and then, there were tears

Shopping has always been an adventure in extreme hits or misses for me. Certain seasons/styles mean everything I try on works great with my shape and is an immediate keeper, while other seasons, it seems as if nothing is made to fit my body type or suit my taste and I can’t help but feel incredibly frustrated.

The other day I spent 3.5 hours at the King of Prussia mall with my mom, searching for a cute holiday outfit or two and maybe some new jeans and sweaters to refresh my wardrobe for winter. And what did I leave with? Nothing. Nada. ZILCH. We tried dresses at Lord & Taylor and Macy’s, perused LOFT, Ann Taylor, J.Crew, Fossil, and a few shops in between. Either the things I liked were ill-fitting, or I simply didn’t see anything I liked.

cute on models…notsomuch on me.
That sweater was basically down to my knees when I tried it on.

By the time we got to Nordstrom’s dress department, the tears of frustration finally came out. I felt ridiculous — 30 years old and crying in a department store over SHOPPING, of all things! — but I couldn’t help it. I work from home and wear sweats most days, and my default jeans-and-boots whenever I leave the apartment. I haven’t shopped a lot in the last few years (at least, not like I used to!) and I was really looking forward to picking up some new items with my hard-earned cash. I told my mom it felt like the stores wouldn’t even give me the opportunity to throw my money at them.

Maybe it’s just that the styles and trends out there right now are not my style, but it’s hard to believe that I couldn’t find a single thing worth buying in the second largest mall in the country. I did find one dress that I really liked at Lord & Taylor, but of course the one I tried on was a size too large and my size was nowhere to be found (nor can I find it online). Sigh.

Tonight, I’m going to venture to Anthropologie and see if they won’t let me throw some money at them. Please don’t disappoint, Anthro!!

Does anyone else feel like it is impossible to find anything you like when certain trends hit the stores? How do you end up creating a wardrobe that you’re happy with (without going insane)?

(As an aside: I do realize this is a “first-world problem.” In the grand scheme of life, my inability to find clothes I like is pretty insignificant :) But alas, it’s something I’m experiencing at the moment, and this is where I share my adventures in adulthood.)


  1. Oh I’m sorry hon– I fully admit to breaking out in tears while shopping before (hello, jeans shopping!). It can be so frustrating.

    Have you ever thought about using a personal shopper? Most stores ofter them as a complimentary service (like Nordstrom, Anthropologie, and J.Crew). I’ve used a personal shopper before at Nordstrom and she was *awesome* at choosing items that would suit my body type and looked great –things I would never have chosen for myself. And she was very easily able to work within my tight budget. I never felt pressured to buy more than I could afford. I definitely recommend giving it a shot!

  2. You know, I go through this ALL. THE. TIME. I can never go to teh mall with the intention of finding something because then I NEVER find it. But when Im just running errands or something, I come across stuff I end up loving (and then dont buy it because I wasnt on the quest to go shopping.) Its a viscious circle really. And its frustrating. I feel ya there.

  3. Have you thought about asking a salesperson to choose a few things for you to try? Sometimes things don’t look good on the rack, but end up looking really great on.

  4. Girl, you ain’t the only one shedding tears at the mall. I used to do it much more routinely before I got my breasts reduced. It’s rarer now, but I still get so frustrated. One of the major reasons that I’m slowly teaching myself to sew.

  5. i feel that way all of the time! since i started the gluten free diet i’ve lost a couple pounds and have had a problem with my clothes fitting. i cannot remember the last time i bought myself any clothes and the last few times i’ve tried (even ignoring the price tags which i never do) have been a waste of time. i’ve given up for now.

  6. Oh I have so been there, down to the tears. I’m sorry you were so disappointed by your shopping trip. It really is such a downer especially when you are so looking forward to it.

    The only thing I have found that works is when I do find something that I like I buy multiples. This takes me through those years when it seems like there is nothing out there for me, I shop my closet until the tides turn again. I know that doesn’t help right now, but as you continue to add pieces to your wardrobe something to keep in mind. And like KellyV said above, if you see a dress you love and don’t have an occasion to wear it to right then, buy it anyway. Because when you want a dress there will be none for miles.

    Also, when the mall is overwhelming and frustrating I order a whole bunch of things online and try on at home, return what doesn’t work. Sometimes being able to try the new items on with the pieces you already own can really help you decide whether it works or not.
    Good luck at Anthropologie, here’s hoping you find at least a few cute things that strike your fancy!!

  7. Only at my skinniest (which has been a LONG time) was I ever truly comfortable trying on clothes. Before I got pregnant shopping was something that had gone from fun to downright frustrating, so I totally feel your pain. Not to mention the fact that my body type (short, no boobs, big butt) is not conducive to a lot of clothing. Can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like post baby…

    I’m sure that you look great in most of what you’re trying on, but we are always our own worst critics. I hope you find what you’re looking for at Anthro!

  8. Oh Brooke, I can totally relate. My mom took me clothes shopping last Monday as my Christmas present. In the past couple months I’ve lost weight do to my new gluten free lifestyle and finding an exercise program I actually like – I was excited to get new clothes and try clothes because I *thought* more things would fit me. I went to pretty much the same stores you listed. While we did end up buying some things, it was only because I caved and tried on pants a size BIGGER than I’m used to buying. Explain to me how I can fit in size 10 jeans I haven’t been able to wear for 3 years at home, but the new pants I just bought are a size 14? grrrrr and the sweaters I bought are anywhere from an XS to a L. It doesn’t make any sense :-/

  9. I totally understand. Nothing fits me right. If it fits in the butt it’s too big in the waist. If it fits in the thighs it won’t zip over the butt. If it fits everywhere else, the arms or legs are too short or the waistline or hem is too high. I have learned over the years that shopping for new outfits is a terrible way to reward myself for weight loss. I enter the stores feeling confident and beautiful, and leave feeling defeated, ugly, fat and unfashionable. Good luck today. But remember that if things don’t fit you, it’s because you’re not a cookie cutter fashion model. You’re more beautiful than that. Also, may I suggest buying things that are a bit too big for you and having them tailored to the right shape? I started doing that with things I have needed to purchase for work or special occasions, and it’s surprisingly inexpensive AND makes you feel GREAT to have something made for YOUR body.

