Category Archives: frugal fashionista

Top 10 Thrift Store Tips & Tricks {or how to become a Thrift Store Fashionista}


I have a confession.

I rarely set foot in real stores yet my closets and drawers are stuffed. Last week I bought two packs of hangers and cleared out the guest room closet to handle the overflow. My son owns more clothes than a boy his age cares about, and that’s not counting the next two sizes waiting for him to grow into. And I would rather slit my wrists than pay retail.

I am a thrift store shopaholic.

Having been a savvy clearance shopper for years, I’ve always bee-lined to the back of every store and nailed sale rack scanning down to a science. But that just wasn’t enough for me.

I had to take it to the next level.

I decided to brave a thrift store.

Admittedly, I was nervous the first time. Would it be scary? Nasty? A total wast of time?

Inside, my eyes bugged out behind my designer (flea market) sunglasses as racks of colored and styled clothes stretched as far as I could see. Thousands of items, each one unique, and all begging for a new closet. At first, I flipped through the racks timidly, assuming it would be worn-out discount department store rejects, but after five minutes my arms hung heavy with finds and I went in search of a shopping cart. Cashmere sweaters, preshrunk designer jeans, adorable summer skirts, vintage little black dresses, chic leather jackets, unique accessories–I had died and gone to budget fashionista heaven.

If you want to find you own thrift store treasures, you must understand the method to the madness.  Here are some of the tips I have learned through trial and error:

Learn how you can discover your own vintage treasures | Top 10 tips from a Thrift Store Diva

1. Location, location, location. It’s all about the real estate. The nicer the neighborhood, the better the donations. One Goodwill might consistently stock junk, but one on the other side of town may feature half an Ann Taylor store on the racks. And while I feel perfectly safe and comfortable in my favorite Salvation Army, the sketchy dudes stalking the parking lot of another made me keep on driving by.

2Know the merchandise. A used Walmart t-shirt for $2–not such a deal.  A NWT (new with tag) Banana Republic cashmere sweater set for $3—a steal! Learn how to spot quality fabrics and brands from a distance.

3Ignore sizes. They vary brand to brand anyway. (I own jeans in four sizes, for real.)  Almost everything is pre-washed and preshrunk. If it looks like it might fit, try it on.

4.  Dress for success.  Some stores don’t have fitting rooms. Some fitting rooms have a half-hour wait. If you come prepared in a skinny tank and leggings you can find a mirror and explore your inner exhibitionist. Trust me, everyone does it.

5.  Buy off-season.  If you go looking for warm jackets during a January cold snap you will be sorely out of luck. Look in July and you’ll have dozens to choose from.

6.  Ask if the store runs sales. Many stores discount a particular colored tag each day.  My Salvation Army has 50% off all clothes each Wednesday. It’s an absolute madhouse—but $3.50 Versace jeans are utterly worth it to me.

7.  Carefully check out the goods.  They are “recycled.”  Some stores inspect items thoroughly but others may put out items stained, ripped, or torn.  If it needs to be repaired, it had better be worth the work.

8. Look for what you NEED first.  Dying for a new pair of fitted black pants? Your kid growing out of his shorts? Check those racks first. I’ve watched a woman snatch every pair of pants in my husband’s extremely hard to find size after I’d wasted time browsing through tank tops I didn’t need. Ouch.

9Leave the kids at home. Yeah, I know that’s not always possible, but thrifting takes time and patience. Kids get bored before you can blink. If you do have to drag your munchkins along, make sure to bring something to keep them fully occupied. (i.e. Is your phone fully charged and loaded with games?)

10.  Check back often and don’t get discouraged.  Some days I find 25 steals I simply can’t live without. Some days I find crap. But you never know when some style maven may clean out her closet because she’s bored or changed sizes. Keep checking.

The only time I set foot in the mall now is to claim my free Victoria’s Secret panties (love getting those coupons in the mail!). I’ve nearly stopped making my rounds at Ross and T.J. Maxx because I know if I am patient, persistent, and sometimes just plain lucky I can find whatever I’m looking for (and usually so much more) for practically pennies.

