06 June 2007

When the wishlist dress isn't *quite* the wishlist dress

It was that dress.

It was that dress in my size.

It was that dress in my size on sale.

And it was the last one left.

Hanging by a single Secret-stained strap on the kind of frill-free clear plastic hanger associates at Bloomingdale's reserve for the oh-so-last-season leftovers was my sweet little Catherine Malandrino flower cut-out sun dress.

As you can see in the pictures below - their poor quality a testament to the overwhelming range of emotions I underwent in that bitty box of a fitting room - the dress I nearly flipped past Monday afternoon was and wasn't the coveted wishlist dress I'd first discovered at the Nordstrom in Pentagon City last St. Patrick's Day.

Even though the eyelet before me wasn't white and the neckline had the kind of unsavory wear-and-tear one expects to find caked onto a slip-over-the-head clearance item at Charlotte Russe, not Bloomingdale's, I looked at it and its 40%-off pricetag and thought to myself, "Black, white, streaky orange foundation stains -- it's almost the same. I'll try it."

And try it, I did.

"That is so stunning on you. Decision made," S stated as she exited her stall in a so-so t-shirt mini, not a whit of uncertainty in her voice.

"I don't know...I mean, I like it but it's just not..."

"Not what? Not perfect? Yes it is. Seriously, Johanna, look at your cleavage (we both look and nod knowingly) you've got to get this dress."

Considering that these statements were coming from the same individual who earlier in the day without provocation handed me a tissue and said, "Do you always over-bronze?" and at the previous store told me a red boucle shift I'd tried on gave me "gumdrop hips," I knew in this case, with this dress, S was not just playing a Gretchen Wieners to my Regina George. When she said it was fabulous, she meant it.

I clicked shut the thin-planked wooden door, airily replied, "No, that dress you're wearing isn't worth $265," took a few more looks from all the angles the floor-to-ceiling three-way afforded me, and just as I was about to set aside my misgivings and dive head first into S's cool pool of resolute confidence, something hit me.

S never saw the white dress. She only saw this one, which despite its unarguably flattering fit wasn't even in the same realm of sigh-worthiness as the original wishlist dress. Buying the black dress against my it's-not-quite-"the-one" instincts just because it was possible, just because with the final markdown it was now within my financial grasp and just because I had the recommendation of someone who didn't have the benefit of comparison would have been tantamount to that which I long ago vowed never to do.

To settle.

So no, I did not tick the Catherine Malandrino box on my ever-lengthening wishlist to entertain a burst of short-lived, half-hearted, clouded-by-Manhattan-awe shopping satisfaction. Instead, I decided to do as I always do: sit pretty in any one of my many other dresses and wait for "the one" to cross my path again one day on another website, on another sale rack, in another vintage store, or more likely than not, as the result of a college friend's charity when she decides on a whim she no longer does eyelet.

The pictures and warped inner-dialogue of me trying to convince myself I could make this dress work-appropriate:

"I mean, the back is conservative enough..."
"A cute bolero will compensate for the bralessness."
"Just wear pearls," S suggested, "with the cut-outs at the hem, no one will even notice the boob factor."


erin said...

You're back! Yay!

You were right to let this one go. The white dress was much cuter. Never settle!

tom h said...

Welcome back Jo I missed you....
You are so gorgeous I love the pics..ALL of them....

Noelle said...

So glad you're back. Yesterday's lunch hour was torture without you! The dress is beautiful on you, but one should never settle.

K said...

Loving the symbolism in black vs. white as well... do you take something that's great, but has a black mark on it? Or do you go for the pure/real thing?

Excellent choice.

brown rowergirl said...

always wait. but gee, something tells me you know that already.

this is just in regards to the dress, right? in relationships you advocate settling, don't you? I mean, how else would every single person we know in our mid-to-late 20s be engaged/married right now if that weren't the case?

Yay for the power of positive thinking!

Anonymous said...

God bless this "S" for her honesty. I wish I had friend who would point out my over-bronzing and unflattering dress choices. Hold onto that one!

intern in the city said...

You were right to move on from this one. It's cute but not credit-card-debt worthy.

You have to feel 100% committed to the dress to go through the pain of a high monthly payment. Love it or leave it, I say.

Syd said...

For the record, your cleavage *did* look fabulous in that dress. Probably too fab for the office.

Johanna said...

Thanks y'all, you're helping to make the sting of a lost love hurt just a little bit less this afternoon.

you are *right on* - this post was fraught with symbolism.

brown rowergirl-
see above comment

"S" said her biggest compliment was when our friend "O" told her she was the best he'd ever met "at being mean". I was jealous she received that title but agreed.

intern in the city-
I can't even begin to think about the notion of credit-card-debt worthy and not credit-card-debt worthy. it's too painful.

(blushing) thank you! And in case anyone thought I was serious and thus trampling all over my office-appropriate/inappropriate guidelines, I never would have worn a dress this low-cut to work. Not without a resignation letter in hand and a noon reservation with my male readers at Camelot, anyway.