Friday, May 15, 2009

Peachy Keen Shopping Team

Did you know that God is interested in shopping? I've been very blessed by evidence of His accompanying me on recent clothing hunts.

I had 5 days with my sister Sarah in Christchurch, getting some pampering from an Image Consultant named Debbie, plus a pile of other girly-delicious activities. During that time we followed up on a tip from some of Sarah's guy friends who said nice formal wear could be found at a shop called "Affordable Elegance". I was looking for something suitable to wear when I'm singing, in a colour that worked with the Spring palette with which Debbie had just provided me, and at a price that would beat what it would cost to make it myself.

A pity it didn't go all the way up.

It was an interesting adventure. There was a great deal of gorgeous fabric which almost without exception missed the neck and shoulders, and the shop assistant, a petite lady dressed in a pink hug-me-tight over a short and floaty black dress reminding Sarah of a ballet dancer, just couldn't seem to get the hang of the simple statement "I want my shoulders and cleavage covered". Her first solution was a chiffon wrap draped over my shoulders, pulled under my armpits, and tied at the back. The fabric was completely transparent.

I showed her a couple of pictures I had with me of modest prom dress styles. She tripped around the clothing racks again, and I shook my head again. Mystified but pursuing, she handed me a look book and we began to make progress. I located two styles I liked that met my modest requirements. One wasn't available in store but the other was, and she duly produced this, holding it high above her head so it didn't trail on the ground. The colour was peach, in a satin that would reflect beautifully under a spotlight.

I spent half an hour trying it on, shrugging, twitching, swivelling in front of the mirror, walking about the store in it. The mock two-piece, strapless gown featured a pleated train falling from the waist, beaded lace appliques gathering fabric above one hip, topped by a perfectly-fitted bolero jacket with long sleeves. I wasn't used to seeing myself in that colour (having usually gone for blue-shaded tones), but Sarah promised it would do just fine.

The price was nice, reduced from $200 down to $120, but there were unsightly pulls and scuffs in the train, and I knew the cheap satin would require careful handling if that wasn't to happen everywhere else. There was also a dark streak that might or might not come out when laundered (which the shop assistant offered to do, and dropped the purchase price to $99). The bodice was too big and would need taking in as well as straps added to make it secure. She offered to do this, too. Then I lifted my arms as I would be likely to do when singing, and found I was flashing my armpits.

I hovered, juggling the pros and cons. If the shop assistant could alter the garment suitably, and I could make another bolero or alter this one to make sure my armpits stayed covered...and I had the perfect fabric for it at home, a peach and grey-blue flowered chiffon (plus lining)... Hmmm. The shops girls even provided a solution for how I would get the delicate but bulky outfit home on the plane. (There was no way I'd be stuffing that into my pack.)

How to travel by air with a Dress

Place the gown on a hanger in a quality garment bag (these are readily available from Bridal Stores - costing $20 in NZ) and board the plane with it over your arm. The flight attendant will see you and with a few words of "Where shall I put this?" she will take it to a cupboard where it can hang safely (probably alongside the captain's jacket). No need to worry about it being stuffed in an overhead locker, the shop girls promised!

It wasn't an easy decision to make, but I left the dress in the shop, having enough experience to know that when something isn't totally right, the best thing to do is leave it there and keep looking.

I came home with a winter coat instead, and thrust the thought of a new performance dress into storage. A week later, I met Elaine Swanney's Candle Glow wedding gown, which she has made available for my use. I have an appliqued and beaded satin gown with a train which I may use for concerts and I didn't have to pay a cent. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but He's also got quite a closet! You will have seen me enjoying that in last week's post, Apple Blossom Wedding.

If that wasn't confirmation enough that the Lord had better ideas for me than that peach affair in Christchurch, not quite 4 weeks afterward I unexpectedly found myself in EziBuy's OutBack Clothing while my father shopped next door at Mitre 10 for drawer handles. There were signs everywhere promising "buy 1 garment, get the 2nd 1 free". I wandered around looking for modest tops and long skirts, gathering up a daffodil-yellow $10 shirt and a tailored denim jacket in creamy lemon, but ankle-length opaque skirts were few and far between. Great was my delight, then, to discover a stunning dress in peach broderie anglaise, fully lined, the skirt featuring cotton godets poking a V below the rest of the hem.

It was sleeveless, but I was looking at the skirt. Hmmm..it should be easy to chop off the bodice and form a waistband. I took it to the changing room to try it. As soon as I had it on, I realized there would be no chopping of this garment. This would remain a dress.

I would remove the beaded, be-ribboned corsage (to be reattached to a brooch pin), and use my flowered chiffon at home to turn the outfit into a jacket-dress for special occasions. The cotton broderie fabric meant the garment could be dressed up with dainty accessories, or given casual elegance with a cotton blouse and denim jacket over the top. It would also launder easily and be practical for travelling. The price tag said $80 reduced from $169, and I would get the $30 denim jacket for free (or, the price of the dress was dropped to $50).

I danced out of the shop, nearly losing my socks, I felt so blessed. Thank you, Jesus!

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