Harried & Messy

…also known as the shopping experience that is H&M.

I’m sitting on my couch with a cup of tea and my feet up.  Three straight days of intensive retail immersion – Newbury St. on Friday, the Wrentham outlets on Saturday, and the Natick Collection (don’t believe the hype) today.  I achieved my goal of filling out the fall/winter wardrobe (though shoes, as always, continue to allude me.  I LOATHE shoe shopping, contrary to the conventional wisdom.), but any gaps likely will be completed on-line.  I am done with the crowds, the schlepping, and the faux lifestyle marketing assault that overwhelms the average consumer these days. 

Shopping for me is a constant battle between procuring quality, muted luxury and a functional if stylish look without exceeding the arbitrary price points I’ve set in my head.  I am proud that this weekend I bought absolutely everything at the outlets, rather than on Newbury or in the “lux” section of the Natick Collection, but that still means I’m buying discount Barneys Co-op, Tahari and Theory, with a LOT of Banana Republic rounding out my closet. (The frequent discounts of BR are a much more significant driver for me than a true appreciation of their clothes, which I find highly unpredictable in terms of quality and, especially, fit.  But after awhile, it feels like they’re giving it away in there.)

Yet, despite the desire to save $$ and not look too flashy nor trendy in my search for quality clothes, I am not a bargain shopper in the traditional sense.  I’m mourning the loss of the original Filene’s Basement in Downtown Crossing as much as the rest – including my mother, who fondly reminisced while I was paying for my Off 5th Tahari pants yesterday about picking up her own pair on her lunch break in the late ’60s, when she was a skinny 19 year old working downtown.  But I miss it mainly for this enduring connection to my family, and not because I was a regular there, like an MIT friend of mine who knew the place so well she led the M.A.S. through and out with 3 shopping bags of his own duds one Friday afternoon in his first year in Boston. (Though she was still alive to grieve for the loss of Jordan Marsh, at least my grandmother passed away before this latest retail blow to our Boston roots.)

I have a pretty low tolerance for bargain hunting.  Blame it on my allergies, my easily irritability, my fastidious Virgo nature, but I hate shopping at places like H&M or Filene’s Basement, where the low, low prices come at the cost of hunting through bins or other people’s mess in the search for that perfect find.  I hate overheating in the lines for the too small, forever crowded, dressing rooms, or checkout, and I can’t blame but don’t want to deal with the snappish attitudes of the sales people (there’s few jobs I’d rather not have than to work in retail).  I’d rather pay more for clothes that I can find on my own, reach easily, not have to hip check someone out of the way for, and not want to wipe my nose on when I’m having an allergy attack in the dusty dressing room. 

I wish I loved bargain shopping like this.  I do; I’d be one of those cool chicks who could tell you how I got this Prada shirt for 75% off, or who’d be wearing the latest trends because my entire H&M outfit was only $70.  Instead, this weekend, the retail victory came in doubling back for a final loop through Off 5th after seven hours at the outlets, to finally find the deeply discounted midnight blue velvet Theory pants that go with the rather expensive Mark Jacobs shirt I guiltily purchased at the Barney’s Outlet earlier.  My victorious smile looked perfect atop the rather 80s-rocker-outfit I modeled for the M.A.S. later that night, who was no doubt conjuring Debbie Harry while I strutted around my apartment – in bare feet, given I still need those shoes!


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