Every Wednesday I’m overwhelmed with the urge to be at my favorite thrift store. The hidden treasures call me, tempt me, like a discount liquor store lures every wino for miles. Luckily my addiction is good for my (gorgeous second-hand Coach) pocketbook and doesn’t fry my liver. To make room for new finds, I often show up at the thrift store with a bag of donations. I’m all for recycling.

Amongst my fellow thrifty friends I gladly brag about how cheap I find my clothes.

(Them: Love your shirt. Me: Thanks!  {whispered} Salvation Army. $1.50!)

I try to convert my friends after each compliment I receive but only if they don’t wear my size.  I don’t need the extra competition.

When complemented by less enlightened folk who may snub their nose at my methods, I simply give a knowing smile and a modest “thanks.”

It’s vintage. It’s recycled. It’s unique. It’s me. large_4904276362

Now if I only had someplace to WEAR all my little black dresses…

Have you ever tried thrifting? Would you? Have any shopping secrets to share?

photo credit: Niccolò Caranti via photopin cc | photo credit: Stewf via photopin cc |  photo credit: Guillaume Lemoine via photopin cc

Prom Dress Confidential

 This is perhaps one of the most humiliating posts I recall writing. But I know all of you women out there in the  blogosphere must have some pretty hideous skeletons prom dresses in your closets as well. Tacky prom dresses are a feminine right of passage, like attempts at big Jersey hair and blue eyeshadow duos or your first hangover, bikini wax, and walk of shame. It wasn’t pretty, but we’ve all been there.

Dress #1
It’s 1989 (yes, I’m THAT old). I’m 14 and I had never been asked on a date or kissed a boy. I have more books than friends. I’m just a shy, pale L-O-S-E-R.

Suddenly, I was cast into a leading role in the school play. I ditched the bad perm and braces. And I started dating the play’s director — a SENIOR ! {gasp} With long hair! {gasp}  And an accent!
{cue Dad breaking out the shotgun}

Late one night after a performance, he knocked on the front door. I was still covered in white hair spray and old lady stage make-up. He danced me to his car while his friend played the sax in my candlelit driveway. He asked me to prom (of course I said YES) and I finally experienced my first French kiss. (ooh la la)

I believe the next day was recorded in our family history as the day I gave my mother her first grey hair. And she will never let me forget about it. 

Because of this sudden twist of fate, all the pages of dreamy satin and taffeta I had ripped out of the Seventeen Magazine Prom Edition became extremely important. Vital. A matter of life and death. I was a bookworm Cinder-fecking-rella going to the cool kid’s ball.  I had to find a dress. THE dress.   My favorite was a royal blue Jessica McClintock (for Gunne Sax?) number I drooled over in the teen fashion mags. It was only two weeks until prom, my mom was utterly UN-thrilled I was going, and I was desperate to find the dress.

Somehow, we managed to find the last one. In my size. I had my dream dress. And the matching royal blue pantyhose. And the matching dyed satin shoes. And probably the matching eyeliner as well. Now I want to gag at this over-coordinated ensemble, but back then, I thought I was the bomb.

A very, VERY nervous bomb.

The prom was uneventful. I was absolutely petrified. I was far too naive to hunt down some spiked punch in the ladies room to calm my nerves and force my tongue to work. I vaguely remember dancing to Madonna and trying to melt into the walls. My date was a perfect gentleman (despite nail polish and an off stuffed duck) and dropped me back home by my strict 12:30 curfew. Then he most likely went out with all his friends and got trashed.  I bailed on him before the prom pics even came in. I was not ready to leap from Girl Scouts to groping in a relationship with someone far older and wiser.

But at least I can say I went to Senior Prom as a Freshman.

Which is a good thing, because my actual Senior Prom blew corn nuts.

I went stag with a couple of girlfriends. I did not have a date.

But by then I had learned that poofy prom dresses were passe, for mere children, and not my style. I upgraded to reading Vogue and Glamor. I wanted to look stylish, sleek, and as sexy as I could get away with (which was not very). I wanted a dress they guys would notice, so they would not see the giant “L” glaring from my forehead. I scoured stores in probably six to ten malls in four counties until I found the one.

