Friday, June 26, 2009

Shopping for "The Dress"

Yes, uncharacteristically of me I asked my husband and son to accompany me to the dress shops here in London last Saturday to shop for a "mother-of-the-bride" dress. My trusty long sleeve black velvet wasn't going to be quite right.

Initial shopping began with two bridal shows, one here in London when our daughters were visiting at Christmas. The other in Houston in February. I also looked when my daughters were here in March trying on bridesmaids dresses. None of what I saw were my style. Most were heavily beaded, jacketed, straight no-shape dresses. That, or very revealing, making me wonder if these weren't reserved for a mother looking for a new husband! Nothing that shouted "me!"

Okay, back to my Saturday adventure. The first shop we visited is considered to be a very well stocked, respected dress shop. I was greeted by a woman who was nothing like me (perhaps my first mistake.) She "allowed" us to go upstairs, practically told my husband and son where they could sit, and not move, then she showed me her "all time favorite, versatile" dress. It was a long haltar top, with lots of beading! When I protested that it was a church wedding, and I preferred not to have bare arms or back, she came back with "you can use a wrap." No, I shook my head, I preferred a more modest style. After proclaiming nothing like that existed, she reluctantly moved me to the shorter dress area. Not once did she allow me to simply look.

That was another step on a swiftly declining slope of customer/saleswoman relationship. She then took me over to the suit-straight dress- side on the store. All the time she was warning me that she had a lot of experience, and if I didn't find something in her store (like she even allowed me to look!) I simply wouldn't find it in London. I was also informed that perhaps I just needed to "go buy a pattern and make my own dress."

The first dress she selected made me look like a huge pink square. I refused to even emerge from the dressing room. The pushy saleswoman mocked me from outside, and was insisting that I "must show her how it looked." I declined.

The next dress was only okay. Not stunning. It was a rather gray-brown, dull taupe color. By then I came out, modelled for Tom and Peter, and then the woman assured me that if I had worn something other than cheap cotton underclothes it would look much better.

So she measured me, and came back with a one piece - struggling to fit into it - strapless undergarment. Struggle, I did, and all I could imagine was trying to feel comfortable on a hot sticky August evening in Houston. The dress looked terrible. It would need some major fitting, which she assured me was good because well made men's clothes all are fitted. She also informed me that I made nothing but negative comments about my body (because I desired to dress modestly???) and that all I really needed were the proper undergarments.

I explained that my policy is always to wait 48 hours before making large purchases, she again tried to tell me that if I wore the dress twice, the cost was cut in half. Huh? No wonder the world economy is in trouble. Newton's 3rd law of physics was rapidly becoming reality. The harder she pushed, the more I rebelled. After being insulted, told I had a bad body image, that I was actually saving money by buying clothes (that had no price tags!) and that I was lucky to have her guide my decision I had quite enough.

By then, I had already decided I would wear my black velvet before I ever graced their doorstep again. Sheesh! Do wealthy women like to be treated like they are stupid? Did this woman have a clue that you simply do not make fun of a woman's preference for modesty?

The next store and sales woman were much kinder. I did try on a wonderful pair of high heel peep toe shoes I'd like to own. But, when I saw their price tags, adding up the outfit we came up with, the cost was well over what we were spending for Elizabeth's wedding ensemble. Not my idea of fiscal responsibility. I am a stay-at-home mother and I simply can't justify spending money for clothes I could sew myself for substantially less money, and of much higher quality.

Good news is that Sunday I jumped on the internet, found a suitable, though maybe not "perfect" dress at the JCPenney outlet store. Gosh, if I do my math right that means I "made $1000". lol. My economic good sense prevails. Unless I find the "perfect" dress in the week before the wedding I'll be in Houston, I'll be wearing my $35 bargain dress, and thoroughly enjoying the party.

And for the Susan J company here in London ... I will never darken your doorstep again, and definitely never recommend your store to my friends. They deserve more than to be browbeat, and told they have no style. Beauty comes from within, not from spending money you don't need to spend.

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