Back-to-school fashion from pre-school to professor

The first day of classes is nigh. The pressure mounts. What will Ulysse wear for his first day of pre-school? How can I pull off a marginally professorial look for myself? For the last few weeks, as I put the finishing touches on my course design, I’ve been fretting about fashion. At his age, it’s pretty easy to clothe Ulysse, but it has been a really long time since I bought any clothes for myself that were not meant for pregnancy, nursing, Zumba or toddler herding.

Case in point: I am the ambivalent owner of not one, not two, but three pairs of capri jeans by Gloria Vanderbilt, purchased from Costco in a moment of desperation. I hate them because the waist is sooooo high and weird. I love them because they were cheap and I don’t care if Ulysse wipes yogurt and pretzel goo on them. I hate them because they make me feel like the star of the Mom Jeans Commercial from SNL years ago. I love them because they are not shorts or pants and they are just a little stretchy so I can crawl around on the floor picking up cereal and crayons. I hate my mom capris because when I was in the middle of a fashion crisis and foolishly looked to my husband for reassurance, he hesitated a long time before he admitted they were not exactly high fashion, but that I am “cute” anyway. Finally, I love them because I found them at Costco when I was there for something else and did not have to go to Target or god forbid any other store to buy something equally unsatisfying and fashionably amorphous. I could go on…but you get the idea.

Several weeks ago, I marked my calendar with the dates of three local consignment sales for fall kids’ clothes. The anticipation was killing me for weeks! Two of these events started on Thursday and since Ulysse was playing with his BFF Suzanne, I sped off with my shopping bag to hunt for anything and everything 2T.

Here are just a few of the numerous reasons I find it highly satisfying to shop at these “consignment events,” as they are called by those in the know:

  • One stop shopping: a huge selection of merchandise from many different stores all in one place. I can go to one or two of these sales to buy six months worth of gently used clothes, shoes, books, and toys for very reasonable prices.
  • If anything gets ruined, lost, stolen or doesn’t fit, I am only out $3 instead of $30. I can relax about the occasional stain or breakage.
  • I can be a little extravagant – I don’t have to choose between two similar pairs of pants in different colors. Forget the difficult decisions, I’ll take both. Basta! No worries about running out of PJs when we are too lazy/disorganized to do laundry for a few days.
  • Often, some of the proceeds of these sales go to charity and the consignors have the option to donate unsold merchandise as well.
  • It’s a recycling economy – I love participating in a kind of local bartering type operation. It’s not exactly bartering, but it’s a win-win-win for buyers, sellers and organizers, it’s accessible to people with a tight budget, and it helps get maximum use out of things that often aren’t used for very long by a single child.
  • It’s a great place to find lots of unexpected little treasures that aren’t necessarily available in retail stores when you want them, e.g. a fabulous multicolored wooden easel for $5, perfect pieces for our family Halloween costume, an eclectic smattering of books for my voracious little reader, lots of vintage toys that I recognize from when I was little.
  • Instead of fearing the total at the register, I celebrate it: “You mean I am getting this huge pile of awesome stuff for only $75 AND I don’t have to go shopping again for 6 months?!? Yes!!! I’m a champion! High five! Fist bump! Happy dance!”

Shopping for Ulysse is fun.

Shopping for myself is not. After a disappointing run in places like TJ Max, Ross and Marshall’s, we embarked on a family outing to the mall on a Friday afternoon. I loath the mall. Just thinking about the stale air and overpriced junk makes me tired. First stop Macy’s. Terrible idea, even if Fab did find four work shirts on sale. I felt very out of place in my functional attire, maneuvering the stroller among the obnoxious name brands I wouldn’t buy even if I could. After some rummaging around, we were all three holed up in a large dressing room, Fab and I furiously trying things on in the hope Ulysse’s patience would hold for a few more minutes. A bored saleswoman told us that the “man” had to leave the ladies’ dressing room immediately. Never mind it was not marked as a man free zone, we were the only ones there. No matter, the man had to go. So I abandoned all the mediocre findings in my pile because I was now too annoyed and indignant to even bother trying them on. No one said a word about us all being in the men’s dressing room together or about us changing a diaper there. Fab did pretty well for himself, I must admit.

The first place I came to as we left Macy’s was Gap. Lucky me! Their pants have been known to fit me in the past. I immediately decided I would do my shopping there or nowhere. A charming young sales associate, who I later learned is a fashion major was unlucky enough to be sucked into my fashion deficient forcefield, where she remained until she had helped me piece together a couple of combos I could live with. Good enough.

Ulysse is really an angel in every situation like this we have ever had to put him in. Last night was no different. He was mostly cooperative as long as we maintained a steady flow of books and mini graham crackers in his direction. In spite of all that, Fab and I had no problem polishing off a nice cold bottle of Vouvray after the angelic one was in bed.

While I’m already looking forward to doing Ulysse’s spring shopping in March, I am going to make my recent purchases last well into 2017 if at all possible.

What are your strategies for accomplishing unpleasant tasks?

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One thought on “Back-to-school fashion from pre-school to professor

  1. Pingback: 7 ways to manage when your spouse goes out of town | the phd mommy

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