Shopping When You're Not a Bo Derek "10"

It was just a week away from my fourth son's graduation from college and I was eager to get something new to wear. I had not been shopping for clothes since my husband had a stroke almost two years ago. Why should I? All I wear is warm up outfits and jeans. But this is a very special event. My husband and I and our three older sons are all meeting in Chicago to celebrate my youngest son's accomplishments, and I wanted to look nice.

It was a sign from above when I received an e-mail discount coupon from Loehmann's. Off I went. The allure of shopping at Loehmann's is definitely the great prices, not the experience, which is filled with challenges. The items are not organized on the racks in any reasonable manner and sizes, colors and labels are mixed up. To find an appropriate item is like looking for a needle in a haystack. One must sift through racks and racks of junk to find the hidden gems. Some women enjoy the challenge of the hunt, but I don't.

Unique to Loehmann's is the communal dressing room. Imagine a large room whose walls are lined with mirrors, benches and hooks to hold clothes. There is absolutely no privacy. Each woman takes up a station, hangs her clothes and then performs the "communal dressing room dance." There are several variations of this dance and some women are better than others at it. Some women immediately strip down to their underwear and begin to try on clothes. Sometimes these are the "Bo Derek 10's," but not always. Since everyone is in plain sight of one another, everyone is treated to whatever is going on in the room -- even if you try to avoid it.

Others use the "I'll keep my pants on until the last moment method." This method requires more dexterity and skill. With this method a customer removes her top and pulls the dress over her head. While wearing the dress she then wiggles out of her pants. The real issue presents itself when she wants to try on the next outfit. Some women sequence it so that after the dress they try on a pair of pants. This solves some of the modesty issue. There really is no getting around it -- at some point you end up in your underwear with everyone else in the dressing room seeing your state of affairs.

Communal dressing rooms are bad enough but I've always found that the dressing rooms in the lingerie section of department stores can be even more terrifying. Step into the lingerie shop at any department store and an "intimate fitting specialist"' will approach you. She will wear a measuring tape around her neck and without ever using it she will take one look at your chest and tell you your exact size. After discussing your needs she will bring an assortment of items to your dressing room to try on. She will also instruct you on exactly how to maneuver yourself into the item -- bend down, push up here and lift there. Sometimes the saleswoman stands in the doorway issuing commands with the dressing room door wide open. Other times she will enter and begin the hands-on process herself. Either way it is extremely awkward.

The only time I had an issue with a "fitting professional' was when I went to buy a sports bra and she brought me back a band of spandex. For a generously endowed post-50 woman like myself, that would not do. I realized though that it was not solely her fault. Manufacturers of sports bras do not know what to do with endowed women who work out -- either they provide the Brooklyn Bridge or a piece of spandex, neither of which serves my needs.

It is now just a few days away from graduation and I am excited to be able to celebrate this special event with my husband and four sons. I may not be a great shopper and I won't be dressed in a new outfit, but I will be surrounded by those I love and cherish, and that's the only dressing I need.

(For more shopping humor, check out the vintage Ellen DeGeneres video below.)