Dress #2
A little black sequence cocktail dress. Classic. Chic. Sparkly. Different. It was rather rebellious at the time. I freaking loved it.

(The snippet of neon satin, lace, and crinoline on the left was much more the norm still in 1992.)

So I went to prom stag. I don’t remember much: dancing with some popular girl’s boyfriend, trying to entertain my self by rating boys attempting the African Anteater Dance in their matching pink bowties and cumberbunds, sitting in a South Beach cafe after we escaped the cheesy prom venue, swinging on a sandy beach playground under the stars….

But I still have that dress.  
And I can still fit into it 19 years later without Spanx
(although a stronger bra might be beneficial).
So all those smug girls whispered about my lack of a date can just bite me.
I do mean that in the nicest way, of course.

Join in my moment of embarrassing female bonding. Do you have an ugly prom gown story to share?

Thanks to Mama Kat for inspiring this moment of weakness I shall most likely soon regret.

Things I Can't Say

Filet tastes on a franks & beans budget: My October Challange

While wasting time being productive on twitter last week, I stumbled upon a tweet which piqued my interest. 

Groceries? Money? I followed the link to the Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels.  After I pushed my jaw back up from my chest, I found the information exceptionally interesting. According to these scientifically and mathematically formulated charts,  my little family of three should be spending at the grocery store each month:

$4880 – thrifty plan
$633.90 – low-cost plan
$783.80 – moderate plan
$964.40 – liberal plan

$964 per month? We’d have to be dining on filet mignon with a side of every off-season fruit and veggie sauteed in truffle butter each night for dinner. Maybe some homemade tiramisu as well (that darned marscapone cheese IS expensive). I could make all the recipes I wanted to try —  like truffled deviled eggs — from the new Cook Like A Rock Star cookbook I am reviewing for Bookshelf Bombshells. I would never have to clip another coupon in my life.

Now, these numbers are assuming all monthly means and snacks are prepared at home. Hubby and Kiddo brown-bag lunch and we almost never eat out, so these number should mesh, right?

I am not about to reveal our wine budget. 
You must possess top secret wino clearance to be privy to that information.
What a fabulous idea. I believe I will.

I  blogged last year about my grocery shopping addiction. If you haven’t read that post yet, you should — it explains my love affair with grocery stores and the rush I get when I score fabulous deals. Not all of us can climb mountains, jump out of perfectly good airplanes, or afford a vicious drug habit — a girl has to get her thrills somewhere. Everyone needs some hobbies, and well, I love food and I have a puney budget, so I have learned to make due.

I am nowhere near an extreme couponer; those people are certifiably crazy and I’m sure there will be an official disease named for them soon (couponaholic? suffering from extreme unnecessary stockpiling syndrome?). I do not illicit looks of terror form the cashiers when they see me coming.

I shop at three stores. I hit Costco for frozen meats, paper goods, and sometimes produce. I go to Publix for whatever is on sale (BOGO dry goods, frozen foods, and a tiny bit of meat and produce), and I use Aldi for just about everything else (milk, eggs, produce, and many other things are ALWAYS cheaper there).  Oh, and I hit the Entenmann’s outlet for bread and bagels ($1 for whole grain Arnold breads and Thomas’ bagels, okay). 

Yes, this takes some extra time, but time I have, money I don’t. It works for us.

So this month I am going to save all of my grocery receipts so I can discover what I really spend on food. I don’t have a set budget; I buy whatever is on sale. Some weeks I spend next to nothing, some weeks I stock up. I will be curious to see how it really evens out.

I am also starting will a full pantry and freezers (they are always full). Technically, we could go an entire month without shopping and not starve, but that would just be no fun. I will shop as per normal.

I have a couple of birthday parties and family entertaining events to work in this month. How much will that add to the bottom line? I’ll find out and let you know.

This should be interesting. And I will see if I have to eat my words…

Chasing Skirt

Hello. My name is Vinobaby, and I may have a slight skirt obsession. Not necessarily chasing them (ahem, not my thing), but buying them and wearing them. 

