“So did you go out and pick out the ugliest, most conservative dress you could find?”
“Yeah, that pretty much describes it.”
This was the conversation my friend and I shared while we were out to dinner at one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve tried in a long time. (Not necessary to the story---but the food was really good.) My friend asked the question and I gave the answer that pretty much summed up the behind the scenes story of my recent shopping adventures.
Believe it or not, when I started on my quest, I was actually excited about shopping for a new dress for my upcoming ordination ceremony. Telling myself, “This is a once in a lifetime event, and you’re going to enjoy it” I decided to treat myself to a special new outfit for the big day. Knowing I would have some time off from travelling over Easter, I was naively excited about the prospect of taking a whole day and going dress shopping. (Notice the use of the word “naïve” because that explains why I was looking forward to my quest as I got into the car to drive to the outlet stores.)
I was off to shop until I dropped!
Well, that was the intent---problem was that I dropped before I actually found a dress that I wanted to wear.
Store after store, hour after hour, dressing room after miserable dressing room, I must have tried on 50 dresses before making this post on Facebook:
I don't mean to be difficult but why do 75% of dresses need to be sleeveless. I like sundresses as much as the next girl but would it kill them to make a few more dresses with sleeves?
The responses were overwhelming!!! I could believe how many women had struggled with this problem. Of course, this post really only addressed part of the problem I was having. My real issue is that every dress I saw fit into one of 5 categories: too short, too tight-fitting, too low-cut, sleeveless, or just too plain ugly and doughty for this former fashionista to wear.
Dress after dress, the search went on whenever I could spare the time to go shopping over the course of several few weeks, all producing the same result: I couldn’t find anything that I liked.
Finally, I decided to lower my standards. My attitude went from “This is a once in a lifetime experience” to “Listen kiddo, it’s one night. Just settle for something appropriate and conservative that fits and move on….you don’t actually have to like it…you just have to wear it.”
With that attitude I finally purchased the dress I was telling my friend about at dinner that night. Only as I listened to my friend talk and describe the ultra conservative attire that a woman she knew had to wear for her ordination ceremony, I began to think that maybe my choice of dress wasn’t ugly (I mean conservative) enough.
Turns out I was right. When our ordination packets arrived in the mail they contained VERY SPECIFIC instructions about everything---including what we were to wear. Turns out, the dress I picked wasn’t appropriate. (Heaven forbid, it had a print. Women need to wear solid black or navy.)
Naturally, my brother, Jamie, (who was also being ordained) bought the wrong color shirt (he bought a purple one) which we had to replace with a solid white one.
Realizing the dress I’d picked didn’t fit the dress code, I sent a picture of myself in the dress to a woman on the ordination committee to ask if she thought it was okay. She very kindly said “no way” but suggested I call the man in charge of the ceremony for his opinion.
I didn’t call right away, but decided to bite the bullet, go to a store I don’t really like and buy a blackish suit that I didn’t really want to buy in a size that I wasn’t crazy about. (What’s with lined skirts fitting so tight? I had to go up two sizes from the dress I bought last week!)
A few days later, we headed off to a department store to once and for all end the search for something to wear to ordination. (Here’s where the story gets good)
Even having resigned to just get the suit already, it was still a tough sell as I carried more skirts, jackets, and dresses into the dressing room than I could manage. From outside the dressing room door I could hear the saleslady complaining about people trying on too many different sizes and how hard that made life for her when she had to take them back. When she rather loudly and insultingly told me that the suit I was trying on was too tight, I wanted to leave all the clothes in a pile for her to clean up while I ran away and cried. Still, I trudged on.
Finally, I found a dress that I liked. It was all black with just a one inch stripe of white across the top. Knowing that a white jacket would look best, I decided to take my friend’s advice and call the person in charge of the event to see if we were allowed to wear a black dress with a white jacket.
Only the person I needed to talk to wasn’t in the office and his secretary was out to lunch.
Well because we were travelling again that weekend, this was the only day I had to shop, I asked whoever answered the phone about the dress. Next thing you know, all of the office is discussing whether I can get special permission (seriously, special permission???) to wear a black dress with a white stripe. As we were discussing the white stripe on the dress, I pretty much assumed that the white jacket was out of the question. And prints---they are very against prints---absolutely no prints anywhere on the outfit---just solid black or navy.
The one good thing about the ordeal was that the lady on the phone had no idea who I was. (Anonymity saves embarassment, right?) So as she took my name and phone number to ask if I could have “special permission” she mispronounced and misspelled my name several times before saying, “Hold on, (name omitted) wants to talk to you.”
All I could feel at that moment was shock and panic.
