A Disappointment

Jun 14, 2012 | 5 comments

Dale Espy Little

In at least one respect, I was a disappointment to my mother.  She was one of those “born to shop” women.  I… not so much.

My first memories of clothes shopping involve shoes.  It was during the war and they were rationed.  I think children were allowed two pair a year.  Mine were always “sensible brown oxfords,” partly because they would wear well but mostly because they were about the only choice for my quadruple-A foot.  Shopping for shoes was seldom an adventure in high fashion.

Same with clothes shopping.  Nothing ever fit.   My mother, who as long as she lived had a dressmaker for those items that she couldn’t buy ‘off the rack,’ took me to be measured and examined by whoever was doing her sewing then.  I remember always being just a tad disappointed with the resulting made-to-order outfits.

By my teen years, well before there were sizes designated as “petite,” everything hung on me like gunny sacks.  Of course, what I wanted were pleated skirts and cashmere sweaters and ballerina-style shoes like all the popular girls.  By hook or by crook, we managed some store-bought items so I didn’t feel like a total misfit, but it was always an ordeal.

Fortunately for my mom and her desire to pass on her shopping abilities, I had a good friend in those years who could wear whatever caught her eye.  Her mother was not a shopper and she adored going into San Francisco with my mother and me on shopping sprees – usually in the fall before school began and again in the spring in preparation for Easter and warmer weather.  She always came away with an armful of purchases.  I came away disappointed and with reassurances that “we’d find something” another day.

So, over the years, I’ve limited my clothes shopping mostly to times of desperation.  Since there aren’t a lot of shopping choices in Oysterville and, these days, blue jeans work for almost every occasion, I am lulled into thinking all is well in the wardrobe department.  But, when we were in Longview yesterday taking care of other matters, I nipped into Macy’s to see what I could see.

Talk about disappointment!  OMG!  I felt like I’d walked into a bargain basement of discount rejects.   Racks and racks of sleazy stuff, even in the shoe department.  Not the Macy’s I remember.  Maybe it’s because they are having a big sale.  Maybe it’s because their person in charge of display thinks the more-cluttered-the-better look will sell clothes. Maybe I just haven’t been shopping since things went funny on us.

Five minutes and I was out of there.  Maybe I’ll find something another day…


  1. Nancy

    Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! As I chose, this morning, which set of around the house and garden rags with which to drape myself, I realized just how much I don’t like shopping for clothes! I love the hardware store and the nursery and the housewares sections of most stores, but ask myself, each time I enter a section of racks with what is loosely called clothing, am I awake or dreaming. I shudder, retreat and decide that my rags will do just fine for another season. As long as I have one decent outfit for each season I will be able to leave the house. Is there something wrong with US, or is it THEM?

  2. fern

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who hates to shop. I thought there must be something wrong with me. I have embedded in my head memories of sitting for what seemed to be hours in the fabric departments of Sears, Penneys, and Grants while mom studied (and I do mean studied) ALL the pattern books. Then we’d spend another looooooooooong time looking at material. All to often we would leave the store with nothing because there might be a better deal down the road!

  3. Kathleen Shaw

    Oh, yes, I remember growing up east of San Francisco and the ritual of shopping for school each year. Late summer is when it actually gets warm there and it was so uncomfortable hanging out at Penney’s trying to find a ready-made dress (no pants for schoolgirls in my era!) for the first day, and then going over to the fabric section to find patterns and material for the rest. I hated it!–the ready-made dresses were stiff with sizing, and there was a particular smell, and the car was so hot, and then was the search for the right pair of shoes (one pair until they didn’t fit, we didn’t have much money). And then, after Mom got the dresses cut out and stitched, having to stand there in the hot bedroom while she checked the fit and the hem length. Fern, I don’t know about you, but my mother’s sewing skills were such that we were only allowed to choose from the Simplicity pattern book–the others were too difficult. So glad that even the work uniform now is nice jeans and sweaters. I hate shopping anywhere other than a bookstore or nursery!

  4. Stephanie Frieze

    Not that I frequent the mall, but even at Goodwill I see clothing that I think, what were they thinking when they made that? I totally agree with you about shopping, but at least Goodwill doesn’t break the pocketbook and there’s always tomorrow. If you’re after something nice for September, I know a seamstress in Hillboro, OR. It’s a drive, but if you stopped and got fitted on your way to CA, once she has your numbers you could order from her.

    Your mother was obviously a stylish babe in a Katherine Hepburn sort of way, but shorter.

  5. Sally Robert

    Dear Sydney, I’ve so enjoyed reading your blog this morning…first time. Your mother was gorgeous. I’m currently reading “Dear Medora” and think you are a talented writer.


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