Shopping With Moms & What To Do When They Say “Just Try It?”: A Friday Chat

Nicole: Hello! I still haven’t watched the Adele “Hello” video yet, btw. It’s, like, number one now, right?

Ester: Mike’s the person who knows these things. I am about as pop music savvy as a houseplant. But yes, probably! Like I said, I heard it playing at the place where I was working earlier today, even though every other song I heard before or after it was at least 15 years old. That felt significant. Like, it’s somehow a classic already?

Nicole: All I know is that the Call Your Girlfriend team was raving about it, and then suddenly it was number one, and I feel BEHIND. I might listen over lunch today. During my ten-minute lunch break, LOL.

Ester: You should report back if you cry! I cried, but I chalked that up to pregnancy hormonal overflow; then I found out crying to “Hello” is a worldwide epidemic.

Nicole: I’m not sure I’ve ever cried at a music video. I know I’ve cried while listening to music, but that was mostly because other, breakup-related things were happening. I guess I am excited to see how sad this is?

Ester: Ack, I don’t want to oversell it. I didn’t know it was supposed to be sad. But it just … got me. I don’t know. This has been a very soggy fall for me anyway. Speaking of fall, though, let’s talk about sweaters! Meredith Haggerty has a delightful piece in Racked today about dressing up like herself. It’s a bit of a loving riff on Jazmine’s Internet-breaking Cosmo piece about dressing up like Cookie from “Empire” to combat her feelings of insecurity about working at the Times Magazine but Meredith is definitely only teasing herself.

Nicole: I loved Meredith’s piece. The first thing I noticed was that Meredith looked great in all of her outfits, which … I’m not sure you could say that about me … and then the second thing was that she has duplicates of a lot of her clothes! Like, she owns two orange sweaters that are cut in almost identical ways, with that butt flap thing in the back that I’m sure has a fashion-forward name.

Ester: Yes, it’s probably not called a “butt flap” in the catalog.

Nicole: I love the butt flap. So many of my tops right now have that flap. Perfect for leggings. So could you have pulled that off the way she did? Duplicated your own looks with your own clothes? I don’t think I have enough clothes to duplicate all my looks, not nearly identical the way she did.

Ester: I had friends in high school beg me to stop buying solid-color jewel-toned tops. They, and jeans, were all I was wearing. Then I went a little more eccentric, inspired by Alanis Morisette, and did the dresses-over-pants and slips-as-skirts thing for a while. In college, my most Ester outfit was a pleather skirt paired with a t-shirt I got from the boys section at Goodwill, and I could have done variations on that theme for a week.

Working from home, though, it’s easy to default to a kind of uniform. It’s not like I have an editor who begs me to show up in something different by the time Thursday rolls around.

I do suspect that you could concoct some ne plus ultra Nicole outfits. They would each perhaps feature an owl necklace?

Nicole: Oh, for sure. I’d layer up the owl necklaces, and I could wear a shirtdress over leggings over tights under Crocs. I keep thinking I should find a look that’s better than that, though. The “reasonably shapeless dress and/or flannel shirt over tights or leggings” feels professionalish? For what I do? From the privacy of my own home? But what if I get invited to an important meeting somewhere?

Ester: Do you have a section of your closet that’s more Ann Taylor Loft-y for those occasions? All you need really is one or two emergency corporate outfits.

Nicole: I mean, I have a sheath dress that I could wear if I had to, but that look says a particular thing and it’s not quite… like, I wouldn’t want to wear that to interview someone important. I’d want one of those new plaid dresses that’s cinched slightly at the waist, and calf-high leather boots, and maybe a new jacket. (Definitely a new jacket.) I can’t look like Washington DC Think Tank anymore.

Basically I want higher-quality, more fitted versions of all my clothes. Which probably means more expensive. What about you? Do you have go-to emergency outfits?

Ester: My mom more or less asked me that just today. I’m speaking on a panel in Philly about the cost of healthcare and she’s coming to meet me in the city; in a studiedly casual way, she asked, “So, do we need to go shopping?” Clearly my mom thinks I have nothing to wear in which I can stand before doctors. On the other hand, my sweaters are all pockmarked with moth holes, so I can’t say she’s wrong. My very favorite black wrap sweater from Anthropologie, now many years old, looks like a pair of some goth girl’s torn fishnet tights.

Nicole: On the other hand, if you want to say that the cost of healthcare is too high, showing up in a pockmarked sweater might make the visual point. But yes. Moms want to take their adult children shopping. It’s a bonding thing as much as a “you need new clothes!” thing, I suspect.

Ester: Ah yes. I envy people for whom mother-daughter shopping is not fraught. I guess for me it’s not nearly as bad as it once was, but my mom and I have some History that makes it hard to enter stores together. The further out we go from the body, the easier it is: she bought me a winter coat once at a Black Friday sale, for example, and that purchase was not merely super angst-free but really useful. I still have and wear the coat. Bra shopping is, of course, the other extreme.

When shopping with Mom, stay as far from the body as possible, and you’ll be fine.

Do you shop with your mom over the holidays? Is that part of your tradition?

Nicole: I do! We go pretty much every year. There’s a little bit of “just try it!” but at this point I know what types of clothes are not going to cover my rear end, so I can generally say “LOL that’s not going to fit.”

Ester: “Just try it!” Yes. Where would mother-shopping adventures be without those three little words?

Nicole: What if we did decide to just try it? To all our Billfolders reading this, who might also be shopping with their moms over the holidays: what if we just all agreed we’d try it, and see what happened? It wouldn’t add a lot of extra time to the experience, because you’ll need to be back home for dinner or whatever regardless, so … what if we made this the year that we JUST TRIED IT.

Ester: Ugh, Dieker, the optimism, please. Can you turn it down a notch? It’s kind of hurting my eyes.

Nicole: I’m not saying buy it! But I always feel a little weird about getting grumbly about not wanting to try things on, and yet I get grumbly every year, so … as Aaron Burr said, “I am the one thing in life I can control.” (THERE’S YOUR REFERENCE, I DON’T THINK I’VE MADE ONE YET THIS WEEK.)

Ester: Ha! I was going to make one and I bit it back.

Yes, you’re right. Some people have a hard time looking at themselves in the mirror and seeing something they find hideous, even if their moms find it adorable, though. The balance can be hard to strike. Maybe shoppers can agree to try one or two things to make their moms happy.

Nicole: And then say that you really prefer a baggy shirt with a butt flap. That’s just what your life is now!

Ester: Exactly. BTW, speaking of Racked, I want to shout out Billfold columnist Alizah Salario’s lovely recent piece there too, The Right Fit. It’s about the kind of niche clothes store, complete with knowledgeable hands-on staff, that is extremely valuable to the clientele, and that one hopes, while reading, will never have to close because of competition from the Internets.

Nicole: I don’t see mainstream fashion jumping on clothing designed specifically for trans bodies any time soon, so competition is probably okay. Also yay for Billfold columnists! We are taking over the internet one article at a time.

Ester: Yay! Indeed.

Nicole: Okay, I’m going to eat some freshly-baked bread and watch the “Hello” video. I will let you know in the comments if I cry.

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