I have a complicated relationship with clothing. Fat since childhood, I was always left scouring the fugly jungle that was ‘husky’ clothing for a few acceptable garments that wouldn’t have me becoming the target of even more harassment at school. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism but by adolescence I was quite cynical (as well as much cooler and smarter than EVERYONE) and prided myself on not being one of those girls who spent hours coordinating outfits or carefully applying mascera. I didn’t care what I wore and it had absolutely nothing to do with an inability to find anything remotely stylish. Not at all.
As an adult, I both have a greater appreciation for those who can put together a stylish outfit and a feminist’s wariness of how much women are expected to care about these things.
For the most part, my relationship to fashion has been mostly theoretical. Having at most two stores at any one time where I could shop meant my wardrobe was full of clothes that were good enough, with maybe a few pieces that I just loved, but not a huge selection to choose from.
Anyway, this whole lead up is to say that I’ve never had that boutique shopping experience until this past week. I was in New Orleans visiting family and wouldn’t have noticed the store if not for my FSIL (future-sister-in-law). We had gone to an early mass at the St Louis cathedral (no, I’m not Catholic anymore, but still love a nice mass in a pretty church) and were looking for a nice breakfast place in the french quarter when she dragged me across the street to look in a store window. My FSIL is someone who really loves clothes. She isn’t snobby nor is she someone who sacrifices comfort for looks (although she is someone who will sacrifice 90 minutes of sleep to make sure her hair and makeup is perfect) and she doesn’t believe in dressing just to hide ‘flaws’. Her attitude is a bit contagious and she was just so damn excited to find a plus size boutique for me that I found myself completely excited and wishing the store would open early.
I didn’t actually get to the store until later in the evening. It’s an adorable place, not so different from a lot of clothing boutiques in the french quarter, but it seemed a bit livelier. Maybe that’s just because fat women, ime, tend to get celebratory when we get the opportunity to get together and look at clothes meant for us.
Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed by the clothing. I’m so used to a lane bryant shopping experience where, in a large store, I might only see a half dozen pieces that I think are cute. In a store a quarter the size of my local lane bryant, I was seeing dozens of things that I wanted to try on.
The owner, Jaclyn, is exactly the type of person I want in a clothing store. She’s exuberant, and knowledgable, but she also only gives you as much help as you want. No following you around or asking every 2 seconds if you need something. She was also wearing a dress which I might never have looked at twice, but she was rocking it. (this one if anyone is interested.)
I had what can only be described as a completely giddy shopping experience. I tried on lots of dresses ( including this ‘princess’ dress by Anna Scholz – totally lovely, but I knew I wouldn’t wear it anywhere) and a few tops. Jaclyn helped me pair a cute sash with one of the dresses and encouraged me to try a swimsuit I’d been eyeing, but unsure of.
THIS SWIMSUIT IS THE MOST AWESOMEST THING EVER. Here’s a pic – even in the same color as mine. The kids I watch are tired of being dragged to the pool, but I must wear the suit at every opportunity.
I ended up with two dresses, the swimsuit, a sash and she threw in a matching headband. And I’ve worn everything several times. I haven’t been able to find any pictures of the dresses so eventually I’ll put ’em on and post some pics. The whole experience was great and if you are in New Orleans, you must go there.
A note on cost: No, boutique shopping is not cheap. I couldn’t afford all the things I wanted to get there. According to the owner, the store has gotten some criticism for being too costly. I think at least part of it is that most fat women I know are in a state of constant denial about their fat. Expecting to lose weight ANY DAY NOW, the idea of plunking down $74 on a dress (the cost of one of my purchases there) is as good as admitting that you’ll probably still be a size twenty next year. Jaclyn thinks a big part is that fat women are so used to shopping big chain stores with their cheaply made clothing that they don’t know what real fabrics and workmanship cost.
And hey, I’m not discounting the fact that these clothes are out of the financial reach of many people. Not at all. But if cost is keeping you away from places like this, keep in mind that if you think of it as buying a few really nice pieces that are comfortable, will last a long time and can be mixed and matched, then you will probably spend the same amount on clothing at the voluptuous vixen that you would having to replace or continually find ok clothing at cheaper stores. Also there was a clearance rack with some awsome clothing that was as inexpensive as anything at a Lane Bryant or Fashion Bug.