I'm off to a wedding next weekend, and I had nothing to wear. When I say 'nothing to wear' I don't mean in the sense that people often mean it ('I've got lots of suitable things, but I want something new', or 'I've worn that outfit more than once'), but literally, nothing suitable for a wedding. Unless you think that jeans, t-shirts, jumpers or one very light, very floral, summery dress are suitable for a winter wedding, I had nothing to wear.
So I was forced to try to buy some clothes. Regular readers will know how much I hate shopping for clothes (in fact, shopping for anything except computer gear, hifi equipment or records), so I had inevitably procrastinated until the last possible moment. Things were getting desperate. I decided that I'd do a bit of online reconnaissance first, so make the trip as brief and painless as possible. I looked through the websites of a couple of shops and identified some dresses that looked OK, then planned tactical visits to those shops: get in, locate dresses I'd found on the internet, try on, buy then get out like some kind of womenswear ninja.
Of course, things are never as simple in real life as they are on the internet. Once I was in the shop, there was so much stuff that I had real trouble finding and even recognising the things I'd picked out. Eventually — forcing myself to stick to the plan and not run home empty-handed — I found a few possibilities and trudged into the changing room with a heavy heart. One dress — despite allegedly being my size — wouldn't even go on without permanent damage to either the fabric or my body. Another fitted and was sort of OK but there were things I disliked profoundly about it, and the third made me look like I was wearing a knitted sack. I had to face the fact that I was going to have to go to another shop, and try on more things.
In the second shop, I found one of the dresses I'd seen on the 'net fairly quickly, which made me happy, but found that they only had a size smaller than the one I needed, which made me sad. Gritting my teeth, I decided that I should at least try it on, because the thought of having to go back to the first shop and buy the dress that was only sort of OK was too dreadful a prospect to entertain.
My first problem was how to actually get into the dress. With layers of lining and material, it appeared to be like an apple-pie bed, and I kept encountering dead ends, rather then finding my hand emerging through the neck hole. I got more and more frustrated, thinking, "This is ridiculous. I can write code fairly competently in a few languages, hook up computers and hifi gear without consulting manuals, and I even have a PhD for goodness sake: why can't I find my way into a dress and get my limbs in the correct apertures?"
Much tutting, mumbling and exasperated swearing later, I got the thing on, and after nearly dislocating a shoulder, fastened the zip at the back. Amazingly, despite apparently being a size too small, it fitted perfectly. And it actually looked quite good on me: as good as anything looks on me, since I'm more of a laundry basket than a clothes' horse. For the fashion fans among you1 it's a kind of 50s shape of dress, with a boat neck, sleeveless, fitted over the torso and high-waisted, with an A-line skirt, in black2. If you think of Audrey Hepburn, then substitute the adjective 'gamine' with 'Hobbit-y', you're along the right lines. Alternatively, take a JPEG image of Audrey (not in the 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' dress) and reduce only the vertical dimensions of the image, and that's the general impression.
I then had only to buy some shoes (another trial, but walking boots, trainers or Crocs don't cut it at a wedding), and I was free! With any luck, I won't need to go clothes shopping again for another 5 years or more.
1 Though I have no idea why you're reading this blog, because there's precious little to interest you here. ↑
2 Yes, apparently it is now acceptable to wear black to a wedding. I was amused to find, when searching on Google for an answer to this very question, that it's a very popular search phrase. White is still taboo (because you might be confused with the bride), but black is fine as long as you wear colourful accessories. And what else would you expect a ninja shopper to wear? ↑