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Dusting off My Parachute - Step 1 - Shopping - The Dusty Parachute by Susanne Kerns Skip to main content
Dust Off My Parachute

Dusting off My Parachute – Step 1 – Shopping

Today at noon, I will face my greatest fear head on.

I’ll be doing something that I’ve been putting off for a long time and as the day has grown near I have even hesitated putting together this post because I think my brain is still in denial that it’s happening.

What could this dreaded event be?

Am I presenting to a group of a thousand people? No, that would be fine.

Am I flying cross-country solo with two kids? No, that’s a piece of cake.

Am I taking some kind of dangerous, death defying adventure? Kind of….

I’m going shopping.

In a store!

More specifically, Nordstrom.

For most people this may sounds like a leisurely day at the mall or an exciting opportunity to update their summer wardrobe. For me it’s like being given one of those gross food challenges on The Amazing Race while holding my breath submerged under water in handcuffs.

I don’t like to go shopping.

Whether it is for clothes, groceries, birthday presents, you name it, I avoid it. There are too many options, and too many opportunities for my brain to go into full panic mode by calculating how much money I could be saving if either I would wait for an item to go on sale or find a suitable alternative at another location for a lower price.

So why am I doing this?

The official driving force was realizing that the BlogU conference is coming up and I would like to look somewhat presentable when meeting all of my favorite bloggers in person in a few weeks.

But mostly, it’s because I am a 42-year-old woman who shouldn’t be dressing likes she’s scraping by in college every day. I don’t have the excuse of babies spitting up on my clothes or having to be down on the ground playing with a toddler all day anymore. I’m working again, have the financial ability to buy some new clothes and I would really like to look nice for myself and for my husband both when we go out or even when we’re just staying home.

Basically, I realized that it’s about time that I start dusting off my Dusty Parachute.

I did the calculation tonight and the average age of the clothes in my closet is 4.5 years old. The only reason the number is even that optimistic is because in the past couple of years I have discovered our neighborhood Facebook Garage Sale list and I’m counting things that I have bought ‘used’ in the past year as ‘new to me.’

The only true item that I own is this shirt that I bought a couple months ago for my headshots (which I wore with a pair of 10+ year old pants.)

Dusting Off My Parachute

Aside from that shirt, the most recent items I have purchased are 3 shirts I bought with my friends on our annual ranch weekend outlet mall visit exactly one year ago. The second most recent batch of clothes is a couple of shirts from the ranch weekend the previous year.

You get the point.

I don’t like to shop.

Given my issues with shopping, I decided it was time to bring in a professional.

Once, about 15 years ago, after some strenuous suggestions from some friends, I met with a Nordstrom personal shopper. This experience was fairly life changing in that it made me realize that I had been wearing the completely wrong bra size (went from a 36C to a 32DD) my entire life and it made me move out of my beige comfort zone (slightly).

The only problem….after that shopping trip, I returned half of the merchandise due to some serious buyer’s remorse. Since I knew that the personal shopper was getting paid based on commission, I felt guilty and bought more things than I wanted which made it a kind of stressful experience.

So this time I’m going in with an independent personal stylist. Shelley Riley from Shell Styling has agreed to rise to the challenge of dealing with my extensive list of requests and issues. Why an independent? Since I know that Shelley gets paid whether I leave with $1000 worth of clothes or nothing, she has absolutely no reason to try to tell me something looks good if it doesn’t or up sell me on any items. (I’m not insinuating that the wonderful stylists at Nordstrom do this either, I just obviously have some issues about shopping, if you haven’t caught on to that yet.)

Plus, I saw the great job she did for my friend Rebecca Darling from R We There Yet Mom a couple months ago so I’m ready for her to work her magic on me.

I’m also considering trying the Stitch Fix approach as a point of comparison, but after going through my extensive list of requests with Shelley, I’m not sure that they’re the best option for me.

Here’s a list of ‘demands’ this poor woman has to deal with tomorrow. (This may give you flashbacks to my Childcare Instructions post….)

