Resolved: Shop ‘Til I Drop

Surrounded by men’s slacks, a Mizzou sweatshirt and a black and white poncho, I debated whether to buy short black Naturalizer boots with a side zipper and a wooden heel, almost two inches high. Would my feet hurt? Enough traction? Too high of a heel? 

I looked up as two shoppers approached. “Hi, girls!” My daughters Liz and Suzie knew where to find me at the Dillard’s New Year’s Day sale.

My older daughter Suzie couldn’t pass up these comfy Naturalizer shoes.

With so many items deeply discounted, it’s hard to make snap decisions. I find it easier to grab as I go and find a semi-quiet area to make decisions. That’s what we used to do when I was a child shopping for after-Christmas bargains at Peddler’s Village in Pittsburgh. Mom could stand for only short periods of time, so after quickly perusing the store for ornaments and other items, she established headquarters.  

Now, I’m the mom, who needs to bunker down. This year, I set up headquarters in front of a display of full-price designer purses. It came with a perfect ledge for sorting items and trying on boots. If only I didn’t have people wondering whether the purses were on sale. Dillard’s really should have paid me for answering so many questions about the purses near my headquarters.

My daughters had other concerns. “What is all this?” Liz asked about my stash, which threatened to trip passersby.

“A lot of it is for Daddy and Tim.” I urged her to call them at home and tell them to come. I knew they wouldn’t want to tear themselves away from bowl games, but I also knew they could use nice khakis and Nike windbreakers. They could miss a few quarters of football. 

I discovered the New Year’s Day sale several years ago. I was driving by Capital Mall in Jefferson City, Mo., when I noticed the full parking lot. I considered it fate — my sister, Elaine, had given me a Dillard’s gift card for Christmas.  Since then, I have made an annual pilgrimage to the sale. My finds have ranged from a Vera Bradley laptop case in Java Floral to a swirly peach skirt. Super feminine.  

The New Year’s extravaganza causes me to reminisce about bargain shopping during my childhood. Hill’s Department Store closed in Pittsburgh when I was about 9 years old. My parents bought me a long, red polyester flowered dress with an elastic waist, eyelet stand-up collar, and puffy long sleeves that ended in white eyelet cuffs. Oh, how I admired my reflection. When I wore that dress, I could look past the buck teeth and the straight long hair always arranged in the two-and-tie-back style my mother favored. I was beautiful. 

The memory of that sale and many others have turned me into the bargain hunter I am today, and if the size of the crowd at Dillard’s indicates anything, many other people also grew up scavenging bargain bins.

“This sale is my second church,” a shoe shopper told a friend on her cell phone. Walking through the store, I saw six exuberant shoppers pose for a picture with Dillard’s bags crowding their feet.  The sole man in their group snapped the photo. 

After four hours of shopping, I checked out. By then, Suzie had left to eat lunch with a friend. Jim and Tim had come, moaned, tried on clothes and urged me to hurry up. Liz had threatened to walk home.

Later that afternoon, I thought of returning to look at sweaters, but the memory of my grand total stopped me. (Sorry — no full disclosure, folks! Suffice it to say that shopping for five people adds up.) So far, my favorite purchase is the memory foam pillow currently supporting my lower back. By the way, I passed on the short black Naturalizer boots. Too small. No matter how chic they looked, if my feet hurt, I wouldn’t wear them.  I tried on a 9 1/2; unfortunately, the store didn’t have them in a size 10. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, I may unearth the polyester wonder my parents bought me 40 years ago. If nothing else, I”ll get a good laugh out of it. So will my kids. “Polyester?!!” they’ll gasp. “It was the 70’s. Polyester was huge!” I’ll say.

2 thoughts on “Resolved: Shop ‘Til I Drop

  1. Your sister Elaine (aka moi) was thinking about updating her LinkedIn profile — although she has no idea exactly what to update it with other than to crow about retiring — and came across this story about shopping at Dillard’s. One of my favorite stores, especially in Jefferson City. Unless memory stops serving me, I will always remember buying Dad his last suit there with the help of my husband Ken and a very kind saleswoman who flirted with Dad just a little as she was fitting his suit for a hem and a waistband adjustment. Your headquarters comments and Mom’s love of Peddler’s Village also brought back lots of memories about shopping with Mom. Here’s my favorite. One year long ago, some time in the 1970s, Mom had a wedding or some other event to go to, and I left her to get her hair cut and styled at the Pittsburgh Beauty Academy downtown while I went off to Horne’s and Kaufmann’s and Gimbels looking for a new dress for her. I would periodically go back to PBA with a report of what I had found and then go off again. Perhaps I just bought and returned a few dresses rather than describing them, perhaps I did both. Mom always knew that you’d seen more options than the ones you first told her about; if she wasn’t really taken with anything you described to her, she’d just wince a little and say, “What else?” After all of my crisscrossing of the Golden Triangle, we eventually went home with a long-sleeved dress that was mostly blue with a floral pattern on it, a short flounce, and a belt. Mom often wore that dress, and its colors flattered her as long as she wore it even as her hair grayed and whitened. I still have that dress and some day hope to make something with its material, perhaps some jewelry travel bags for Mom’s daughters, nieces, and granddaughters containing one or two of Mom’s pieces of jewelry cushioned by memory.

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    1. I love this memory, Elaine! That dress remained in Mom’s clothing rotation for the rest of her life. Thank you for sharing. Yes, you and Ken did help Dad buy his suit at Dillard’s. Dad looked so dapper in it! It was such a classy shade of blue: not too bright, not too dull. Just right. I want to call it cornflower blue, but I”m not sure I’ve hit it on the head. After he died here in Jefferson City, I took it to the cleaner’s just in time for the cleaner to launder it and for me to take it to the place that prepped Dad’s body for the flight to Pittsburgh. For some reason, I had the pants in my house in the piles of clothes awaiting attention outside our laundry room/downstairs bathroom. I remember frantically flinging clothes around while looking for the pants. Thank goodness, I found them! … Unfortunately, last year Dillard’s became a clearance outlet for Dillard’s. It still had the Jan. 1 sale but because we took Suzie to the airport in the wee hours of the morning, I didn’t get to go until late in the day. I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy.


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