Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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When Target Feels Fancy

I am traveling to New York City this week for work-related stuff that will include much merry-making (I hope) while Serge stays at home alone with the kids and dogs (Cue the sitcom music, people! Hijinks are bound to ensue!!).

I'm going to be running into a lot of people I work with at Babble and a bunch of other internet-type friends and so I was kind of surveying my wardrobe to see what's doin' in there because I hardly think my daily uniform of stretchy pants and t-shirt cobbled together from old maternity gear and the few articles of comfy clothing I hastily purchased in those first months after Henry's birth would go down well in the world's fashion capital... But then again, it's what I wear most of the time while writing here and on Babble so maybe I should just keep it honest and cruise around Manhattan in comfort, fashionistas and hipsters be damned.

And God, I hate shopping. Flopping down any amount of money for clothing gives me diarrhea... Or at least the beginning roilings of a bad gut. I find everything about shopping for clothes distasteful. From giving a shit about fashion to trolling around some ultra hip joint playing music too loudly, trying to find some apparel that some self-declared expert deems fashionable to cover my baggy, post-baby body. Ugh. And then, when I do find something I love I feel like a sucker for loving it and like a dick for spending money on it, especially when I buy it from anywhere other than Walmart. Even Target feels fancy, at this point.

Enter Urban Outfitters.

Because that's what I did yesterday; entered Urban Outfitters - against my better judgment, I might add. And let me just be clear, I don't know Urban Outfitters from any other joint. Land me in the middle of an Urban Outfitters and I might just as well be in Anthropologie or Abbercrombie and his Fitch (Are those even the right stores to use here? The ones all the kids are into?). I just don't spend a lot of time in joints like that. Not that I begrudge you for doing so. I like a nice ensemble just as much as the next gal but just don't have the style, patience, fortitude and money to make it happen.

Which makes yesterday's trip to the nearest Urban Outfitters all the more anxiety-inducing. I alighted from my car heavy of foot and mind. Lumbering across a street of hot tar made nearly moist by a blazing midday son, I felt like a cave woman. MUST COVER BODY. NEED CLOTH-LIKE ITEMS. HELP ME?

My apprehension only heightened upon pushing open the double glass doors leading into the store. A blast of icy air, tragically hip music and a perky sales associate greeted me before I even set foot inside. Which, oh God, nothing worse than being immediately accosted by a sales associate upon entering a store. When is the last time you entered a store and required immediate help? Never, that's when. Even when returning items, the eager beaver standing at the store's entrance ain't gonna be the one to help.

So the super hot teenage-appearing girl, sporting head-to-toe Urban Outfitters gear probably purchased with two months worth of paychecks even including her work discount, pounced on me like a hungry tiger:

Welcome to Urban Outfitters, can I help you with anything?

I was instantly reminded of pulling into the McDonald's drive-thru and before I get a word out the speaker bleats a request/demand that I try their new Spicy Chicken McBites. Look, if I want a McBite I'll be sure and let you know. Not that I go to McDonald's very much or anything...

The immediate attention made me long for the cool, impersonal aisles within the hallowed walls of Target wherein you can't find someone to help you even after exiting the dressing rooms naked. On fire. Begging someone to dowse the flames.

I mumble something about 'just browsing' to Ms. Urban Outfitter and escape to the nearest rack of impossibly stylish clothing. I say impossibly stylish because the dresses and shirts hanging there cannot possibly be stylish. Really. Assemble a rack from Urban Outfitters and one from my local thrift store in the middle of an empty room and I would be hard-pressed to tell you which one came from where.

The price tag on a couple of items kicked my stomach into percolation mode. Which, I mean, listen. Sometimes I want so badly to be one of these effortlessly chic girls sporting lilac-colored denim and waxing poetic about stripes and "the busier the outfit, the simpler I like to keep everything else – with minimal make-up, a relaxed bun, and delicate jewelry. I essentially live in striped shirts, and usually end up wearing them with jeans or anything in a solid color, but every once in a while it’s a nice change of pace when paired with a dramatic pattern." and have nearly 300 people tell me how amazing I look. But alas. I am me. And me is fashion-challenged.


That paragraph up there is from this blog I stumbled onto somehow called Cupcakes and Cashmere. The name of the blog gives me hives, not to mention the fashion exaltation contained within the posts. I say that not to demean the blog or it's owner - it is lovely, SHE is lovely - but to relay my inability to discern fashion from flop. Take the outfit from the post I linked to up there, for example. Everything within me is objecting to mixing stripes with, well, whatever that is and yet she looks beautiful. Probably because she IS beautiful, though, and were I to wrap my bloated skins in the same ensemble I doubt I would look quite so Baby Powder fresh. Additionally, were I to spot her purse (clutch?) on a shelf somewhere I can assure you I would not/could not envision it with any ensemble other than something my grandmother would wear circa '72. And yet Ms. Cupcakes (or Cashmere?) looks like a page out of Vogue and it appears that hundreds upon hundreds of people are in solid (or striped) agreement.


