The Power of Clothes Shopping

Between teaching, running, Spartan training workouts, grad class, and trying to maintain some type of social life (Basically impossible to have time for friends and family but I am balancing it but very precariously…), I rarely have time to plan an outfit before an event. Often, I am going into my closet and whipping something up.

This is exactly what happened today. I came home from my outdoor Spartan workout at 11am, and showered. I have a formal event at 5pm so I decided to make sure one of the 2 dresses I own would work. One was bought in August for a wedding and the second was bought in October for another formal event. I have lost 23 pounds since August and since October, it has been 17 of those 23 pounds. So both dresses were too big.

With an upcoming wedding of a friend on top of tonight’s event, I decided to hit the mall. I always get a sense of anxiety when it comes to clothes shopping. Most people feel excitement. However, 29 years of going into stores and never fitting the mall brand clothing has created this permanent feeling of stress when it comes to clothes shopping.

My past experience at 254 pounds…

I would wait until absolutely necessary to go clothes shopping. Usually that meant clothing wore out or I had gained more weight so need bigger size. In my early 20s, I’d attempt to try to see if I could squeeze into something that fit from Ricki’s or Bootlegger. Either it was so ridiculous, I’d give up. Or I’d leave with something that was obviously too tight but was more embarrassed to admit it by not buying it.

Even the sales people treated me different. They were usually always kind. But often I felt like they were over sympathetic but judging in the background “Why is this fat lady even bothering to try on our clothing?” Often, I had some bad experiences. I was often ignored as they knew I was a useless person to help – how can they help someone who won’t fit in their clothing?

It eventually grew so stressful that I learned the habit of buying clothing by assuming it looked like it may fit. But I was done with changing rooms. I would try on at home and just return it if it didn’t fit. Often my return excuse was “it was too big” even though it was the opposite or “I didn’t like the neck line”. Anything but “it was too small”.

By mid/late 20s, I just gave up and only shopped at one store – Addition Elle. This store was the only place I could find anything that fit. But fit does not mean it makes you feel good. As I started to wear 1x, then 2x, then 3x, and finally 4x (size 18 to size 24), I even hated shopping more. Sure, I could walk in and find anything I wanted but then if someone said “Cool outfit. Where from?” Then I’d have to come up with an answer. Lying means they may go looking for it but telling the truth meant a whole bunch more of shame.

Back to today…

Then I changed my life around with running, working out, healthier eating. My body image and self-esteem have change immensely. But I still struggle with clothes shopping. I get that old me back inside sometimes and I don’t always feel like I should be shopping now at La Senza, Le Chateau, Ricki’s, Reitman’s, Bootlegger, etc…

The experience has changed too.

Let’s look at today.

I went shopping with that old feeling of anxiety. I knew I needed a formal dress so I thought “Le Chateau”. But then part of my mind said “You can’t wear that – nothing will fit.” I tossed that thought out and I walked into the store. I searched around for a bit and the employees were over themselves to help me. I found a dress I fell in love with. I asked to try it in medium and large (threw out the old me that said no no.. extra large…extra large. You can’t fit in anything smaller). The salesman took down the dress but only a large available so I decided to just check it out. I probably wouldn’t fit a medium anyway… (another fat person thought).

I get into the change room. I put it on effortlessly. I can’t reach all the way to zip up. Old me says “Take it home and hope it fits”. New me “Just ask for help for pete’s sake”. So I opened that privacy door with back unzipped and sales man came running over. “Oh wow…it looks fabulous. Need me to zip it up? Here honey, turn around”. He glides up the zipper and voila. It fits. In all honestly, the medium (though snug) would have fit too but since no medium, and the large looked great, I just decided to buy it. I could always get it taking in for the wedding if needed.

Now my lovely salesman is running around to find a shawl and a clutch as he says I look gorgeous and we should dress this up. I am used to “Sure looks good.” but usually no other attempts to dress me up or style me. It felt kind of nice – even if overwhelming.

Purchase complete…

Next job was to buy a strapless bra for this dress. Insert old me again for a moment. I literally was sweating. I walked into La Senza. I was originally a 44 DD. La Senza bras for me? Bahahhaha. Ok. Not that I didn’t do it. But even with extender for bra clasp, not really the best bra. I eventually switched to Addition Elle ones. After losing initial chunk of weight, I went down to a 40 D last time I was measured (around one or 1.5 years ago?). I still had to use an extender for the clasp but I could buy La Senza bras.

Today, I decided I better be measured again. The girl helping me was extremely kind and helpful. I held my breath and waited.

“36 C”.

Time froze for a moment and I had to quickly get my shit together before I melted into tears of joy and past anxiety of clothes shopping.

Explains why bras have been feeling looser so let’s find me this bra. The lady helped me find a strapless one and once tried on, she offered to see the fit. I would never even allowed for that to be offered when I was 44 DD… I would buy bra and just hope to the heavens it fit and get out of the store quickly.

I have never been able to wear a strapless bra so I told her did feel so unusual but she checked it out and it was fitting proper. She said it is probably my discomfort with the new style as I was never able to before. Yep – she hit that nail dead on the head. So I decided to buy it as she had gone out of her way and even though to me, it still felt odd – it may be the 20ish odd some wears of always having to be obligated to a strapped bra and planning my clothes around my bra and not the other way around.

I left the mall exhausted and with bags of clothes.

Now home, I reflect back and realize the only true issues I had with shopping was my past anxiety and sometimes letting past experiences judge me for today. Clothes shopping can excite you or terrify you. A changing room can be endless amounts of joy and finding great outfits or it can be painful minutes of trying clothing on and on and never finding the fit. It can be a sales person dressing you up and throwing outfits at you to try or it can be the sales person who joins you quietly in your discomfort of clothes shopping and limits the pain by not nagging you with clothing they and you know won’t fit. Clothing and clothes shopping can make you feel like the most beautiful, healthy, inspiring, and strongest person. Or it can beat you down until you don’t feel like you can try anymore – and not just with trying on clothing but with life itself.

I think we live in a world where we cater to those of a certain size. I understand being overweight is not healthy. I am so grateful that I found a way to change it. But the power of retail clothes shopping should not make some people feel powerless and others full of pride. I am not sure how we can change this but just a little story in hopes that someone out there reads it and says one of the following things:
– “She gets it. She changed it…so can I”.
– “Phew – not only just me.”
– “I never knew how hard this was for people overweight. I will try my best to be honest but kind with them”.

If you are the first, you can change. You can do it. I balance multiple juggling balls and I have done it and am doing it every day.

If you are the second one, no – you are definitely not the only one. I hope you know that and you can always reach out to me to chat about it. I was once there.

For the third one, whether you are that “skinnier” friend, sales person, family member – I hated honesty but I needed it at the same time. However, there are certain ways to do it. Just make sure you find that right way as the wrong way can actually make the person not want to try at all.

Thanks for reading.

Dress shopping.jpg



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