Shopping with Alice

img_8812by Karen Topakian

When we’re together, my mother and I often participate in a ritual – shopping. Sometimes it’s for something specific. Sometimes it’s just to look. For decades, we’ve visited the same stores – Talbots, Chico’s, Macy’s, Banana Republic… We always want each other to look our best.

My mother’s advice on clothes remains unsurpassed. She possesses a keen eye for color, design and appropriateness.

We intend to be tactful and diplomatic. But we aren’t always successful. Here are a few examples.

I snuck into the dressing room to try on a pair of French Blue cotton pleated-at-the-waist slacks that tapered at the ankle. I glanced at myself in the mirror and liked the way they fit. When my mother took one look, she said, “That isn’t the most slenderizing garment I’ve ever seen on you.” To which I responded, “Maybe I’m not going with slenderizing.” Just to be defiant I bought the slacks, wore them a few times before concluding she was absolutely right. They ballooned at my hips and butt. Not an attractive look. I never wore them again.

Our fashion commentary clearly worked both ways. When I was a teenager, my mother played bridge one afternoon a month to which every one took the occasion to get dressed up. She had recently purchased a slate gray pencil skirt with a wide belt and paired it with a lighter gray long sleeve silk button up blouse. Instead of complimenting her on the fit, I said, “You look like a prison warden.” Crestfallen, she responded, “Once you say that I can’t wear the outfit.”

As I struggled to find a raincoat for my mother amidst a sea of ones easy to reject – hoods, ugly colors, too long or too short. She held up a beige trench coat. “Don’t you already have a beige raincoat?” I asked. “You can never have enough beige raincoats.”

While plowing through pile of sweaters at Talbots, I spied a red V-neck cardigan. “Mom, what about this one?” She smiled and said, “Theoretically, it’s a nice sweater.” Then pointed out it was the wrong color red, the V was too deep and she didn’t like the buttons.

 

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