One minute later I heard a familiar voice (my brother’s mentor and ministry coach---basically the boss) saying, “Hi Adessa! This is the fashion police. What do you need?”
He found the whole thing very amusing, but I was slightly mortified at the thought that my brother’s mentor who we work with A LOT now knew I couldn’t dress myself. (BTW, this whole conversation is taking place in the dressing room at the department store)
Anyway, after he got done laughing, he was very nice and told me that it was okay to wear a small white stripe, after all the men were wearing white shirts. He laughed again when I told him that I bought Jamie the wrong color shirt and now had to replace it with a white one.
Feeling both amused at our friend’s sarcastic sense of humor while still feeling mortified and embarrassed, I decided against the dress with a stripe.
(After all that, I didn’t buy it anyway.)
Instead, I picked a very boring, ALL BLACK 3 piece suit, and braved the cranky sales lady to plop down my credit card and completely overpay for something I didn’t like or want.
What would be great is if I could tell you that the story ended there. (It would be crazy enough wouldn’t it?) Unfortunately we’re only mid-event because I just couldn’t swallow putting out an entire month's clothing allowance for an ugly suit that I didn’t like AT All and would only wear for 3 HOURS!
So I went home that afternoon and started googling around online.
Then CHA-CHING!!! Turns out that a competing department store was advertising the same suit for HALF PRICE.
Well, you can guess what happened next! I ordered the cheaper suit! (DUH!!!)
The only thing was that I wasn’t totally sure that the new suit would fit. (I assumed it would since it would be the exact same thing, in the same sizes, but you never know for sure.) Since I was now running out of time, (and if I took back the expensive suit that fit and the cheaper suit was too small, I'd be back to square one) I decided to wait to take the overpriced suit back until the discounted suit arrived.
Insert one week of peace---Whew!!!!
Fortunately, when the cheaper suit arrived at my door, it did fit. The only problem was that when I tried it on and asked my brother what he thought, he said, “’Dess, I’m sorry, but that suit is just ugly. You just can’t wear it.”
Looking in the mirror, I wanted to cry. I knew what he was saying was true---the all black 3 piece suit I’d picked was ugly---and it didn’t fit right. To get the bottom in the right size, the top was too big.
Totally and completely frustrated, I decided to humiliate myself one more time and once again call the people in charge of the ceremony to ask about this dress code. (Only this time I was careful not to call over lunch)
Naturally, the woman I was talking to was familiar with my last phone call. (So embarrassed) Still, I asked the question, “Do I really have to wear a black blouse with a black suit?”
Her answer was like manna from heaven.
“Of course not, honey….please tell me you’re not stressing about this.”
Me? Stress? Of course not….only every time I thought about it for the last month!
How could I not stress? Didn’t she know how hard (and how expensive) this was? Didn’t she know I was a “rules” girl and there was a battle going on inside of me between obeying every jot and tittle of the dress code and obeying the “what not to wear” rules of what does and does not look good?
Still, her answer did relieve a lot of stress. The next day (just 4 days before we were leaving for the event), I packed up all the ugly suits and returned them to their various stores. Then I went to my favorite store and found a black skirt and jacket that fit and a lovely blue (color!!!) blouse to go under it. With the tremendous savings, I even bought myself a necklace and earrings. (BONUS!!) I even bought myself some new pantyhose in the size that actually fits (which by the way is MUCH more comfortable than trying to squeeze into the smaller size. Who know that pantyhose weren’t supposed to hurt?) Having everything I needed, I finally packed my bags and got ready to go and enjoy the event of a lifetime.
It would be smooth sailing from here……Or not.
As much as I was happy with the final skirt and jacket I chose, (and it did fit the dress code) there was one issue with the skirt. The waist was a little big and needed a safety pin to stay in place. Still, this was a problem I could live with---all I had to do was remember to pack a safety pin.
Naturally, I completely forgot to pack the safety pin and completely forgot I needed one until the big night.
Where did I spend the last moments before the ordination ceremony?
Running up and down the aisles of the grocery store trying to find a safety pin I could purchase so my skirt wouldn’t fall down.
When that wasn’t available, I finally had to buy a pack of baby diaper pins to keep myself together. (It’s all I could find!)
As I was pinning myself together in the parking lot of the grocery store, I couldn’t help but think, “This is crazy! Even on an important sacred night, the crazy lady is still making an appearance.”
But that’s real life---real life is funny. After all, aren’t the behind the scenes bloopers always the best part of the movie? If you’re going to be a wellrounded woman, you’re going to need to learn to laugh---even when you’re wearing an ugly, boring, conservative black suit that’s pinned together with diaper pins.
Have a good day!