For some reason, I just cannot pass up a cute skirt. I brought home two more today. And two a few days before.  But they were cheap — $1.82 for a gorgeous Ann Taylor sable suede and only $3 a piece for some adorable summer prints. I can’t help myself.

 I think it all started about four years ago when Kiddo entered pre-school.  I no longer spent my entire day on my hands and knees picking up blocks from under the couch and cheerios from every nook and cranny imaginable. I didn’t have to worry about bending over all day.  And I was tired of looking like a unkempt hause frau.

So I bought a khaki skort to test the waters. I could still bend over at the playground without showing of my VS striped panties. It worked.  Soon I ditched the skorts for real skirts. They were cooler and more comfortable than anything else I had worn. And paired with a simple tank or t-shirt I looked, as one SAHM friend commented, all dressed-up and nice

Skirts started showing up in stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls. For just a few bucks I could wear something besides khaki shorts and a t-shirt to Open House. Once I started hitting the thrift stores, forget it — a skirt girl was born.

And now I’m wondering: are my frugal fashionista ways are turning into an addiction? Compulsion? Hoarding? Disease?

I just counted and I found at least 38 hanging in my over-stuffed closet. I’m out of hangers. And I didn’t count the work skirts or suit bottoms I may someday wear if I ever make it back to the corporate world.  Or, more likely, at least I may wear them again someday to a funeral or something.

But I probably paid less for all of those skirts than a normal woman pays for one pair of shoes. That makes it okay, right?  (Say yes, say yes, say yes…)  I may have a habit, but it’s cheaper than Cristian Louboutins, Louis Vuittons, or crack…

Louboutin Double Noued Sandals $995
Louis Vuitton Cabas PM Escale $1,490

And I feel great about myself when I am wearing my skirts…free, feminine, fun, and flirty…I can take on the world, Baby.

Now the question is…will I go out for more today?


How to Beat the Back-to-School Shopping Blues

It’s that time of year again: school open house invitations are arriving in mailboxes, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils fills the air, and the newspaper is littered with back-to-school shopping ads.  Even though I live for the thrill of a great bargain, I will not be hitting the stores.  Except for a few notebooks and dry-erase markers, I will not be doing any back-to-school shopping.

I finished my kiddo’s clothes shopping months ago.

Thrifty shopping may be socially acceptable since the economy took a nose dive a few years ago but it is nothing new for my family. My decision to stay at home with my son left us with one stagnant government employee income yet I was bound and determined to make our budget work. I learned how to find the best deals while my friends were still buying their infants new wardrobes every three months at the boutique mall stores. My baby was styling but at a fraction of the cost.

Now my son only goes up a size about once a year.  I have his entire next size wardrobe (shoes included) waiting for him months before he grows into it.

By picking up a few useful habits and adapting a frugal frame of mind you can also spare yourself from the back-to-school shopping melee and save hundreds of bucks in the process.

Shopping is a year-round venture.  It doesn’t matter if you are shopping at Neiman Marcus or Walmart: there is no reason to buy your child an entire new wardrobe in one massive blast though the mall. Always be on the lookout for a deal even if it is an item not needed until next season or next year. When you run into Target for a quick birthday party gift make it a habit to swing by the kids shoes and clothing clearance racks.  An extra five minutes (or less) can save you hundreds over the course of a year. 

Buy off-season.  This is  the key to saving a bundle.  Why buy a full price winter jacket in November when you can buy one for a fraction of the cost in January?  The best deals are found at the end of the season.  Your kids may not need any more long-sleeved shirts in March when they are 75% to 90% off, but you can stock up in the next size.  Yes, it means you must plan ahead, but most parents have some idea of what their kids will need in the future.  Your local climate, activities, and tastes determine what items you need to buy.   Here in the deep South we can get by with a couple of long sleeved shirts and pairs of jeans each year but we can never have enough pairs of shorts.  If I see them for cheap I snatch them up, knowing they will be worn.

School uniforms get marked down too.  They may make many parents’ lives easier but the cost can still add up if you buy all the pieces in August each year.  Uniform basics (khaki pants & primary color polos)  are cleared out late in the fall to make room for holiday clothes.  Pick up spare pieces or the next size up for next to nothing and you won’t have to go on a spending spree next fall.