This is the actual list I sent her when she asked for my sizes & preferences:

  • I am a size 8 in most items and a size 8-8.5 in shoes.
  • I have a 33-34″ inseam and typically wear a long in pants.
  • I have a bit of a tummy issue that I would like to try to conceal as best I can and a flat butt that I would like to do whatever you do with flat butts to not make them look so flat.
  • I also have a pair of 32DD’s that can get in the way of some clothing and make it look like I’m a tent in others.
  • Even when it’s 100+ degrees here, I usually have a sweater/cardigan or light jacket in hand because I’m super sensitive to the cold AC in office buildings so it would be great to have a versatile/coordinating longer layer for the outfits.
  • I definitely prefer skirts and dresses to shorts (but am willing to be swayed…)
  • I desperately need an awesome pair of jeans.
  • This does not need to be part of our day but I am totally replacing ALL of my underwear (the underpants part) if you happen to have a brand/style that you recommend. 😉
  • I prefer to steer away from tank tops unless they have a top over them – for some reason I end up feeling stinky.
  • I prefer not too much embellishment as I’m like my 5 year old and complain about being itchy a lot.
  • I am absolutely hopeless with accessorizing and would love your help there.
  • I need washable clothes that don’t require dry cleaning.
  • I am cheap and primarily deal in sales racks.

For a point of comparison, here are my before pictures.

I have 3 primary looks:

Going for a run look. In my defense, most times I actually do go for a run….but then I get caught up doing stuff and end up wearing it most of the day. Gross. Plus, not the best look if the client happened to call and ask for a videoconference.

Dusting off My Parachute


My “travel” look. I call it that because for the past 4 years, I have worn this dress for just about every flight or road trip I’ve taken. It’s super comfy, and is by far the most colorful thing I own, which makes my brain, feel like I’m “dressing up.” Unfortunately there’s another part of my brain that reminds that part that it’s also the same dress that I use as a swimsuit cover up and to mow the lawn in. If there’s a chance I will be going anywhere near an air conditioner, it (and everything else), gets paired with this jacket.

Dusting off My Parachute


My “99% look”.   99% of the time I have some combination of basic t-shirt with one of THREE of these Old Navy skirts that I own in black, grey and teal. On a normal day I pair it with my Croc sandals, or if I’m feeling super fancy, I dress it up with my Dansko European comfort sandals.

Dusting off My Parachute

Dusting off My Parachute

I think you’ll agree Shelly has her work cut out for her!


Update: My FOUR HOUR shopping spree resulted in a “Pretty Woman” level of shopping bags and a celebratory (recovery) margarita. I will be posting the ‘After’ photos soon but waiting for a few days for some final items that we had to order in different sizes to arrive, and to completely my accessorizing homework.

Dusting Off My Parachute Shopping Spree

Dusting Off My Parachute Shopping Spree


Dust Off My Parachute

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.


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17 thoughts to “Dusting off My Parachute – Step 1 – Shopping”

  1. How fun! Can’t wait to see the results! Also jealous of your bra size. Is that weird? I’m both flatter and wider after having my Zoe.

    1. Ha Ha! Yes, it felt very weird putting my bra size out there for the world to see. It sounds much more impressive than it is – keep in mind that a lot of that is vertical sizing at this point. 😉

  2. I love RueLaLa. I never buy anything that is on Final Sale because I return more than I keep. It was much more productive after having several sessions with a stylist (also prefer independent) so that I have an idea what I’m looking for.

  3. Hope it goes well! I did something similar in NYC a couple years ago, so now that I’m in Austin, I look forward to seeing how this goes for you in case I want to try it again here.

    1. It went well – it was exhausting (4 hours) and required a giant Maudie’s margarita after. I’m excited to show the ‘after’ photos but am waiting on a few final items that needed to be ordered in different sizes.

  4. Hi Sue! Try to hit the Point of View department first. The clothes are less expensive then other departments, yet you can still find work and casual styles. If you are looking at active wear, I love the Zella brand. A little pricey, but very comfy and stylish. Also you can buy Z by Zella at The Rack. Good luck shopping! I can’t wait to see what you get!

  5. Good luck with the shopping trip! I look forward to seeing your new digs (and meeting you in person) at the conference in a few weeks. (By the way, I think I’ve mostly been lurking around your blog, I may have commented once or twice, but I was very excited to see you’ll be at Blog.)

    1. Thanks so much – Hopefully I’m brave enough to post the pictures later. 😉 I’m looking forward to meeting you too – I can’t believe it’s almost here already! Have a great weekend –

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