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Stuck in the Juniors Department

by Laura Rifkin

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Chalk it up to creative marketing or my increasingly thin wallet, but I found myself on the JCPenney website the other day. All of the pieces I saw left something to be desired and the experience left me with a vague uneasiness.  I consoled myself about the unfruitful and unsettling shopping experience with the affirmation that I wouldn’t support a designer who is only two degrees of separation away from Lindsey Lohan. Besides, the quality of their clothes is such that they probably wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.

The experience kept nagging me until I realized that I wasn’t making excuses because JCP is cheap or they carry lines by a cracked out LA deejay’s sibling – my uneasiness was based on the fact that I am still shopping in the juniors department.

Recently at a business luncheon I was sitting next to the principal of the school where I work.  She told me how her 9 year-old daughter is in the top 95% height range for her age and that they had to go shopping in the juniors department at the mall last weekend.  She explained that her daughter was so ashamed that she tried to hide the clothes they were purchasing underneath some other items at the checkout counter.  I turned 30 this July, yet I could still relate to her embarrassment, although for different reasons.

If only it were my pre-pubescent, gangly, lankiness that made me want to pull my hat over my eyes in the Dillard’s juniors department, instead of the fact that I just muffin-topped over a pair of Levi’s that caught my attention because of their $29 tag.  I’m always looking over my shoulder for fear that the high school students I work with will be rifling through Baby Phat and South Pole t-shirts while I wonder why designers ruin decent tops by adding fake belts or phrases like, “Your boyfriend likes me better than you.”

What else is a young-at-heart woman to do?  I’m not ready to take the escalator up a floor and peruse through St. John’s Bay sweaters and Dockers pants.  I will never wear linen pantsuits (even though they seem like the chosen uniform for my profession).  However, my budget doesn’t quite allow for BCBG dresses or Theory jackets.  I would prefer to avoid the mall altogether, but even the GAPs and local boutiques are a little costly these days.

The truth is, I am not quite ready to outgrow the juniors section – even if my waistline and my age is twice that of the average shopper.  A couple months back I found an ad on the back of the Saturday newspaper for $20 sweater dresses and 25% off of the entire store.  Has anyone ever seen a coupon in the Statesman for Anthropologie?  Didn’t think so.

I’m always on the hunt for the best deal and something that no one else will be wearing, so I guess I’ll take my chances downstairs in the mall department store.  I’ll be the one hiding under the hat with defeated posture pretending I don’t know the words to whatever Katy Perry song is blaring over the speakers.

Editor’s Note: While doing some fact checking for this article, I stumbled upon a great blog for the bargain minded shoppers out there. It’s called “The Budget Babe: Fab without a Fortune.” You can check it out here.

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