A Non-Illustrated Primer to Dress Shopping when You are Shaped Like a Bowling Ball

1) Hip Flask! The most important thing you will ever bring with you on a dress shopping excursion. Fill it with Jack Daniels and go. If you can, try to get the flask where the cap is somehow tethered down. Your hands shake, you might drop the cap. Some dressing rooms are small, imagine standing in the cabinet under your kitchen sink trying to maneuver around so you can find the cap to your flask. The only possible outcome to this scenario is a half empty bottle of Joy wedged in your ass.
2) The Trusted Friend! This is equally as important as the flask. You need a friend that understands what looks good on you AND is willing to say “you look like Cthulu in that!”. Don’t bring anyone you’ve slept with previously, they might have a hidden, revenge-driven agenda. Don’t bring family members for that same reason.
3) Try On Everything! This is especially important in the beginning. You might be surprised at what will look good. You’ll also be surprised at what looks terrible. When something clings to your belly or accentuates your fat ass, pull out the flask.
4) Sleeves? Where did they go?! Dress designers apparently save money by not putting sleeves on their dresses. They do not, however, pass the savings on to you. Be prepared to buy a wrap to go over your chicken cutlet arms.
5) Lighting! There is a special catalog issued from the printing presses deep in the bowels of hell that lists for sale any and all light bulbs created by satan himself. These Lamps of the Dark Underworld are installed in every store and dressing room on the planet (with the exception of the dressing room in the expensive dress department of Nordstrom). These lights search the detailed history of your skin’s development and bring to the surface every single flaw you have ever had. You’ll find flaws on flaws, you’ll see zits you forgot you’d had. Remember that hicky you got from that weird guy in 10th grade that couldn’t play Pictionary to save his life? That’ll show up too. The lighting will make you look fatter, shorter, and more mottled that ever before, you’ll look like a naked, diseased apple. See #1 for advice on this.
6) Nordstrom Rules, Everyone Else Sucks! At Nordstrom they were pleasant, helpful, cheerful and supportive. Every time I went from one department to another the salesperson called ahead to let them know I was coming and what I was looking for. I expected the same level of service at Macy’s, I was sorely disappointed. Macy’s employees seemed to be one step up the food chain from minimum wage hanger jockeys and didn’t really care what was happening. When I ask you where I could find cocktail dresses, don’t look at me like a deer caught in the headlights. It’s a simple question that directly pertains to your job. Patt the Nordstrom Maven was beyond excellent. She helped with every aspect and even arranged my wrap in a unique and stylish manner so I wouldn’t look like an old lady. I love you, Patt.
7) The Fine Line! There’s a fine line between ‘curvy’ and ‘fat ass’; also ‘classy’ and ‘matronly’. I hovered on this line many times. The flask helped immensely.
8) Don’t Get Trapped! Some dresses are stupid, don’t have zippers and are designed to go over the head. While it is important to try on everything, please be aware that a dress that might be too small when you try it on will not come off easily if you are shaped like a bowling ball and trying to pull it off over your head. Remember #1? Now’s a good time for that.
9) Keep Looking! This is related to #3. Even if you find a good dress early in the evening, keep searching. I ended up going back to Nordstrom to buy the dress after trekking the mall all night, but if I had bought it immediately I would have been filled with self doubt and second guessing. I am positive that I now own the best dress in the entire Mall of America (in my size and budget).
10) Nylons! Splurge a little on nylons, it’s worth it to get something that fits well, and compliments the outfit. Buy 2 pairs! No lie. You don’t want to be 20 minutes to leaving for the event and finding yourself with a run the size of the Nile going down your leg and having to buy grocery store L’eggs in “023 Ass Brown”. If you own pets you have no choice but to buy multiple pairs. In keeping with #5, spend a lot of time with the hosiery lady (Susan), she knows what she’s talking about. She knows the difference between sheer, semi-sheer and space-sheer.
11) Dinner! You will owe your shopping mate dinner. You can not skimp on this. You owe them a large, expensive tasty meal with drinks and dessert. They get to pick the place.

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