Suited for Anxiety: Pressure of Shopping Alone

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It’s wedding season. Being in my 20s mean that I have the distinct pleasure of seeing all my friends get married. But being an atypical gay (and not particularly working), I don’t have that much dress-up clothing. So it’s off to the store for me.

Now, I have a few suits from the past. I have a dark blue suit from my sister’s destination wedding, but I feel that it’s too large now. I have a lighter blue sports jacket I wore to my high school best friend’s wedding, but I feel that the classic fit makes the midsection flair out a bit too much. I had a Brooks Brothers suit for a winter dance in high school, but I lost the coat during the event.

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I have more than enough interior clothing for any formal occasion (dress shirts, neckties, bow ties, slacks, and dress shoes) and enough accessories for any outfit of any sort. However, on a nonchalant day, people will see me in basketball shorts and a t-shirt. If I want to look a little nicer, I may pull out a casual button-up, straight jeans, skinny chinos or preppy Abercrombie shorts.

But looking at my choices in jackets, I realized that I was in need of shopping.


My Anxiety with Shopping

I know, it’s weird. Didn’t I mention that I’m an atypical gay? But hear me out.

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I love to shop. I love buying things, getting things on sale, and feeling it in my hands and knowing that other people want it. I love doing shopping research, finding what’s the best item for the best price and making Excel Spreadsheets to keep it all in order from best to worst deals. I love online shopping, physical shopping, shopping through people and pretty much any other way shopping can occur.

But I hate shopping alone. Especially for clothes.

If you read my previous post, you’d know that I had been insecure about my body in the past. I was always considered tall during my elementary years until kids started to catch up in high school, but I always was a bit self-conscious about my weight and, particularly, my love handles. I don’t know when the last time I was lower than a size 36 waist and the last time I comfortably fitted in a size medium shirt was in junior high.

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Now, I’m between a size 36 and 38 waist in pants. In shorts and underwear, I usually lean to smaller sizes (from medium up to XL). At Target and Old Navy, I would fit perfect in an XL shirt; however, at Abercrombie, a XXL would be too tight for my liking. Of course, material of the clothing is also important in considering these things as well, but these are general ideas.

But when I shop for clothes alone, physically in stores, my self-consciousness and self-image goes crazy. I know they’re doing their jobs and I don’t blame them, but I absolutely hate it when I enter a clothing store and 4 people ask if I’m looking for anything. I hate it when I’m the only one in the store and the salespeople ridiculously outnumbers me. I hate it when they stand there, staring at me as if waiting for me to ask a question.

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With my sizes, I hate them always walking around me as I look for my size. I hate needing to ask for a dressing room to try on something. And I hate trying out things n public, wearing it to just take it off shamefully as it doesn’t fit or seeing that it’s too tight after walking over to the 3-paneled mirrors.

All of this changes when I’m with even one more person. I feel more open to breaking awkward silences, because it’s not really an awkward silence because I’m quite loud when I’m with literally anyone else. I ask for people’s opinions a lot and I don’t mind asking for dressing rooms to try things on then. It’s just a different atmosphere to have at least someone there on my side in the store.

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Being alone while clothes shopping really does make me anxious. It makes me more self-aware, less likely to open up, and it takes me a lot longer to shop because I’ll double-guess every purchase and I take forever to ask a question or assistance. And honestly, I try to wait for someone unattractive to help me, whether it’s because they’re obese or generally fugly, or if it comes down to it — them being a girl.


Wedding Clothes Shopping

Now, my best friend Tinker’s wedding is in July. I have a month to get shopping to look my most awesome. And in having a mother addicted to Macy’s, I happen to know they had a Memorial Day sale event going on, so I thought I’d just take advantage.

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I went on the website and tried to look for something more showy. I didn’t want some ‘Average Joe’ wedding clothes. I had a general idea that I’d dress for a summer wedding– lighter fabrics, brighter colors, and a slim fit because I hated the classic fit’s midsection flair. I know that it might be some money flow happening with Macy’s and I know jackets and suits are quite expensive, but if I’m using my own money for this, I was thinking cheap. And even with the 15% off any purchase for Memorial Day weekend, I was thinking prices were still way too high for my blood.

In addition, I didn’t really know my size. I tried on my classic fit sports jacket from my high school best friend’s wedding 3 years ago, but obviously I had taken off the tags and had no idea what size it was. Plus, it wasn’t the cut I really want anyways so there’s really no way to know what I’d want until I go in and try some jackets, blazers and coats out. So I was headed to the mall.

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I usually avoid the mall since it’s a ‘far’ drive, filled with old schoolmates I would rather forget and people who think working retail makes them favored by royalty. But since I’m going shopping alone, the mall’s department stores are my best bet on not getting hassled with workers and perhaps finding the best deals. Here’s the breakdowns of my findings at the mall, in order of where I went.

