Shopping with Mom

I recently returned from a visit to the Frump Factor ancestral home. It was here that I endured junior high school, an endless sequence of bad haircuts, and culottes. So let’s just say the style legacy I left behind is not one of greatness.

But this was also the place where Mom taught me some of life’s essential lessons. Kindness is important. Growling dogs should be left alone. And the wrong pair of shoes can ruin an outfit. What more does one really need to know?

On this visit, we decided to spend an afternoon shopping for clothes. We are not exactly champions of recreational shopping, so when we get a chance to spend some time together, a trip to the mall isn’t usually high on our list. But when we manage to pull it off, shopping together is a real treat.

We’ve come a long way since the good old days, when I would whine, “Moooom!” every time she opened my dressing room door to see how I was doing. (Like many young girls, I was absurdly modest about being seen in my underwear, even by a store full of mothers and grandmothers). These days, shopping with Mom is both fun and educational. Here’s what I learned this time.

1) I am not the only one who hates tops with other tops built into them. You know the ones I’m talking about, right? The sheer blouses with camisoles sewn in? Or the perfect cardigan — the one you race toward as angels sing — which some idiot designer permanently attached to the ugliest blouse in the universe?

Mom and I made identical, exasperated sighs when we came across these. “I got stuck in one of those once,” Mom said. “I didn’t know if I’d ever make it out of the dressing room.” Yes, my friends; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

2) When you discover that sleeves with extra holes in them are a trend,

Why, exactly, did I try this on???

it’s much more fun if you have a companion with whom to share this fact. Mom and I had ourselves a rollicking laugh over this one. Well, once I managed to remove my arm from the second hole, that is. (See, again, number 1, above).

3) When you finally find the slacks you want, in the perfect color, your size will always be the only one that’s missing. I thought it was just me. But no; it happened to Mom, too. Good to know.

4) An extra set of eyes helps, so long as you don’t lose your own vision. Mom and I were both able to find things for each other, sometimes spotting items that the other would have dismissed too hastily. But we also know ourselves well enough to be able to say, “No; that one isn’t me.”

5) You should never judge a shirt by its label. I found this printed top on a clearance rack:

Mom walked right by it because of the name on the label — a manufacturer often associated with, um, “old lady prints.” Mom may be in her 70s, but she’s nobody’s old lady! I know how she feels; I’ve walked by this brand many times myself. But this one was different! The photo fails to capture its charms. Once Mom tried it on, she loved it. That very night, she wore it with white jeans and summer sandals for an evening out. Adorable! (I foolishly failed to take a photo, but trust me).

6) Sometimes the smartest purchase is the one you don’t make. I really wanted to find a cute, summery top. I tried on many. The most promising one had that annoying elastic along the bottom hem, ensuring that it would never lie right and I would be forever tugging at it. Mom thought it was really good on me. But we both agreed that if it drove me crazy, I’d never wear it.

7) The key to successful shopping is knowing when to stop. Mom and I have remarkably similar attention spans. We both start to lose it after 90 minutes or 3 comprehensive try-on sessions, whichever comes first.

8) It’s important to have a post-shopping reward. Sadly, the days of the department store restaurant seem to be over. I remember when Mom and I could have a very elegant little lunch after shopping, even in our town’s humble, independent department store. Today, you have to be a little more creative. A cup of coffee will do. Well, as long as it comes with a biscotti on the side. And only if it’s still too early for a glass of wine.

9) Some things don’t get worse with age. When it comes to mall excursions with Mom, my craziest memory is of the time we left the store by the wrong exit and thus emerged in a completely different parking lot. For a panicked 5 minutes, we thought the car had been stolen. We’re over 20 years older now, but we still managed to make our way out the door and to our car without mishap. Whew!

10) Mom and I should go shopping more often. But then, I kind of knew that. Thanks, Mom!

About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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28 Responses to Shopping with Mom

  1. midlifemeg says:

    Love your blog; it reads like a conversation with a girlfriend. I LOATHE those shirts with the sliced sleeves. Ick.

  2. Katrina says:

    This is funny! I think I missed this post because I was actually visiting the Older Than Vintage ancestral home at the time. Great minds and all that.
    I don’t think I’ve been clothes shopping with my mom since my teen years, and those trips always flipped wildly between frustrated screams over inappropriate styles and near-hysterical laughter when we got into the hat department and started trying on the big flowered numbers. Good times.
    I’m not a bit surprised that your mom rejects “old lady style”, after all, she takes after you! 🙂

    • Aw, thanks! And no, you didn’t miss the post. I just posted it today, but it’s showing the date when I saved the first draft. If I weren’t so damn lazy, maybe I’d figure out how to fix that……

  3. tamerakitten says:

    LOL-Anne-we need to go shopping!! This brought back such great memories of taking my great-granmother (pushing 90+) shoppong at the Kmart!!

  4. MaggieT says:

    I have a shirt with the built-in camisole, which looks pretty good on if I can manage to get into it. I once planned to wear it to something or other and had to abandon it at the last minute–I was going to be late because I COULDN’T FIGURE IT OUT! I mean, how stupid does that make one feel? (As stupid as that time I lit my hair on fire. Maybe more so.)

    I was never a mall fan. At Christmas time my roommate and good friend Sarah and I would go shopping together at the “dreaded mall” after work. We would have dinner and drinks at the mall, discover afterwards that all the stores were closing, and go home. Success!

    Now I go with Miss P, who is like a personal shopper, taking all the work out of it for me. Nordie’s in Burlington has a nice tapas restaurant. We 3 should plan an outing. Also, getting a chair massage is recommended for coping with the mall.