Clearance racks are your best friends.  Once you realize you should be searching for swim trunks in lateAugust (when stores are getting rid of them) instead of June (when they are fresh on the racks) clearance racks can be your best friend.  Get to know your favorite store’s mark down habits you can save even more.   I rarely buy Kohl’s clearance even at  60% off (almost the same as their everyday sales) when I know they occasionally go down to 90% off (a steal!). 

It’s all about going green.  RECYCLE.

Consignment stores are an excellent source for name brand clothes in good condition. These stores have made a major comeback in the last few years and new shops are opening across the country to serve the budget-conscious public.   Most consignment stores meticulously go over all clothes before they accept them for consignment.  Many have strict rules detailing how many seasons old clothes may be knowing their customers want new and stylish outfits for their kids.  And if you bring in your children’s outgrown clothes for consignment you often get a better deal by accepting store credit.  It’s a win-win deal for you and the store.

Consignment shops aren’t just for babies’ and young kid’s clothes anymore.  Trendy teen resale boutiques such as Plato’s Closet are cashing in on the consignment craze.  Junior and young mens hot styles can be bought and traded at a fraction of the mall price. 

Thrift Stores are a bit more time consuming but can be worth the trouble.  You may have to dig deeper to find quality used kids wear but it is out there.  Most parents are too busy to take their kid’s perfectly good outgrown clothes to consignment shops.  It ends up in the thrift shop bin in exchange for a nice tax-deductible receipt.  Mixed in with the soccer uniforms and odd vacation shirts are designer duds just waiting to be snatched up for dirt cheap.  I have actually felt guilty walking out of my favorite thrift shop with a monstrous bag of deals.  (More in-depth thrift store shopping tips are listed here.)

But I don’t have room to store extra clothes.  Buy an 18-gallon Rubbermaid storage tub (dirt cheap in January) for next year’s clothes and store in a closet or the garage. Under-bed bins work well also and utilize often forgotten about space.  Make use of hard to reach shelves at the tops of closets and cupboards to store shoe boxes and off-season clothes.

It’s not rocket science.  You know your kids are going to grow.  Sometimes faster than others, but if you bought bargains ahead of time it won’t break your heart if he only wears the ten shirts you bought for $2 each one time:  that’s less than the cost of one new shirt in the mall.

Shoes are the trickiest since they are very seasonal and have little room to give.  I have bought summer sandals ($2.25 at Target) only to discover my child had already outgrown them when the warm weather hit.  But I also had the next size up.  And I took the new, unused shoes to a consignment shop where they sold them for $5 and I made $2 back.  No harm, no foul.

Shoes get marked down drastically mid-summer and mid-winter.  The one item my child begs for each year is a new pair of Sketchers, the “cool” sneaker in his elementary school set.  No problem. For the last two school years he has been elated to get new Sketchers ($10 – 80% off on clearance with a coupon from Kohl’s). I bought them months ahead of time. Our budget can handle that.

It is never to late to learn how to be a frugal fashionista.  It just takes a patience, perseverance, and an eye for stylish steals.   And there is no reason to look like you dress on the cheap when fabulous finds are out there at any age.


What Does My Inner Rock Goddess Wear?

Do I want to look like a clubbing queen, a rock star, a fashionista, a SAHM, or an ethereal goddess? Thursday night the Kiddo is staying home and Hubby and I get to hit the Hard Rock to see a sold out Florence + the Machine concert.  We haven’t been out in ages.  And I am having a wardrobe crisis.

As a SAHM/blogger/writer I don’t get out much, but I like adore clothes.  My closets and drawers are overflowing, and yes, there are many items I have never worn.  Not the everyday boring stuff  like  yoga pants and tanks to wear to the gym and  errands after if (I don’t feel to bloated and lumpy in the clingy clothes), shorts and tanks, skirts and tanks, and almost always flip flops.

The day I wore a pencil skirt and red wedge sandals to the grocery store I was stared at as if I had grown a third breast and a tail.  It just isn’t done at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning around here.

