Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline
While I had a Barbie or two as a little girl, I never really got into dressing them up in an array of outfits and using them to put on pint-sized fashion shows. Those pointy little fingers that caught on every shirt and the geriatric, unbending knees that made putting on a cute pair of pants nearly impossible put me off on the idea of doll dress-up. Rather, my Barbie usually ended up colored coordinating with the black and purple tractor-trailer into which she was crammed, inflexible limbs and all. Who needs to haul big machinery with a semi-truck when Barbie is awaiting a ride?
Maybe I didn’t learn much about clothes and fashion from Barbie, but I wasn’t immune to the lure of pretty colors and matching accessories. I can remember picking out coloring books as a little girl, thumbing through whatever selection was available, looking for the one with the most pictures of girls in dresses. The fancier and more elaborate the dress, the better! Coloring would commence by selecting a color palate to be used for the entire outfit. If I went with pinks, I would pull every shade of pink from my Crayola 64-count box (that’s right, the one with the built-in sharpener!) and line them up from lightest to darkest. If I elected to go with a purple theme, I would do the same with every shade of violet available. This worked for any theme, from blue to orange, but I tended to lean towards the pinks and purples with an occasional blue outfit thrown in here or there. I would then mix in the metallic colors for accents to go along with whatever color family I had selected. I ended up with perfectly coordinated outfits that would make even Joan Rivers stand speechless. (Her lack of comments could possibly be blamed on an excess of Botox and plastic surgery, but I’d rather chalk it up to the outstanding fashion-sense of my seven year old self.)
Now, with no coloring book in sight, it is time to flex those fashion muscles once more. Being in need of a formal dress to take to China, it was off to the bridal shop to see what I could find. I met Erin out in Rockville this afternoon, where we searched the racks for a dress to travel the world. The requirements were pretty simple:
*Be able to ship not only to China, but on to the next posting, without being ruined
*Not look like a bridesmaid dress
I went into the shop with a couple of dresses in mind. (You will remember the pretty pink one I loved from “The Intimidation of Sparkles and Baubles.”) Of course, after riding the Metro for an hour and then having a strange and rather uncomfortable encounter with a homeless man on the walk to the store, they didn’t have either of the dresses that I wanted to look at in stock. (They did tell me I was welcome to go out to Baltimore, where both were available! Thanks, but the Metro doesn’t go there.) After having a moment of grumpiness, Erin arrived to save me from my slump. She quickly convinced me to try on other dresses while we were there, saying that she would take me to Baltimore one weekend if we didn’t find anything we liked. With that in mind, I passed on the cotton candy creation that the dress consultant told me was “just like” the one I had wanted to look at. (No. No it wasn’t.) Her other pulls were just as lacking, so Erin and I opted to hit the racks ourselves.
As we pulled a couple of promising gowns, a different sales consultant saw us going through the dresses ourselves and came over to check on us. She promptly asked us if we were looking for prom dresses. Erin and I grinned as we said that no, we were just looking for a formal that would be appropriate for State Department functions. Then, we sneaked behind a rack and giggled as we high-fived. This was better than being carded to get in a bar! Prom?!?! Take the age I went to prom and double it and you’re much closer to reality.
After trying on a series of long dresses, Erin and I narrowed down the options to two. (I also tried on a bunch of short cocktail dresses, one of which I loved, but eventually decided I didn’t want to spend the money to get both a long formal and a short cocktail dress.) One dress was fitted and had a more classical style to it. It fit like a glove (in a size 4, thank you very much!) and would be easy to wear to multiple occasions. The store only had it in black, but could order it in a variety of jewel-toned colors. The other dress was more flow-y on the bottom and was a lot of fun. It came in a variety of sherbet colors, but was so unique that it would be hard to recycle for various events. After going through the pros and cons and possible accessorizing options for each dress, I settled on the slimmer silhouetted dress, but ordered it in “sangria,” which is a rich raspberry/purple color.
Dear ol’ Barbie may still be jammed in the back of a tractor trailer, hidden in a pile of dump trucks and Rainbow Brights (dolls and trucks went together like peanut butter and jelly in my young imagination) but the love of pretty colors and clothes has not been smothered by subsequent years of school and work nowhere near the world of fashion. I may be in the middle of a move from Idaho to Washington DC to Chengdu, China, but I am determined to take the pretty with me!