    As for sleeves with more holes than you have arms: aren’t sleeves for hiding arms? do I want to look like I was attacked by wolverines? Do I have the coordination to get into such a garment? (ANSWERS: Yes. Maybe, depends on the circumstance. Hell, no.)

    • Hee hee hee hee hee! And yes, my dear, I know the tapas restaurant at Nordies VERY WELL. I’ve spent more money on wine and tapas there than I’ve ever spent in the actual store. And yes, we should absolutely plan an outing! How about this summer? Call me!!!!

      And yes — sleeves are absolutely for hiding arms. I agree.

  5. Melanie says:

    Your shopping trip with your mother sounds like a lot of fun. I remember when I was a kid going to town and having a bite to eat with my family after shopping at the department store restaurant. We often got to order French fries, which was a rare treat. That seems forever ago. Um, it WAS forever ago. What a lovely post.

  6. Pauline says:

    Oh yes, Jean and I have sampled the restaurant at Nordie’s a few times. Let us know next time you want to go. I did a limited amount of shopping with my mum but she did have pretty good taste.

  7. I am so happy to hear someone else talk about their loathing of the “shelf bra”…the built-in atrocity that decides for you where your boobs will go that day….as if we, the consumers, cannot be trusted to even get that right. Personally, I love a tunic-style summer top. Classic, easy to wear, looks good on everybody. Tory Burch makes some nice ones if you can find one in a reasonable price range….sometimes they are a bit on the high side.

  8. What a sweet post. Some of my fondest memories are shopping with my mom. We always had to stop for frozen yogurt. One of my co-workers said she and her mom did the same thing.

  9. gingerR says:

    I went shopping with my Mom last weekend. We can’t do anything on an empty stomach so we ate first. We did really well, didn’t buy the beige sweater and left with three items that actually form an outfit.

  10. angie says:

    Spending time with mom esp as we age can be very rewarding experience.I spent some time with mom recently and I ‘m ashamed to admit it was the first time I could see her not as my mom but as the very interesting ,active person that she is.We didn’t go shopping together but we will soon and I know we are on the same level about quality.

  11. This post had me laughing- in a good way! I am so not into the “dickie” shirt trend or extra holes in the arm. Nonsense if you ask me, but the kids they just love them. GET OFF MY LAWN! How fun you and your mom seem. I do like shopping with my mamacita- I think I got my clotheshorse habits from her. I wonder what she’d think of the “keyhole” sleeves.

  12. Lisa says:

    “I got stuck in one of those once,” Mom said. “I didn’t know if I’d ever make it out of the dressing room.”
    hahaha I’ve gotten stuck in clothing too, usually with my arms straight up above my head and the top shrouding my face. It’s a panic filled moment…and hysterical at the same time.
    I thrifted one of those tops with a band of wide elastic around the bottom and it’s sat in my closet for at least two years unworn. I am going to wear that thing before fall, by golly, just to say I’ve worn it…and then probably redonate it.
    Sounds like you and your mom are good shopping partners!

  13. I cannot recall the last time I shopped for clothing with my mother. I’ve shopped for many other things with her, but not clothing. I think nowadays she purchases her clothing online. I suspect you and your mother are not the only ones who ALWAYS find your size is the one that is missing. And kudos to both of you for taking a second look at the top your mother bought. I’ve realized that even in the thrifts I’m sometimes a brand snob, meaning that I have associations with certain labels, and I avoid them.

  14. What a cool experience to share with your mom, especially when it’s not a typical family bonding outing 🙂 My mom and I have recently gone shopping together for a few times, and lived to tell about it! But I like shopping for her better 😛

  15. I haven’t had my mom around for years and years, but your story still rings true. If you don’t have a mom, take a friend or a daughter-in-law!

  16. Loved this post and your writing is always stellar. The shopping excursion sounds like a treat for both of you, probably because you would have fun together doing almost anything. That in itself is a gift!

  17. You mention your mom opening the dressing room and exposing you to the world. Wow, that brought back memories! We had a little store in our town where my mom took me bra shopping. She and all the ‘old lady’ clerks (who were probably only 40 years old) would stand there conferring over the fit. Horrors!
    And as for the tops with tops combos, I have a dress with an attached slip from Old Navy. This morning I did what I should have done a long time ago which was cut them apart!!
    It sounds like you had a good time!

  18. Beryl says:

    Glad you had such a nice shopping trip with your mom. I agree that Alfred Dunner prints are usually for much older people – even that name sounds old. Every time someone tried to sell me on one of those tops with the open shoulders, they says things like the shoulders are the most attractive part of the arm and it’s a shame to cover them just to wear sleeves, or that it keeps you cool, while still covering your upper arms, which most women hate. Some even name them “cold shoulder” style. I just don’t care for them at all.

  19. Ginny says:

    Oh, your post made me miss my mom! I live half a country away from her now. We’ve always liked shopping together–I learned so much about quality, construction, labels, and fabrics from her (she’s an excellent seamstress). I remember she’d shudder at some of my more *creative* choices–especially when thrifting–but respected my taste, even picking out things I’d like. And then agreeing to be seen with me in those ensembles later…

  20. Gail says:

    I loved the top with holes in the sleeves! (Joking there). You’re right about the elasticized top, it would have driven you mad. I know because I have one and love it, but am forever pulling it down.

  21. What a wonderful post! Funny, I feel the same way when shopping with my 73 yr old spunky Mom. It is always an adventure in fun!

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