Almost two weeks ago I challenged myself to do something that I never do: Go shopping.
I detailed the ‘whys’ in a previous, “Dusting Off My Parachute” post the night before my adventure. The boiled down version is that I hate shopping. I find it completely overwhelming both in terms of the sheer number of choices available and also because I am incredibly thrifty (okay, cheap).
If I were a computer and you could search my ‘history’ of clothing purchases in the past year, you would see:
- Jeans that I bought about 5 months ago (four pairs for $8 total) off of our neighborhood Facebook Garage Sale list.
- An Old Navy shirt that I bought 2 months ago for my headshot photos (and promptly ruined by getting a big stain on the back during the 2nd wearing.)
- Another Old Navy shirt that I bought for our family photos last year which ended up being a maternity shirt….because I am that bad at shopping.
Since I am that bad at shopping, I decided to enlist the help of a professional stylist who lives in my neighborhood, Shelley Riley at Shell Styling.
If you’re like me, you probably have no idea what shopping with a stylist entails. In a nutshell, Shelley took care of all the stuff that I hate: sorting through all the racks (and racks, and racks) of clothes, picking out coordinating pieces and filling up a giant, special “stylist area” fitting room at Nordstrom for me before I even arrived at the store.
To prepare for the event, I got dressed in the finest outfit that was in the clean laundry basket and took a ‘Before’ photo.
Now I was ready to face my nemesis.
I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to discover that it just happened to be Nordstrom’s Half Yearly Sale. I don’t know that I have ever paid full price for an item of clothing (or an item of anything), so this would take some of the sting off. Another good sign, Depeche Mode was playing as I rode up the escalator to meet Shelley. I was ready!
I met up with Shelley at 12:30. I allocated two hours, (despite the fact that Shelly had told me that it typically takes first timers four hours.) Lesson #1: If a professional in any field tells you that something is going to take a certain amount of time, do not half it and then not have alternate plans in place for after-school childcare or you will be placing some desperate texts from the dressing room around 2:30.
Shelley led me into a special dressing room area which is apparently reserved for stylists, royalty and the Kardashians. The room was already jam packed with clothing, accessories and shoes that Shelley had spent the past hour selecting for me. (And of course water to help fight off shopping dehydration.)
It was my intention to have Shelley take a bunch of photos along the way and post them to Instagram, etc. What actually happened is that I spent four solid hours in a tornado of taking clothes on and off, sending rejects off with Shelley’s Nordstrom stylist partner in crime (who also returned with new sizes and alternate items.)
It was an aerobic event. I needed that water. I also consumed two granola bars over the course of our session.
Somehow we managed to get in a couple of photos before I just gave into the frenzy of just yanking stuff off and piling it up for Shelley to magically clean up and cart away (it’s kind of like hiring a mom to come take care of you for the day.)
Four hours later, we had our winners lined up. Shelley wisely suggested that we go downstairs for a moment while her helper rang up my purchases and placed orders for the items that I needed in other sizes.
Lesson #2: When you have not shopped at a real store in a year and end up buying all of this…..
…….you darn well better expect to receive this email on the way home…..
I can’t stress enough that although for most people this shopping spree would be a dream come true (and don’t for one minute think that I don’t appreciate the fact that it’s even an option for me to do it,) this was really hard for me.
I had the 1,000 yard stare for the rest of the night. Even after my favorite Maudie’s margarita which usually fixes everything, my mind was racing, I hardly slept that night with my mind filled with buyer’s remorse and thinking of all the stuff that I should return.
I didn’t even open any of the bags for two days and that was just to take out two shirts. I haven’t touched the rest of the items until tonight, (two weeks later) to try them on for these photos.
As I put them on, I couldn’t remember which item was supposed to go with what, and as you’ll notice, I didn’t even get to the accessorizing part. (I welcome tips and know that Shelley will also be reading this to chime in with helpful reminders.) Please note that this is not a statement on Shelley not doing a good job communicating all this stuff. Shopping is a serious anxiety trigger for me and despite all of the great coaching and support she gave, I think I went into a slight state of clothing-shock.
Although I promised I wouldn’t be returning any items, I have three that are definitely on the chopping block. I’m not saying which ones because I’m curious if you’ll have the same feedback without me swaying your vote.
As you’ll see, these photos were taking with super-professional lighting and the maximum number of cats allowed for a photo shoot.
Just like Annie Liebovitz, I set up my photo shoot by balancing my iPhone between a bunch of end-of-year gifts for my son’s teachers:
This is what I look like when I accidentally take my photo while trying to set the timer on my iPhone camera. (It happened way more often than you would think.)
I also prepared my photo setting by shoving all of the books and shoes to the other side of the couch and by shoving all of the stuff from the counter bar on to the counter to reduce the clutter of my backdrop. I was not as lucky in my attempts to remove the cats.
Without further adieu….Here are the photos. Please comment, vote, give yays or nays, tell me what kind of jewelry/belt/accessories I need. Things you don’t need to comment on since I am already fully aware of them:
- My legs are very white.
- I should have taken the comforter off of the railing upstairs.
- My hair gets progressively messier as I give up on fixing it between outfit changes.
- I do very unnatural things with my hands when being photographed.
- Yes, we do have giant mesh panels against the railing upstairs, and if you ever stand downstairs while my kids are playing upstairs, you will thank me.
- My cats are annoying.
Here it goes:
I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to wear on the bottom with this so ignore the shorts and focus on the shirt (and the cat, of course.)
Ignore how wrinkly this shirt is – I wore it the other day and dug it out of the laundry for this picture. 🙂
Outfit #13 has a few cover-up options since even though I’m literally covered from head to toe I feel a little naked in this maxi dress.
Are you starting to see why this took four hours???
Help me pick a denim skirt (or talk me out of a denim skirt.) One is a darker ‘dressier’ one and the other has some fading and is a bit more casual.
Outfit #18 is intended to help me figure out what the heck you’re supposed to do with your shirt. I always leave them hanging out in an attempt to cover my tummy-stuff, but I was told to try the half tuck or a full tuck. How do you tuck?
As much as I love the fabric of these shorts, I’m thinking they may be a little too shorty-short for a 43 year old. They also cost more than any pair of jeans that I own, which seems strange since there’s only about 2 square feet of fabric.
Oh, and I also have all of these shoes that I need to decide on. I’m not much of a shoe-girl, but these make me want to change my mind.
Please help me. I would love your 2nd opinions before I go and start cutting off tags.
Be honest (but be gentle with me.) 😉
Once upon a time, Susanne Kerns was a Senior Account Director at an advertising agency working for two of the top brands in the world. Nine years ago she traded in her corporate life for a life as a stay at home mom, raising two of the best kids in the world. She started her blog, The Dusty Parachute as a way to dust off her online advertising skills and begin her job search. Instead, she now uses it as a way to spend lots of time on the computer so her kids think that mommy has a job.
Susanne’s essays have been featured in Scary Mommy, BonBon Break and Redbook and she is also a contributor in the upcoming books, It’s Really 10 Months, Special Delivery and Martinis & Motherhood: Tales of Wonder, Woe & WTF?! You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Be sure to follow me on Facebook & Twitter and check out my 'Photos' tab for a sample of my Instagram feed. It's where I post my tasteful nudes (made you look!);)
xo - Susanne