So going out–and to a rock concert at that–makes for some major wardrobe decisions.   I’m going to drink beer and dance my ass off.  And I need to be able to stand for hours, so comfy shoes are essential.

Adding to the challenge is this week’s temperatures in the upper 90’s. Take a couple of thousand sweaty and drunk bodies dancing and bouncing  against each other on top of that and it’s going to be ridiculously hot.  No jeans, no pants, no sleeves allowed.  And prey it doesn’t rain.

Two hours wasted playing a racier grown-up version of dress-up and I still don’t know what the hell I’m wearing. 

Finding the perfect balance of hot but not slutty, hip but not like I raided my hypothetical teenage daugher’s closet is hard freakin work.

Do I show off lots of leg with black hot pants and a sleek black top?   Too short?  I spent twenty minutes staring at the back of my legs searching for cellulite.

Too black?

I find an irridescent emerald green top and belt it tigh around the waist. Damn, the Victoria’s Secret bombshell bra (aka boob job in a box) makes me feel like a stripper.  But the green sets of my red hair and makes my eyes glow–awesome.  An infuriating line of ruffles going down the center has got to go.  I spend a half hour cutting the huge ruffle off and try it back on.

But my parents are babysitting.  My Dad will pitch a fit if I walk out the door in heels and hot pants.  Next.

How about a sexy but classy black dress?  Hmmm, lots of cleavage and skims my sides just right, but it comes down just past my knees.  I feel too respectable.  And old.  Next.

Why don’t I go long?  I slide on a black halter maxi dress.  I feel mature.  {sigh}  But it could work.

Another black dress (why do I have so many?) discarded.  Clingy but neckline is too boring.

I try on a green halter top maxi dress with a patterend flowy skirt.  Hmm… I pin a flower in my hair.  I look pretty, not like a rock star.  Do I want to do pretty?  Will I dance on my skirt hem?

I find a vintage silk skirt covered with Warhol’s Cambell’s Soup cans.  Interesting.  Love this piece but I have never had any place to wear it–it’s dayglow colors just scream “stare at me.”  I try pulling it up to make it a strapless dress–nah, too blousy.  I pair it with a salmon strappy tank top–interesting.  Very comfortable.  Does nothing for my hair or eyes.

But the show is sold out.  We are going to be packed in there like oily tinned sardines.  No one will even be able to see my skirt.  So it’s all about the top and staying cool, right?

Tops…how about the Asian halter with a pencil skirt?  Or the black trapeze with the annoyingly flowy middle but interesting shoulder straps?  Ugh, it makes me look as if I am knocked-up with a beer in hand.

And why do I even care?  It’s not like I’m trying to pick up a date.  Hubby already thinks I’m a catch (and if he didn’t tough luck–he’s stuck with me).

Sometimes I hate being a woman.  These outfits all suck.  I’m too old and boring and it seems my smoking hot rock goddess jumped ship years ago. Maybe I’ll just shove it all back in the closet and wear shorts and flip flops.

What do you think?  Help a girlfriend out, please…..


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Syndicated on BlogHer Today

 You can find me over on the fabulous BlogHer site today dishing about becoming a Thrift Store Shopaholic.   Want tips about how to find the treasure amidst the trash while slash your wardrobe budget?  Check it out.

I have a confession. I rarely set foot in real stores, yet my closets and drawers are overflowing. I was forced to buy two packs of hangers last week and cleared out the guest room closet to handle the overflow. My Kiddo has a wardrobe stocked with the next two sizes up just waiting for him to grow into. And I would rather slit my wrists than pay retail.  Read more >

And if you’re not  a member of BlogHer yet, you should be.

Or if you want to check out my original post click here.


Swimsuit Shopping {Part Deux: In the Navy}

{Do you have the classic Village People anthem in your head yet?  If not, click here. }

Flash forward to present day (technically earlier this week).  Four long years after Swimsuit Shopping {Part One: The Grey Hair}.    Four years older (eek!), fitter (yeah baby!), grayer (Clariol is my friend), and paler (boo..hiss..hiss…).

