Good thing my self-esteem is pretty solid.

Time flies when you’re living life. That’s the only excuse I can give for not writing lo, these many days.

Time flies and life goes on. We got through the spring, end of the school year, first days of camp. We traveled a bit, cleaned the garage, and persevered through continuing domestic construction projects (or, as I prefer to think of it: our own personal economic stimulus package).

At any rate, as part of the ongoing project that is my personal appearance, I made the pilgrimage to NYC recently to take care of some grooming issues. Let’s just leave it there. Suffice to say I’ve said enough about these kinds of adventures.

This last time, though, I brought a friend along with me. Diane lives in my town, but grew up in a major metropolitan area with a whole coterie of people who left the hometown to make it big somewhere else. This is true not only for Diane, but for one friend of hers in particular who grew up to become a couture designer of some renown. His studio happens to be not far from my hair salon, so Diane suggested that we stop in and say hello; even if Designerman wasn’t in, his sister who works with him would be.

Thanks to my impressive aggressive-City-driving skills, we were sufficiently early so we could certainly make the stop at the showroom. (Love City driving. Gets all my angst out and I feel much more Zen when I’m back home again.)

This whole designer experience is true. Can’t make it up. It’s just like what you’d expect to find in a movie. Sometimes life IS as good as fiction…I’d also like to be clear: everyone was really lovely – no one was mean or condescending or rude. It was not a “Pretty Woman” kind of day. At all. (It was, however, a glimpse of life on another planet.)

The elevator opened up into the reception area. An all-white, basically empty space. (I think designer-y types would call it minimalist; I couldn’t register that characteristic as I was immediately consumed with how it stays so pristine.) A glass desk was positioned in the rear right corner of the room, with supports that looked like tree branches. A round bulldog (learned later his name was Churchill) was keeping watch under the desk until he realized we were exiting the elevator. Then he hauled himself to his feet to come over and give us a good snuffle. A skinny woman was keeping watch behind the desk; she got to her feet and glided off to find Diane’s friend Audrina for us. Churchill’s bed, a lovely canopied affair in white with the same faux branch detailing as the desk, sat in another corner near two doorways.

When Twiggy left her desk, Diane beckoned me to follow her to doorway #1 and peek in. Through doorway #1? The workroom, just like you’ve seen on Project Runway, without the tantrums and tears and overwrought young designers. Fabric, sewing machines, dress dummies, patterns….all over this room. It appeared to be chaotic, but then I’m really only great at using a sewing machine to sew straight lines, so anything more than that makes me nervous.

Diane then turned us around to head through doorway #2, the showroom. Up a couple of wide stairs and into another pristine white room, with mirrors on one wall and racks of clothing against the other walls. The floor was covered in what I can only describe as a gym mat – provided of course that you attend some kind of school that uses shiny, white, patent-leather mats.

Audrina found us in the showroom, standing respectfully among the racks of clothing. Introductions were made, and Diane told her that in addition to saying hi, I had a “function” the following week (true), and we thought it would be fun to see if they had anything that might work for it (not exactly true – we never discussed that). Oh sure, Audrina said happily. She took a step back from me and said, “What, you’re about a size 8, yes?”

Oh, you sweet, sweet woman.

Her face fell when I told her that, in fact, I was more of a (gulp) size 12 or 14. She got kind of sad and said, “Oh, we don’t have anything for you.”

Here’s where we give thanks for a solid self-image. (It’s a wonder I ever ate again after this day.)

“Wait,” she suddenly brightened. “Hold on, I think we might have something here.” And she went rifling through a nearby rack. Pulling something down she said, somewhat triumphantly, “This is will work. It’s fabulous. And it’s an XL.”

Thank you, solid self-image.

Friends, it was a caftan. I might be more inclined to call it a mumu. Or a schmata. However you’d like to call it, it was an XL v-neck configuration of champagne-colored sequins hand-sewn onto yards and yards of fabric. She led me to a dressing room and left me there to put it on.  She extolled its biggest virtues: namely, that one needed no special “foundation garments” (Spanx, to you and me) under it – you could be super comfortable from head to toe with no binding waistbands or annoying straps. You could wear leggings, or not, underneath. You could wear a simple flat shoe, or a really lovely sandal. (How about a simple, lovely flip flop?)

