I recently ventured to a department store in search of a dress to wear to a wedding. It was pretty magical—I wandered the racks in solitude, browsing dresses; I didn’t have to dispense snacks or calculate the number of minutes remaining before the inevitable meltdown. I had an uninterrupted conversation with a saleswoman, who helped me choose a few more dresses before leading me to a fitting room of my very own.
I closed the door and reflexively waited for the sound of small fists banging in protest, but there was only the saleswoman’s pleasant voice letting me know she was there to help if I needed anything at all. I sat down on the tufted bench and wondered if Lord & Taylor would let me move in.
Then I turned to the dresses.
To give you some context, it’s been SEVEN YEARS since I went shopping for a nice outfit without being either pregnant, postpartum, or post-postpartum. In other words, I have just recently clawed my way back to something vaguely approximating my pre-kids size and shape, and I anticipated this shopping trip with no small measure of excitement. This time, I thought, I wouldn’t be choosing something based on its ability to hide “flaws”*; I would find a garment to highlight my newly strong physique. This dress would be nothing less than a celebration of my reclaimed body!
*Let it be known that I love and appreciate and honor my body for the two miracles it produced, and for the fact that it’s still healthy and strong at the dawn of my middle age.
It’s possible I’d gotten a little carried away. Not only did the sinister dressing room lighting quickly crush my body-renaissance fantasy, but it turns out that fashion has seen some changes in the past seven years. I was totally nonplussed by the styles on offer; it was similar to how I felt watching Cardi B on SNL last week. “It is because you are old,” said the voice in my head.
For one thing, everything is covered in ruffles. Sleeves, hems, necklines—it’s as if all clothing companies everywhere simultaneously ordered way too much fabric, and then were like, “What are we going to do with all this extra fabric??” And someone said, “I don’t know—ruffles?” And they ran with it.
Conversely, other articles of clothing are missing conspicuous pieces of fabric. (Maybe that’s how they ended up with all the material for the ruffles?) I kind of like this look; a strategically placed cutout can be quite fetching. That said, I do think it’s time to retire the cold shoulder. Nary a shoulder is swathed in fabric these days. You can be covered in ruffles head to toe, but the shoulders, it seems, must be bare. Clearly, while someone was deciding to be-ruffle women everywhere, another someone was saying, “But whatever you do, DO NOT COVER THE SHOULDERS!”
Oh, and lace. There’s literally tons of lace going on out there right now.
I couldn’t help noting the irony that, in the midst of a flourishing movement for female empowerment, the prevailing fashion trend calls for dressing like a piece of wrapped candy. Nevertheless, I persisted.
In the end, it came down to a daring red silk number and a pale green georgette slip dress. The red one was lovely, and it could have worked as long I refrained from eating or sitting at the wedding. So that left the green, which featured ruffles and cold shoulders, of course. Still, I liked the floatiness of the fabric, and I really liked the idea of being able to eat and sit. Also, my two hours of freedom were almost up, and I was not going home empty-handed.
When I got back to the house, I tried on the dress again, just to see if I’d made a terrible mistake. My 3-year-old walked in and, likely dumbfounded to see me in something other than jeans and a sweater, he declared that I looked “booful.” He is a person who isn’t afraid to say what he really thinks, like the other morning when he told me, “Your face looks terrible.”
So I took his word for it.