I’ve actually braved bikinis for a few summers figuring that if the 80-year-olds on my local beach can wear one with pride, so can I dammit.  But this year I realized it is finally time to save my skin and give up sunbathing.  No tan + birthmark + leftover baby belly skin = no bikini.  It was time to search for some new tankinis or one-piece suits.

I felt like a knight going off on a holy quest as I began my journey, not knowing how far I would roam, if I would face foes or famine (I did pack a candy bar just in case), or if I would ever find what my heart truly desired: the perfect swimsuit.  I dressed nicely, wore a full face of make-up, made sure I shaved, and even wore pretty underwear.  I was prepared in my suit of armor.

The first day of my quest I hit three Ross Stores, two Targets, two Marshall’s, and a TJ Maxx.  Because my Kiddo was now in school.  Because I friggin could.  No goldfish, no lollipops, NO whining. To hell with the gas bill. I was going shopping. 

At the end of day one I had bought two suits. After trying them on at home in real time and light, they just weren’t quite right.  Being tankinis, the middles cut into my softest section (thank you Kiddo).  Or the top was perfect (hello cleavage) but the bottom didn’t work (good-bye flab).  And I discovered that a one-piece was truly more flattering (who knew?).

But trying to find a one piece that is more Bettie Page than Great Aunt Betty is kind of like searching for a UFO or the Holy Grail: they may be out there but I’ll believe it when I see it.

I believe, I believe, I believe….

An Old Navy happened to be right next door to one of my stops so I popped in just to see what was new.  They had four, yes FOUR one-piece suits that were young, hip, and hopeful.  And every freaking one of them fit. And they were each LESS THAN $20.   I did a wonky happy dance around the co-ed dressing room.   The fitting room guy got quite a show, but I really didn’t care.  A miracle had occurred–not in a church, not at the Vatican–but at Old Navy.

Or more likely, the Rapture must have struck that day, because I was in swimsuit heaven.

But I only NEEDED one more suit.  After a half hour of prancing and posing I decided upon this little number.

Which went with all the other stuff I already had.

 I could wear it to the beach and still feel like a MILF (don’t judge, we all want to be MILFs).  I could pair it with my board shorts and hit the waves without the other surfers staring at me as if I was their Grandma.   It made me feel hot.  SOLD.

Days later though, I still felt a pangs of regret that I didn’t buy the second runner-up as well, a retro sapphire blue suit which would be more appropriate for Kiddo’s soccer team pool parties. I didn’t necessarily want to flash cleavage at all the little boys or their parents. Hubby said the soccer Dads would love me if I did. {massive sigh} Maybe Dear, but the wives would HATE me.  DO you understand NOTHING  about women after all these years?

I had to go back for it.  Smack a stupid sticker on my forehead.  If you actually are graced by God or make a deal with the devil and find a swimsuit that fits and is flattering and cheap, for the love of cripes BUY IT.   So of course when I went back for it — gone.

I went to two other Old Navy’s hunting that damn suit down.  I was jonsing like a crack addict in need of a hit.  I NEEDED that other suit to survive the summer.  It would make me feel like a cool, classy,classic movie star when I’m tricked into going to the MIL’s yacht club pool.  The lecherous old men would not get a cheap skin show but would reminisce about 1950s pin-ups instead. 

After I searched the racks at the second store I gave up.  It just wasn’t meant to be.  I would have to be happy being zebra girl for the summer and deal with my MIL’s scathing glare for being so inappropriate.  Just in case, I went back for one last peek before I headed out the door.  As if by magic or divine provenance IT APPEARED.  Only one– and in MY size.  I grabbed it and ran to the registers.

I came home a giddy girl from swimsuit shopping.  There is a first time for everything.