When I emerged, it was to small gasps. By now, Audrina had been joined by a couple of other employees (no doubt to see who was wearing the XL) and I’m sure they’d have considered them gasps of happiness, but I had my doubts.  

I felt not unlike a flying squirrel. (Go head, Yahoo! that image, I’ll wait. Just mentally erase the tail. Everything else is pretty accurate.) When I inquired of the crowd if I looked as big as a barn and a little bit silly, I was told no, in fact I looked fabulous/fantastic/slim/incredible.

To be clear, I looked none of those things. I did, however, look shorter and wider than in real life.

The color is wrong, and mine had a v-neck, but this is essentially the look. Just lop off 7 inches from this model, and make her hair red and humidity-enhanced.

Let me take a moment and clarify: my body image is fine. Truly. Would I like to be 5-11 and a size 4? Sure! I’d also like to have William and Catherine over for dinner sometime this summer, see if Neil Patrick Harris would come and hang out for a weekend, and  have the heads of programming for the major broadcast and cable networks consult me on programming, but that’s not going to happen. It’s all good! I spend a decent amount of time in the gym, I’m strong like ox, and while I may not live forever I feel pretty good most of the time. And yet, I am a realist: sequined caftans are not my best look.

While I was standing there, wondering if I spread my arms and jumped down some stairs how much “air” I’d get, Audrina handed me a pair of (not exaggerating) 4 inch stilettos to put on so that I would get “the full effect.” Once I got them on (no mean feat), I forgot to worry about flying squirrel comparisons because I was now certain that I would be “that client” who punctured the patent-leather floor with her heels.

Just for kicks, I decided to inquire how much the dress would be if I wanted to take it home with me. After the price list was located, there was a bit of flipping of pages before I was told, “$19,700.” You read that correctly: nineteen THOUSAND seven HUNDRED dollars. American money. But of course, I was quickly told, that was the RETAIL price, and of course I wouldn’t pay that (as a friend of Diane’s, I guess). Instead, after some tap tap tapping on the calculator, the price was adjusted to $8500. Eight THOUSAND five HUNDRED dollars. American. I promised to think about it, and returned to the dressing room to put back on my Target sundress (retail: $19.97).

Diane and I left for my salon appointment, and had a few laughs on the street. Mainly, I laughed about not being a size 2 or 4 (the sample sizes, I was told {after I asked, masochist that I am}, are built on a model who’s 5-11 and roughly a 2/4. She’s also in her mid-30’s with a couple of kids, to just add insult to injury).

I thought no more about the dress after the salon appointment. One of the highlights of the NYC Salon Day is lunch at a nearby brasserie. They have a delightful mac and cheese with bacon. Good bye couture, hello baked goodness.

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8 Responses to “Good thing my self-esteem is pretty solid.”

  1. Similarly built cousin Alice Says:

    Favorite thing you’ve ever written. Laughing outloud as I haul my ass on my treadmill. Pleeeease say there are pictures.

    Alyson says:

    Photos? Seriously?
    No, no photos. Use that search engine to pull up flying squirrel, for reals. A bit less facial hair, remove the tail, dye him red, call him Cuz. There’s your photo.

    Alyson says:

    PS– I enjoy your new comment nom de plume very much.

  2. MA Says:

    HAHAHA! That made up for all the time you were gone! Cracking up…wish I could have been there!

  3. Marilyn Knight Just Says:

    Reee Heee Heee — giggled all the way through starting with “Oh, we don’t have anything for you.” I’ll make a much better guest than William & Catherine – I’ll bring Mac n Cheese.

  4. Suniverse Says:

    Fantastic. I’m inviting you over for home made ice cream and we can discuss the benefits of being strong instead of willowy.

  5. Beanie Says:

    Oh my gawd, this is hilarious!

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Can I just say what a relief to discover somebody that actually understands what they’re talking about over the internet. You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people ought to look at this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you are not more popular since you definitely possess the gift.

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