What's a Walmart wearing gal to do? Drag her sad ass to Urban Outfitters, try to sneak unnoticed into the store and peruse racks with the air of an escaped inmate looking for clothing to replace the prison-issue orange jumpsuit and shower flip-flops she just ditched in the dressing room's resident potted plant.

So I did just that. And felt SO out of my element that I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure the sales associate wasn't watching me. I felt sure she was judging the clothes I was rifling through. Like, Of course the girl in slovenly stretch pants, flip-flops and unkempt ponytail would go to that rack. It's so obviously the least stylish rack in the store, filled with the cast-offs that other much more stylish women had the good sense not to buy.

I mean, really! It's been years since I minced around a clothing joint that wasn't Walmart or Target with the occasional (once a year-ish) jaunt to T.J. Maxx thrown into the oh-so-refined mix. On this day there was no mincing. Skulking, perhaps, but no mincing.

After fifteen-ish minutes of perplexing perusing I stumbled onto a little dress that seemed to be talking to me. Hello there! It said brightly. You look like someone I might be friends with!

Eh. I'm not so sure, I replied as reticently as if the dress were sitting next to me at a bar sporting thinning hair, a Ron Jeremy mustache and finger guns while exuberantly asking me to suck its dick or some such other equally disagreeable inquiry.

Calm down! The dress said. It's not like I'm asking you to suck my dick or anything. I just thought you might like to get to know me, that's all. Sheesh.

Certain the friendly response was another pick-up line meant to hook me I just kept right on moving. But something about the dress's personality made me double-back. It was simple yet vibrant, solid but colorful, conservative with a flirtation of sass. And oldish. Like my mom might have worn it in the early seventies but not necessarily retro either.

I touched the dress. Nothing frilly, just plain cotton. And yeah, I could probably find something similar in a vintage store for $5 but sometimes a stylishly challenged gal needs the backing of Urban Outfitters to be assured that she is, indeed, sporting an item containing some degree of style. I know, I know, we should all wear what we want and pay no mind to trends and we are all beautiful and all that crap but I'm the kind of girl who doesn't really know what the hell to wear and so, like a newborn elephant, must clumsily look around at what the herd is doing and mimic them as best I can.

And so I did. I made friends with that dress. Well, not that one, exactly. That one turned out to be a bit clingy. It wasn't the dress's fault, it was a size small and it was born that way and so, much like the mustached man at the bar trying to get me to tune up his skin flute, the dress tended to squeeze me in a very tight manner that forced my voluptuous back skins to spill forth out of the dress straps in a most disconcerting manner.

Despite her charms I bid the dress a speedy farewell and made the acquaintance of her sister, Medium, and peace was restored within the dressing room and eventually my closet at home where it now hangs.

Here I am working my moody Urban Outfitter angst:

Doing my best to gaze pensively out the window:

And an outtake captured while trying to pose wistfully and simultaneously reprimand Violet for knocking her brother off the bed.

It's no Cupcakes and Cashmere. More like Snickers Bars and Sweats, but hey. It is a cloth-like item and it covers my body. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Reader Comments (27)

You go, Monica. Lookin' JUST fine.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Butler

Great dress (and great post)!

I love shopping and I love clothes, But on a recent shopping trip to many stores I hated every single thing I saw. I wasn't sure if that was some sign that I had officially become old just before my 34th bday and that I just no longer got what "those damn kids are wearing these days"!!

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Looks great! And congrats for sucking it up and braving the urbananthrofinch type place. You are a brave, brave woman!

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermtkountrygal

Wait a second... are you going to BlogHer? Because if you are I might just stalk you. No, not really, but, you know, I might timidly approach you from across the room and get kinda fangirl-y.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

You look great! I love the shoes, too! Have no fear girl...someone will be envious.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

I used to love shopping but have increasingly come to hate it since I started grad school almost ten years ago. I usually also dry heave and panic when entering a store these days, and I hate spending money almost as much as you do. What now works for me is the outlet mall about 35 miles from my house. Once or twice a year, I go there to shop for my husband and me, and can be in and out within two hours. All the stores I ever buy anything from are clustered right next to each other, which makes it easier. What I like about the stores in outlet malls is that they have a good range of sizes (good because I am short and my husband is super-skinny---I can only ever find pants small enough at the outlet mall for him, ditto on the petites for me), the customer service is less intrusive than at regular stores, there are frequently good sales (I usually hit Labor Day and Memorial Day). I know which stores have things that we would deign to wear, which cuts down on the time spent in the mall. We have done some emergency shopping this year for job interviews, but mostly we can get away with my annual (or semi-annual) runs to the outlet mall.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnika

Monica, you look lovely!

Don't be so hard on yourself. I am one of these Urban Outfitter Girls and I can assure you: YOU ROCK!

