurements of 15,000 women to discover that our bodies don’t fit a standard form.

Despite this failure, the government revisited the work in 1958. One can only assume the mail order catalog companies wanted an answer. That system, however bedraggled, still exists today. Based on a late 1950’s study, women’s clothing is sized according to bust, with the assumption that all the rest of a woman’s measurements will fall according to an hourglass figure, where the bust and hips are of equal size, and the waist is exactly 10 inches smaller.

I hope you are laughing hysterically by now.

In the 1960s, clothing manufacturers figured out that by making an article of clothing just a little bit bigger than the size on the tag, women were more likely to buy it. Crazy smart, those fashion execs. By the 1970s the US standardized sizing system was getting harder and harder to enforce. In 1983 any government standards were dropped completely. A manufacturer could size however they saw fit.

Enter vanity sizing. According to a 2011 NYT article, a size 8 waist can vary as much as 6 inches between manufacturers. This holds true even when the clothing is made by the same company, like the Gap/Athleta/Old Navy/ Banana Republic behemoth. I went on line to check the sizing guides and discovered that a size 8 waist at the Gap is 29.5 inches. At Old Navy it’s 28 inches and 29 inches at Banana Republic.

And you just thought your weight was fluctuating from one end of the mall to the other.

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The dress on the left is a large, the dress on the right is an extra small. Both are blue and enjoy basking in the sun on my window seat.

I’ve always hated vanity sizing because I don’t like being reminded of how vain I am. But dang, it works doesn’t it? How many of us bought have something simply because we were pleasantly surprised when we had to go down a size? How many of us have given up on a dress because the one that fit is bigger than the size we identify with?

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Amazing the horse can still hold my weight, given that the puffer I’ve got on is a size up from my normal.

We have to let go of any attachment to size numbers if we’re going to look good in this world. We must consider them mere suggestions of possible fit, and certainly not anything to hang our emotional self worth on.

Here are a few tips to help you move past size.

You choose the fit you want

Designers have an idea of how they want their clothing to fit your body. You may have other ideas. If you want an oversized cardigan, don’t wait until you find one that a manufacturer has made in your size, only oversized. Just go find the perfect cardigan and buy in the size and shape you want.

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I bought a large because I liked the large.
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I also really like the buffalo/mountain. It reminds me of the time I saw a herd of buffalo in the mountains…

Right now, people making jeans seem to assume that women have very small calves. I’ve never thought of my calves as particularly enormous, but apparently they are freaky big if I were to judge by the way so many pants fit. If I need to size up, then take a tuck in the waist so that my massive (really?) calves can fit into pants, so be it.

Don’t allow the numbers power over you

One school of thought is to buy the size that fits best, and then cut out the tag so you won’t be reminded of the number each time you look at it. I’ve tried that, and instead of being reminded of the size, I’m reminded of the fact that I’m so vain I can’t handle a tiny little flap of fabric with a number on it.

I think it’s best to leave the tags in tact, eat well, exercise reasonably and let my size be what it will be. Remember, the size has absolutely no meaning in this reality.

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Incredible I can hold my weight up considering the size of these pants. Then again I have those massive calf muscles.

Watch your language

“I wear a size 6,” as opposed to “I am a size 6.” Words matter.

Find a more worthy vessel for your self esteem

Feeling down after needing to size up for a better fit? Go do something meaningful. Call your grandma, take a bike ride, do your job, make some burritos and deliver them to the fellows who have set up camp under the bridge, try to get your daughter to clean her bedroom. You have plenty to do in this world without letting a randomly chosen number get you down.

Back on the phone with my attempting-to-buy-me-a-coat boyfriend, color choice enters the conversation and I wind up driving across town to pick out my own rain jacket. “Make sure it has plenty of room for layering under it,” he said with some concern. “This is about keeping warm and dry.” He doesn’t need to add that it’s not about looking slim, or feeling slim because I can zip up a coat with a smaller number on it.

And he’s right. I don’t wear a rain jacket to feel skinny; I wear it to feel dry. Years have passed, the boyfriend became my husband,* and continues to care about my outerwear. I’ve worn the coat for years now and can’t even remember the size as I write this. What size do I wear? The size that fits.

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Still keeping me dry. I love this coat and my husband.

P.S. Need more of a talking to on this issue? Please read my post on why you need to start loving your body Love and Appreciate Your Body

*P.P.S Never pass on a potential partner who tries to buy you a Patagonia jacket.