It’s that time of year again (winter wardrobe reset)

Every October or November, I pull out my sweater collection and I think, ugh. Why are these suddenly too short, too long, too ugly, too boring or just too not what I want to have on my body? It never fails. In all fairness, I do have two sweaters that have survived the annual purge, not just once, but multiple times: a black sweater from the GAP and a grey one from Banana Republic. In fact, I bought them both the same year: in 1997. Pretty good, huh?

Now there are also a couple of recent acquisitions that also made the cut – like this super cool textured sweater that I got God knows where (probably someplace cheesy like Kohl’s or TJ Maxx as shopping is limited in my neck of the woods) and a couple of cardigan-like things (one brown, one orange, one turquoise, one brown, one black, and one red).

But I really wanted sweaters.

You know, the kind you pull over your head and make your hair go all over the place. The kind you layer over soft t-shirts and wear over jeans and short skirt with wool leggings. You know, those kinds of sweaters.

So this year, instead of making my annual pilgrimage to Kohl’s or TJ Maxx (this time not because they’re cheesy – see above – but because they’re closed due to flooding) or driving an hour or two to the nearest mall, I headed to the local community center. I’ve written about this place before.

I decided to go see “if they had some sweaters.” I walked out with two garbage bags of clothes – so much for my chosen goal of lightening up. The only saving grace is that all proceeds go to help feed, clothe, and shelter people in the community…or at least that’s what I keep telling myself anyway (and anybody else who might see me carrying around two trash bags of clothes!)

So, to the degree that I remember the haul, here’s what I got:

1 black sweater (Banana Republic)
1 black turtleneck (Chico’s)
1 red sweater (Ralph Lauren)
1 purple sweater (Charter House)
1 sable sweater (The Limited)
1 brown sweater (tags still on)
1 long sleeved pullover shirt, lace (J.Jill)
1 long sleeved button up shirt (J.Jill)
1 pair of carpenter pants (Gap)
1 red fleece (??)
1 (more) red sweater
1 (more) brown sweater (American Eagle Outfitters)
1 killer jacket (Coldwater Creek)

1 slinky black skirt.

Now, it would be one thing to just tell you that I got all of this stuff for less than $50. (Compare this to the $180 shopping spree that I witnessed from my little sister, who got one pair of jeans, two t-shirts, a sweatshirt, a handful of underwear, and some earrings.) But to stop there wouldn’t do justice to my shopping experience.

On a whim, I went back into the co-ed changing room and slipped into said slinky black skirt. It is one of those garments that has two zippers. One at the waist, so that you can put it on. And one at the foot, so that you can 1) get into a car or 2) go to the bathroom while you’re wearing in. I slide both zippers up; it fits like a glove and, despite that I’d paired it with winter boots and a blue fleece, I must say that it looked pretty darned good.

Just as I decided that, yes, this skirt was me, I reached around to unzip the back, when, lo and behold, I realized that the zipper that zipped so easily going up was stuck. I’m not talking a little stuck, but a lot stuck. It literally wouldn’t budge. I tried my left hand. I tried my right hand. I held it away from my body. I pulled it up. I straightened it out. I turned around (for good measure). I turned it around. I think I may have prayed. I most certainly laughed.

And I’m not sure if it was anxiety or just my 41 year old bladder having a good joke, but all of a sudden, I had to pee.

Did I mention that there’s not bathroom in this store? At least not one that’s open to the public?

So let’s recap: I have on a skirt that requires the wearer to take itsy bity steps. Said skirt has a zipper that’s going nowhere. I have to pee like a race horse at this point (don’t you love how the mind and body work together on these things?) and there’s no bathroom. Oh, and the only other person in the dressing room is a guy, who already thinks I was hitting on him when I asked him whether a particular shade of lavender made my skin look yellow.

(I swear, he looked like I’d asked him to loan me $100. Blink. “Who, me?”)

Given our earlier encounter, I didn’t figure he’d be up to wrestling me out of a skirt….

So, I do what any self respecting thrift store shopper does. I grab everything up, including the pants I walked in with. I march up to the cashier (very slowly, mind you, because even with the lower zip done, this skirt, unlike my boots, were not made for walking).

Did I mention I had to pee – badly? Very badly.

Once there, I tear off the tag with as much dignity as I can muster and hand it to the cashier. “I can’t get the zipper down on this skirt, so I think I’m buying it.”

He looks me up and down. “It looks like it fits pretty good to me.”

Bladder clenches. I unclench me teeth and try to smile.

“That’s not the point,” I say, trying not to breath or make any sudden moves and inadvertently fall over.

“Do you think you’re going to be able to fix it?” he asks as he folds my other purchases.

Deep breath, as quickly as I could, willing him with my eyes (and my treacherous bladder) to pick up the pace. “With a pair of scissors maybe,” I mutter just about the time I realize that even if I do make it to a public bathroom in time, it’s not entirely clear that I will be able to get the skirt up over my hips to do anything once I’m there.

‘Shit,’ I thought, only to hear my inner child who is delighted for whatever reason by my adult discomfort, chuckle, ‘That too.’

“Well,” the cashier says thoughtfully (that is, slowly), meticulously (read, slowly) straightening the Gap pants before placing them (slowly) in the 3-gallon clear plastic bag without meeting my eyes, “if you really don’t think you can fix it, maybe we should just call it even.”

I was so stressed out at that point, I’m not even sure if I remembered to be grateful.

He sums me up. I toss my money on the counter, promise not to break anything upon my return, and hop to the car.

Once in (a maneuver worth it’s own post, but let’s suffice it to say that the bottom zipper needs to be about 6 inches longer and I’m really beginning to understand how this lovely garment ended up in near mint condition at a community thrift store), I drive like a demon to my office. I get out without falling out (also probably worth documenting), hop to the bathroom, and without going into too many gory details, when all is said and done I try it one more time and – wouldn’t you know it? – the zipper slides down as easily as a warm knife moves through butter.


And believe it or not, I actually felt guilty about cheating the store out of the $3.25 for the skirt, which I may or may not ever wear again….


I feel like I have completely gone off an a tangent here, so here are the takeaways, assuming, that is, you’re still with me.

If you need (or want) to completely revamp your wardrobe, community centers or thrift stores are one option. Not only are they fun (actually, they sort of remind me when my father used to take me to the flea market when I was a child), they are cheap, and, if all else fails, a potential source of embarrassing stories with which you can regale both friends and families.

Oh yeah, and in the face of serious wardrobe malfunctions, you might even score some free clothes 😉

2 comments so far

  1. anne ivey on

    You totally crack me up. I am envisioning this entire story. To know you is to love you!

    • KJ on

      Be glad you’re not here! Judy’s been getting a daily fashion show, with the subtext: the whole outfit for $4! Though I think today’s was actually $5!

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