Thursday, October 9, 2014

Frock You

By the time you read this, WBHS Homecoming 2014 will be just a memory.

By the time I recover from dress shopping for WBHS Homecoming 2014 it will be time for WBHS Homecoming 2015.

And The Princess will be shopping without me. It's safer for everyone that way.

Teenage girls are proficient pack shoppers – provided it is within a pack of their peers. Introduce an adult figure and the thrill of the hunt and ultimately the bagging of big game suffers. Ironic, considering it is usually the adult who controls the funds.

I remember going to the mall with my friends. No one else will be as brutally honest about the clothes you try on – certainly not someone whose commission depends upon the purchase. (“Yes. That does make your butt look like you could show a double feature on it.”) Your mother just doesn't share your sense of style, finely honed as it was/is by Seventeen or Pintrest. And only another teen could hit the food court with equal gusto. (“Fro-yo and a diet soda will totally not make your butt any bigger.”)

Unfortunately the pack-hunt mentality broke down this time. Probably because The Princess does not like to shop. (I know! Right? I think she was switched at birth.) Believe me, there is nothing more un-fun than high-pressure shopping (absolutely, positively, gotta have it) with someone who doesn't like to shop. And this was a high-pressure situation. There was just a week before the big dance, and every weeknight was filled with Homecoming Week activities.

To keep the mood light, I decided to treat this as a learning opportunity and a chance for mother-daughter bonding, rather than a buy-or-die situation. What I learned is that The Princess and I have totally different approaches to shopping, and that shopping for a Homecoming dress has changed a lot since back in the day.

How things have changed #1
Back in the day we shopped for a “homecoming outfit;” typically a wool-plaid or corduroy skirt and a sweater with bat-wings or a cowl neck. I'm not sayin' they were good fashion choices, but they were practical – warm, full coverage, and you could wear them again.  (There is photographic evidence... which will not be shared.)

And the whole thing cost less than a car payment.

The current Eastern Iowa girls' Homecoming attire trend  is a fancy party dress: the shorter, the tighter, the sparklier, the better. And only good for one wearing. You don't even want to think about the per-hour cost.

How things have changed #2
These days the pack hunters don't have to actually hunt as a pack. Thanks to cell phones, Twit-a-gram and the such, they can spread out and hit many more stores in the same amount of time.

“Why don't we check out X store,” I'd suggest. The Princess' thumbs would fly across the screen of her phone and she'd report haughtily “Randi was just there. They don't have anything.”

Once potential dresses were located, The Princess' modus operandi was simple: Grab as many as you can – without looking at the size – and sort them out in the dressing room. But it took her Fore. Ev. Er. to try them on. At first I thought she was having trouble with the zippers. Then I realized that she had to photograph and Snap-Twit pics of each dress to her pals for an instant opinion.

Did Mom get to see any of them?


Not until the very end, when it was crunch time and the stores were ready to close... when I was seriously considering buying the outrageously expensive (but gorgeous) dress, just to end the pain and misery. (Mine. Not hers.)

One thing hasn't changed: The Mom Kiss of Death.
At one store which had a plethora of fancy dresses (it looked like the sequin factory had exploded) I watched a Happy Mother-Daughter Combo enter. Obviously they had just started their shopping trip as they were still smiling, walking side-by-side and talking to each other. They stopped to browse at the front and center display (designed to capture your attention and build expectations, only to brutally shoot them down later). Daughter seemed taken by one particularly fluffy frock, going so far as to touch the ruffles and check the size before moving on.

Mom then approached the dress, took a surreptitious look at the (reasonable) price tag and said “This one's cute.”

You could hear a collective intake of breath as all the other Moms in the store turned as one, a look of shock and horror on our faces. We mouthed a silent, low motion warning: “Nooooooooooooooooo.”

Time stood still. Daughter turned around gave the dress one more look, wrinkled her nose and said “Eh” before stalking off.

Number one rule of the hunt for Moms: Never appear too interested in the quarry.

Number one rule of the hunt for Daughters: Enforce Mom's rule Number One.

Need I point out that the dress The Princess finally bought (rather, I bought) was the same one we saw at the first store, four hours, countless stores and two cities before it was actually purchased?

And it looked beautiful on her.

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