 I’m packing some Coronas and Capri-Suns and hitting the beach this weekend, Baby…


 Note:  This post was not endorsed, paid for, or involved any bribery by Old Navy whatsoever.  However–I think Old Navy owes me a few bucks for product endorsements… contact info is at the top of the blog.  If no money is involved I really wanted one of those bead-trimmed straw hats and some aviator sunglasses to go with the swimsuits, hint, hint…

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Swimsuit Shopping {Part One: The Gray Hair}

There are two horrors no woman can escape: swimsuit shopping and gray hairs.  To endure both simultaneously with a toddler in tow should be enough punishment for a lifetime of sins (including all those I have yet to imagine and enjoy). 
Down here in the Sunshine State swimsuit season starts early.  Really early. If you don’t get your pale, flabby behind into stores while there’s still a nip in the air every decent suit will be long gone.  I didn’t want to end up at the pool party play date in a flowery control-panel suit meant for my Great Aunt Betty or hit the beach in a knot of neon dental floss geared towards anorexic Girls Gone Wild, so I dragged the Kiddo out shopping.

As a SAHM on a shoestring budget, I don’t have the luxury of hitting the department stores or swimsuit boutiques which feature pricey suits that supposedly flatter any figure. Instead I am relegated to scouring the no-frill discount chain stores (a la Ross, TJ Maxx and of course Target), and usually with a whining toddler in tow.

On this particular sad shopping spree, I snatched up every suit that looked like it had a fighting chance of fitting my awkward shape, praying there was one I could wear in public without a sarong or shame. I hauled Kiddo past the toy display and snagged the biggest fitting room with only a slight pang of guilt. Okay, I know technically it is supposed to be a handicapped fitting room, but isn’t shopping with a toddler enough of an impediment to qualify?  I parked Kiddo, some Matchbox cars, and the magic baggie of goldfish on the tiny bench facing away from me so he wouldn’t stare at me like I was a sideshow freak.  Off went my clothes…and my dignity.

I firmly believe every mother should be handed a certificate in the delivery room to come back for a little “sprucing up” after her kid is weaned to avoid tortuous situations like this. It wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t pretty. The white walls and harsh fluorescent lighting magnified each lump, shiny stretch mark, and stray leg hair. It was freezing cold. I had enough goosebumps to resemble a plucked chicken.

I discarded the first two choices as soon as I could perform the necessary contortionist moves to get them off.  Torn white granny-panties would have been more flattering.  The third suit…well, it wasn’t atrocious. At least it covered the saggy post-pregnancy elephant skin no exercise could erase.  Stretch marks were covered.  Muffin top was at a minimum.  Granted, the black fabric made me look as if I had been on display in a funeral parlor for a few days (I’m a far cry from Nicole Kidman’s creamy pale skin, I’m more Sunday Adams in need of a wax). It matched my black socks. It could have been worse.

I bribed the now bored and whining Kiddo with a lollipop for a few more moments of contemplation.

I shook my hair out of a ponytail and mugged like a Victoria Secret swimsuit model wannabe, boobs pushed out, head down, eyes looking up all sultry. As I glanced up in the mirror a strange sparkle along my hairline caught the light. I tried to brush it off, thinking it must be a piece of glitter. It didn’t budge.
No,” I whispered, getting closer to the mirror. “NOOO!” My mouth froze in a tight O, my saucers-sized eyes glued to the horrible thing sprouting from my scalp. I turned my head upside-down and scratched at it, trying to shake it loose. I stood up and the let the strands fall back into the natural part. It was still there… No, no, no…I’m too young… It CAN’T be…
It was.
I had a gray hair.
Technically, it was more silver than gray, but it was attached to my 33-years-young scalp. I started feeling dizzy. The walls closed in and I began to sway.
Kiddo sensed my panic and wrapped himself around my naked thigh like a octopus.
I had to pull the hair out. It could not remain. It kept slipping between my fingers as I tried to yank it from my treacherous head. “Get off me dammit!” My elbow smacked the mirror since I couldn’t seem to hold onto the evil thing.
Startled, Kiddo proceeded to wail. I could feel everyone in the store glaring at me through the flimsy walls, wondering if I was in there beating my kid or shoplifting.
In a desperate last ditch effort I looped the hair around my finger and yanked with all my might. The offending hair was torn from my scalp. I, however, lost my balance and fell flat on my rear. Kiddo collapsed on my bare stomach sobbing hysterically, probably scarred for life. His gooey red lollipop adhered to the swim suit. I had to buy it now.
I couldn’t decide if I should laugh or have a meltdown of my own.
Yes, I saved it and taped it into my journal.  I’m weird that way.

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