I hate paying full price for clothes, for a few reasons: (1) it's very expensive to buy women's clothes and I'm thrifty (this is probably putting it politely), (2) there are plenty of clothes out there in circulation without me purchasing additional sweatshop-produced landfill-destined products, and (3) I second guess every piece of clothing I buy, wondering if it actually looks good on me or not, so buying on consignment at least allows me to feel less guilty if clothing ends up hiding in my closet. I've always prided myself on my resistance to conspicuous consumption: I don't own many clothes, and I own about four pair of shoes.
Given this information, you can imagine me at the register, handing over my credit card to pay for a new pantsuit at Macy's. Which, by the way, didn't fit exactly right.
|Image: takomabibelot via Flickr|
Alterations scare me even more than buying clothes. Because when you're buying clothes, you can always return them. You have a grace period. You can just refrain from removing the tags, and you're safe. But alternations? That is commitment. No more second chances. No more changing your mind. You and this pantsuit? Are practically married.
The tailor, who is a little old Korean lady at the dry cleaners who doesn't speak very much English, tugged at my waist. "OK?" she asked.
"A little less," I suggested, sucking in my gut for a minute before letting it out again, knowing that having a little extra room would probably be a good idea. Just in case. My son looked up from the revolving chair at the sewing table, where he sat patiently reading his book, waiting for me. He raised his eyebrows. Wiseass, I thought.
She pinned. "And hem?" she asked.
"Yes," I said, looking down at my pants legs dragging on the floor. "Please."
She held up the hem. "I don't know how high shoes," she commented, shaking her head. Of course I wasn't wearing high heels at the time; sneakers have been a safer choice for me since I sprained my ankle, and I am still feeling a little gun-shy.
"I don't know how high they are, either," I admitted, not telling her that I don't even know what shoes I could wear with this suit.
"Here?" she said. No, a little more. "Here?" She was beginning to lose her patience with me.
"Maybe this isn't right after all," I said, frowning, beginning to worry that maybe I should just return this suit and skip the stress and cost of alterations altogether. I pulled at the waist, where the pants bunched a little from the crotch. "But the jacket could cover it up?"
"Here," she said, no longer asking, pinning the hem decisively. She shrugged, sizing me up. "Is OK." In other words: get over yourself and get down off my box so I can start working on these. She handed me a slip. "Next Thursday pick up, OK? OK."
I felt a little bit like I'd been bullied, but I guess I deserved it. She was completely confident about her work. She wasn't being paid to offer me an opinion about my clothes selection; she was being paid to tuck and hem. And she wasn't even being paid yet. I, on the other hand, was being completely wishy-washy. At the tailor.
The thing is, when you bring something for alterations, you have to commit. No looking back. You'll have to live with it. And if you need a new pair of pants in the end after all, maybe it's not the end of the world.