  10. I completely feel your pain! I look at certain fashion trends in the shops and wonder how anyone of a ‘regular’ size can even squeeze one arm or a leg into them! Not to mention the outfits that look perfect on the hanger but then entirely different on! *Sigh*. Glad to hear I’m not the only one!
    Good luck at Anthro – it tends to always be a good bet (if an expensive one!)

  11. I can totally relate! In fact, I thought it was only me having this problem. I cannot find a normal length top anywhere, only ones that cling to my bum and thighs which is SO not flattering. I’m sorry long tops like that only look good on rail thin people. Another thing that frustrates me is flowy tops– I’m not preggo but thanks for making me look like I am. Anyways, a total hot issue for me here I thought I was just getting older and not ‘in fashion’ anymore. If that’s fashion then count me out. PS- Love the blog, I’ve been reading for years but this is my first comment.

    Happy shopping & good luck!

  12. Been there…complete with tears. It seems the trends I love don’t always go with my curvy shape. Although with the surge of 40’s inspired clothing at the moment, I’m in heaven. I often have trouble at the mall too…I always find something at Anthropologie though! Which is, of course, a good and a bad thing! ;)
    Good luck!

  13. Oh I am right there with you on crying in the store. I’ve also resorted to buying chocolate in Filene’s to keep me sane. I’m only 5 ft tall, but I’m not as tiny as people assume. I have a butt and thighs more like a gymnast (I dance and cheered) and that makes pants shopping impossible! Some stores you didn’t mention that might have something are The Limited, Ralph Lauren (try the outlets), Banana Republic, and GAP. For jeans specifically, I would hit up a department store denim section. Those sales ladies probably know what they’re doing and have a larger selection to choose from. Good luck shopping!!

  14. Sigh. You’re not alone, Brooke! Crossing my fingers that Anthro will do the trick for you. I’ve pretty much sworn off the mall, it just emotionally wrecks me every time I go. I straddle the line between regular and plus sizes, depending on the brand and the item of clothing, and my size varies so wildly that shopping is pretty much always a disaster. It’s gotten so bad that I usually just order a bunch of stuff online and return whatever doesn’t work, even if it means that I have to pay extra for shipping, to avoid the humiliation of always walking out of the dressing room empty-handed. I’m really glad you posted this, because I sort of felt alone in my frustration, but reading your post and what the rest of the commenters had to say was definitely comforting :)

  15. I find it SO impossible to find any clothes that are age appropriate. Juniors is too young, Women sections are too old. It’s exhausting and really makes me ABHOR shopping! I’m really in dire need of a new wardrobe, but I’m too cheap and lazy to venture out to try to find stuff. I can never find anything I LOVE so I get discouraged.

    Glad to know others have a similar problem!

  16. I feel your pain. Short and curvy means that the skinny jean trend doesn’t look good on me. Which also means my pant selection in 2010 was really limited.

    I’ve got my fingers crossed you’ll something at Anthro.

  17. I always feel like when I go shopping with the intention to buy, I strike out but when I go, just to browse, I find lots of good stuff…It’s a frustrating fluke! I’m sorry, I’d be annoyed too, fingers crossed Anthro hooks ya up!

  18. yes, yes, yes, totally relate to this! i’m 5’10”, and on a tight grad student budget… i really need to suck it up and only shop at “tall” stores, but they’re either super expensive, or only online, etc. so i end up buying things on sale at the mall/target/wherever, and tugging them into place the entire time because they just don’t fit right. :/

  19. Last week I thought, when was the last time I went clothes shopping? I think I will buy something sassy to brighten up my wardrobe and make me feel wonderful when I wear it. I won’t care what size it is, just how it looks and makes me feel. Well, all of the clothes I tried on looked and made me feel like a plus sized porn star. I looked good, but not what I wanted. Working with high school students an excellent cleavage, not a bonus when you want them to listen to what you have to say and not stare at your boobs. The other problem was my lacking of a waist. My hips and my ribs are very close friends. It left me looking like a child playing dress up in her plus sized porn star mummy’s closet. I cried on public transportation back to my apartment, while on the phone. The next day I went into one of the same stores, just in a different location, and was smiled on by the fashion goddess! I was looking feisty for a week! I wore one of my new feisty shirts the other day and promptly spilled red wine down the front if it. I guess what I want to say is, while I am home I will go shopping with you anywhere you want. I promise to force you to try on something outrageous that you will never where to laugh when you are about to cry. I also promise to let you see whatever looks like a nun would wear it on the rack, but in reality makes me look like tart, that I try on that day. We will be so prepared for awful, that everything you try on will be perfectly made to make you look and feel your best.

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  21. It’s been so long since I did any serious clothes shopping that now when I go I feel totally lost and frustrated! I’m a really tiny person and believe me when I say that it is almost impossible to find clothes that fit me right! Everything swims. I’ve broken down in tears of frustration before, so I really truly know how you feel. Anthro is always a fav!

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