Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Green Dress

Sirens of temptation!
It's not buyer's remorse. It's more like a reflection on the power of temptation.

We went to the mall yesterday evening, JC and Olivia and I, just to stretch our legs and enjoy a change of scenery. I had it absolutely clear that there would be no more clothes purchases. We had already bought a small mountain of baby clothes for Olivia, plus a few extras here and there for moi and a certain husband. So... no more space in our suitcases, no more clothes.

But then we got to Anthropologie... and I was sucked in.

I love everything about Anthropologie: those antique-looking wooden floors... the artfully arranged racks of frocks and sweaters... all the space to walk around and admire the outfits from different angles... the artistic wall decorations that make you feel like you are in part art gallery, part clothing store... the giant tent with rustic furniture in the middle of the store, incongruously surrounded by long, glittering necklaces and bracelets (or are they napkin holders?), the rows of enticing teacups and-- look at those spoon handles! Inhale deeply: the air is scented with lemongrass and sandalwood. It's like being at a hybrid vintage clothes fair, antique show, and multicultural bazaar.

As for the clothes, it's the enticing display of different ideas and approaches that look so fabulously artsy on the size 0 mannequins, and that could possibly make me look fabulous, too...

And I wonder if that's the appeal of fashion: that mixture of tangible, wearable art and the fantasy of becoming someone different when you slip into an outfit that incarnates a certain attitude or idea. In fashion, idea becomes image with seamless elegance. You are what you wear. What you wear speaks volumes about how you think, how you view yourself, how you approach the world-- and of course, if shapes the way others view you.

In Anthropologie, it seems as if the governing idea is the image of a woman with an artistic flair, a fearless willingness to try new shapes, a sensitivity to unusual colors and prints, an adventurous spirit (hence the tent?) with a sense of playfulness and an eagerness to embrace the mood and ethos of other cultures. Anthropologie is for women who could possibly get away with wearing an asymmetrical Indian sari-type dress to work, smartly accessorized with a statement necklace and maybe some sandals. Or wedges? I'm not sure, because I'm not that woman. I would love to be, but nature didn't give me the designer genius gene. It's sort of okay, but not really, because the truth is, I love fashion and deep down I believe that lack of taste and lack of money shouldn't prevent me from bringing out my inner fabulousness.
Fifties housewife splendor!

Back in Anthropologie, I was floating along in a sort of ethereal contentment, absorbing the mood of the place and the thousand tiny details that make it shopping heaven (or hell, once you see the price tags), when I saw The Dress.

It was love at first sight. It was a shirtdress, reminiscent of the prim 1950s dresses that January Jones wears in Mad Men, with a fitted bodice, a trim little waist, and a flared skirt that goes to the knees. And the color!  It was a lovely autumn green. Perfect for tights and boots amidst falling leaves.

The temptation begins with imagination, you see. Then it comes to fruition in action. I trucked it over to the dressing room with my treasure.

In the outrageously spacious changing area, the saleslady was oh so enthusiastic and nice.

"Oh, you picked the shirtdress!  Oh, that's going to look fabulous on you! I can't wait to see it!"

Temptation gets stronger when someone else voices your own secret hopes with such uncanny precision.

"And what's your name?" she asked, with a bright-eyed smile, writing it on a mirrored panel on my dressing room door. Personal attention duly noted, I thought, just like Starbucks in the olden days when they used to write your name on your cup for you and then shout it out with a hint of peevishness and anxiety over the noise of the coffee grinders.

Back in the dressing room, the dress was too small. As if on cue, the dressing room lady chimed out, "Do you need anything, Trish?" There's that touch of personal attention again. I wasn't fooled, but I was almost touched.

She must have flown to the rack and back, because three seconds later, the Object of Desire was helpfully proffered through the door.

Missing the tights and boots, but this is the idea.
Once it was on, I was turning this way and that, admiring it in the mirror. Oh my God, I actually look kind of good!  I was thinking. That was almost enough to make me buy it. That and the mental image of pairing it with tights & boots amidst autumn leaves. I would be the incarnation of the Autumnal Girl. Idea becomes image.

"Let's see the dress!" said the sales lady, as if she were my best friend, eager to share a great find with me.

I came out a bit shyly.

"Oh my GOD!" she exclaimed. "It's perfect on you! That color with your skin and hair is just perfect! It's like the dress was made for you!"

"I'm not totally sure," I demurred, although I was just on the verge of the tipping point.

"Let's go to the mirrors," she said. At that point, I knew I was a sunken ship.

As we walked across the dressing room lobby, I discreetly noted her outfit: a multicolored sweater dress paired with a chunky statement necklace in complementary colors and some fun boots. There are some women who make an effort to look good simply because of a personal sense of aesthetics, or perhaps because of an artistic quality that spills over into the way they dress. Good for them! They make the world more beautiful with that little bit of extra effort.

In front of the three-way mirror, she found the secret button to push me over the edge.

"You know," she said, stepping back and eyeing me up and down with a connoisseur's eye, "that dress would look sooo good with maybe some brown tights and some booties? Do you have any brown ankle booties?" she asked.

With that, I was sold. Never mind that I felt the wind go out of me a little when I signed my name on that credit card receipt. When the sales lady wrapped my beautiful green dress in tissue paper and sealed it with a little sticker before carefully placing it in the bag, I felt like love had come to fruition. I was going to walk through autumn leaves with a lovely little 1950s shirtdress in the perfect green (to complement my hair and complexion, of course) and all would be right with the world. I just need some brown booties.

But of course, I won't be buying anything for a few months. I am, after all, firmly resolved...


BettyDuffy said...

It is made for you. Well done!

Erin Thibodeau said...

Ha ha ha! Trish! That was perfectly, awesomely said. I relate 100% and I'm oh so glad you spelled it all out so accurately. Enjoyed reading this ;) And, of course, the dress is worth every dime. No regrets! ;)

Sheila said...

I've got to agree ... it is very you and definitely looks great on you. Too bad looking awesome costs so dang much!

Madeline said...

hahah! anthropologie...drooooool! whenever i shop with my sister we always make up names to tease the sales people :)