There is a distinct smell as I open the door of the shop. It’s a little off-putting to be honest. It smells like humanity and maybe old shoes. But inside the thrift shop is fantasy world, all for me to try on, at rock-bottom prices.
Today I’m here to seek out a new outfit. Since giving up my paying career and taking on this writing gig, I’ve put myself under a strict clothing budget. Besides, for what I do, the same three pairs of capris I own and four varieties of tank tops in my drawer are really just fine.
I finger through the rack of shirts, arranged by color. Do I feel red today? No, maybe blue. My kids roll their eyes at my bland blue, tan and black wardrobe. I should look for something flashier.
I pull out a rust-colored bohemian peasant top with colorful stitching along the neckline. I try to picture who originally owned it. Was she a hippy type? I imagine the college kids who hang out in our town. I always admire their carefree look and wish I could pull it off. I try to see myself wearing it, my hair down and mildly unkept, schlepping along in moccasins...that just might be too much, too soon. I hang it back up.
At the end of the first aisle are the dresses. There are all kinds of styles: blacks and lavenders, a champagne colored dress and one that is emerald green. I’d like a new dress.
One is covered in shimmery sequins that twinkle in the florescent lighting. I wonder why it was first bought and by who? I imagine a special cocktail party, exotic, the kind I never go to. The wearer has perfectly coiffed hair and her makeup is impeccable. She is elegant and working the room, holding her cocktail, laughing with her head slightly tossed back. She is flirting with a Don Draper type. I try to imagine myself dressed up in this outfit, but then I think about the heels it would require and having to keep my stomach sucked in. I grimace and put it back.
I decide to be more sensible and check out the pants rack. There are a lot of small sizes. I’m pretty sure whoever fit into these miniature pants were people I distinctly wouldn’t like. They probably don’t eat much and are obsessed with working out. Those kind of people are never to be fully trusted. Better to look in my own size. No doubt the original owner of these pants are nice, approachable and friendly folks.
Tucked in the midst of dozens of faded jeans is a black pair of Patagonia pants. I double check the label and price. Patagonia is one of those brands that make a statement about the wearer: they are outdoorsy. People who wear Patagonia make a conscious effort to look casual. The person who owned these pants probably wore Tevas too. Not the knock-offs bought at an army surplus store with the souls peeling off, like I wear, but the real thing. Now this is a look I’d like to project: the casual mountain woman, outdoorsy, yet pulled together.
I pull the pair of pants off the rack and head to the dressing room. Feeling adventurous, I grab the little rust-colored peasant shirt too. I’m already envisioning myself sporting a mountain, hippy mama style. People will look at me and admire how casual and carefree I appear.
I pull the little flimsy curtain closed, hoping no one comes in by mistake, and try on the pants. I pull them up but can’t, for the life of me, get them buttoned. These pants must not run true to size. I should be able to fit into this size. It is the pant’s fault. Then I slip--just so I can see the effect--the little stitched peasant top over my head. I reach up and tease my hair with my fingers so I can create that studied hippy look. I glance in the mirror, forming my lips into a slightly sexy pout.
I look like a pregnant woman with bed head.
This is not a good look for a 49-year-old woman. Then, because I need to feel better, I try buttoning the pants again, because they really should fit. But they will not quite snap over my tummy. Stupid pants.
I leave that day without purchasing anything, but there will be another time. I’ll be back and maybe this time I’ll dare myself to buy something exotic. Maybe I’ll find a pair of jeans with cool stitching that make me look ten years younger or a tunic top that says I’m a together woman comfortable with her age. Or maybe I’ll pick up a new sweater with swinging bell sleeves. After all, the weather is starting to change. Maybe I will too.