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCatalina

Sorry to do this to you--the dress is fabulous, but for future reference:

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterE.

You look Great! and if you don't want to go knocking on Urban Outfitters door can always try the Goodwill store on Westerly Parkway. Got me some nice hip clothes for $2.50..brand name like J. Jill, Old Navy and Gap!.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

it looks great Monica. I am with you when it comes to shopping. if you want to look like a teenager on the strip you are in the right place. As for fashion, what the hell are they thinking these days.

I usually shop when they are having there summer sales, and after Christmas sales. Their is no way I am going to pay $100.00 for a pair of jeans that your butt hangs out of when you bend over.

Have you also noticed how thin the material is these days? You wash the clothes once and you have holes in them, guess that is why kids are layering things like they do. You can just keep wearing them with the holes.

By the way, i no longer care what anyone else thinks about the way i dress, it will just drive one over the edge of a cliff.

Thanks for sharing and have a great day.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdebbie

I laughed out loud at: "the dress tended to squeeze me in a very tight manner that forced my voluptuous back skins to spill forth out of the dress straps in a most disconcerting manner". I cannot imagine a woman alive who can't relate to that. Have fun in NY!

PS: The dress looks great on you!

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSlove

You look AMAZING in that dress. GREAT purchase. (Those stores scare the life out of me, too, and I find Cupcakes and Cashmere equally puzzling. If I saw her in person on some days, I'd think she was crazy - but if I saw her in California, I might not? And online, I see her how you do - I couldn't do that, most people couldn't, but she magically makes it work. It's some kind of magic, really.)

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCandice

Love the dress! You look great. I used to love shopping for clothes. But then I had a baby, and even though I lost the weight, I am simply shaped differently. Nothing fits me. Nothing. No size made by anyone. Everything clings in one place and sags in another. It's depressing. So, I shop for the baby instead. She is much more fun to dress, anyway.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommentereRose

Yes! That dress looks great on you! And it's so good to know I'm not the only girl in the world who hates shopping. I hate it for the same reasons you do, which makes me feel even better. Plus, I have a pretty short attention span, so 30 minutes is about my time limit. Needless to say, my wardrobe is pretty limited.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

You look GREAT! I refuse to buy more clothes for the next 6 weeks or until the baby comes - whichever happens first. Also - regardless of the clothing on my body, I am now sporting flipflops exclusively - not that they really match... but they let my sausage like toes roam free, so I'm rocking it. My mother is going to be so embarrassed at the baby shower on Saturday. :)

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

If i were you i would forego Urban Outfitters and other trendy overpriced stores because you can quite effortlessly pull off any look from a thrift shop. Fashion should be messy and fun and ive definitely seen you pull off some quirky looks before. That dress is pretty, but a bit too 'plain monica' for me. I much prefer ratty second-hand outfits bursting with you-ness.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Lynn

You are hilarious and I LOVE it! You are wayyy too hard on yourself and you look pretty awesome and tres NYC. Enjoy your trip.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstella

You look great in the dress!

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

You look cute. I'm 35 and still like urban outfitters I LOVE anthro but can't afford anything full price so I usually stalk the sale section and have gotten a lot of pieces for under $50 Including at $298 dress for $49.99 and a $350 sweater for $29.99. Shopping off season is the way to go! A sweater should never cost $350 but whatever it was hand woven or something that I need to be impressed with, and people attack me and shower me with compliments 24/7 when I wear it and it gives me a nice self esteem boost.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa

Super Cute!

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMe

I LOVE that dress. Love it. I too have a few shopping issues, namely that I am, um, more rounded than I used to be, and saggy round the belly (I know. Foxy), but that dress is so pretty and feminine. It covers you enough not to leave you tugging and trying to hide bra straps (hell, it even lets you wear an actual bra - this is not as common in a dress or top as you might think, again, not so great for the ladies who are ample of chest - think Bavarian milkmaid), gorgeous hem and back detail. You look great. Fairly trendy, not trying too hard. Perfect.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

You look amazing! Your body and the dress, I'd never guess you were a mom of two.
You have great style.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Cute,cute dress, really cute shoes - you look fantastic! I hope I see you at BlogHer, I'd like to say hello!

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMod Mom Beyond IndieDom

um... you look fab. what are you blabbing on about not knowing how to dress? X-)

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

I so feel the same way about certain stores! (esp. Banana Repub; Abercrombie; Forever 21...)

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarahviz

Aw...this reminds me of my own experience with dresses! Sometimes you just have to trust yourself when you put it on. I have this idea that you know it's right when you put in on and it makes you smile at yourself and think.."Tastefully sexy". This summer frock is exactly that on you. Have you ever shopped at Marshalls? They have the nicest tops...

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGina

That dress looks fantastic on you, and I LOVE the back of it. Worth the shopping horror of it, imo. You rock that dress. Perfect shoes with it. I couldn't put that look together in a million years. Good for you! Hope you are having a blast!!!

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkds

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