  • Kohl’s: Had plain jackets and coats, but the clearance rack was large. However, I found out that a size 46 felt comfortable, which was nonexistent in clearance.
  • H&M: Had more showy selection of suits and jackets, but sizes were too small. They only had sizes up to 44, which isn’t surprising since I can’t even fit in their shoes here.
  • Expressmen: Had probably the best selection, but only had sizes up to 44. And honestly, even at 40% off, it was expensive for what they had.
  • Macy’s: Arguably had the largest selection, but they were all so plain. The only showy thing they had was a bit too shiny for my liking, and more expensive for ‘settling’ for something plain.
  • Sears: It’s obvious that this place has been going down, as there was nearly nothing here (customers included).
  • American Eagle: I thought to try this place out, maybe they had a playful linen jacket, but no luck.
  • Old Navy: Same thought as AE, but no luck.
  • JC Penny’s: Small selection with minimal sale — moving on.

I took another look at Kohl’s, Expressmen and Macy’s before I left the mall empty-handed over 2 hours into my hunt. Whilst at Macy’s, I had talked to the Coach saleswoman who my family frequents, and she said Men’s Wearhouse is the place to go for a decent wardrobe. She’s the only woman I even made eye contact and talked to the whole entire time.

I really regretted not bringing my headphones.

Leaving the mall, I drove over to Men’s Wearhouse, where I tried to sneak my way in behind other people so that nobody rushed up to me and asked me if they can help. I failed completely, as a salesman was walking customers out and tailed me as I walked in, not saying anything but just following me. I hated it.

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I smiled and faced him, saying I’m just looking around. He just kept staring at me. I continued to say I was seeing what deals they had to offer. He kept staring, nodding now and smiling. I started stammering as I looked away, wondering what else to say so I started to walk away from him. This is why I hate shopping alone.

I saw that they had a Buy One Get One Free deal going on, but I don’t know what was included in the deal. I saw signs that said 2 Calvin Klein suits would be $700, and some had “Clearance” tags on them, and some had “Exceptional Deal” on them, and the Joe brand was Buy One Get One 50% off and I was honestly feeling a bit overwhelmed. I almost wanted to ask for help, but my previous experiences with Men’s Wearhouse workers wasn’t too pleasant, so I avoided it. There’s 2 older men, 2 younger men, and 2 younger women workers and none of them seemed overly approachable, so I tried on a couple of jackets sized 46 and left.

I had to go to Target anyways, so I decided to go and look for a jacket there since their Merona line usually has something. Turns out that they had a tan jacket that was halfway decent for $59.99. I was tired and sold.

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In looking online, I saw some formal wear I had liked. I liked the whites, red, pink, light blues and I wanted something other than wool material. When looking online, I saw that Men’s Wearhouse, Joseph A Bank and Macy’s were still the front-runners. I quickly eliminated Macy’s, though, just for lack of selection compared to the prices. I liked some of the jackets, suits, ties, shirts and accessories of Men’s Wearhouse, whilst I only liked a handful of things from JAB, so I decided I’ll give Men’s Wearhouse again.

I was close to ordering, but I really wanted a proper look at my size. I went to return my Target jacket because I regretted the buy, having it be only tan and the deals at Men’s Wearhouse was just as good in prices as Target was. Upon entering alone, nobody at Men’s Wearhouse bothered me (a real plus for them). I went back to trying on a few size 46 jackets and really wondered if I could pull off a slim fit. I tried out a JOE by Joseph Abboud as well as a Calvin Klein Extreme fit, and they both seemingly fit okay but I didn’t know how a jacket should look so I really needed their help.

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After maybe 30 unproductive minutes of wandering around, I gained up the nerve to ask a woman walking out from the back to measure me for proper fitting. After measuring my shoulders, she said maybe a 48 should fit well. She grabbed a Joseph Abboud jacket and it fitted alright, but I still felt that the midsection was too big, so she grabbed a 46 of the same brand and it was too tight around the midsection. She grabbed a 46 in Calvin Klein Slim Fit and it fitted really well, so we decided that the 46 Slim CK works, but a 48 in JA and Kenneth Cole.

Due to the selection there, I had told her I’ll just purchase them online because they didn’t even carry the Tailorbyrd brand there. I asked her about her Esquire box sets, since they were sold out online and said they might be in stores, which they had and I bought 2 sets. I had her measure me for shirts, and left quickly.


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Pulling the Trigger

After narrowing down 15 jackets to 4, as well as narrowing a list of 45 total items to only 8, I pulled the trigger and had a purchase totally $480 (Retail around $1500). However, it turns out that the purchase of my jackets at $79.99 each for Memorial Day weekend changed in sales on Tuesday, and for the better. Working with estimates, each jacket is $80, making the total $320 for jackets alone. Their Tuesday deal states that you can Buy One Get One Free, with 50% off any additional item. Having 3 jackets at $150 and the last at $100, the math goes $150+$0+$75+$50, equalling to $275.

Needless to say, I called in to price adjust my order, getting back my $45.

Despite my mad penny-pinching skills, I only realized how anxious I got while shopping now. And I’m proud of myself for overcoming my anxiety and talking to workers to get measured while alone. I know to some that it’s not really a big deal, that they’re comfortable with themselves enough to perform such feat on a daily, but it was an accomplishment to me.

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Now, I have a couple of choices for this wedding season, and the next. And maybe now I have something to wear whenever I decide to get a proper job. Or if I become a teacher.

But that contemplation is for another post.

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