There are lots of ways that a new item can find its way into your wardrobe: a special event purchase, a gift, a hand-me-down. In the case of my new dress it came through a splash in an accidental fountain of gasoline at a service station thirty-five minutes away from home. The pump handle got stuck, and worse yet, the nozzle left the tank. This has never happened to me before, though I have since been assured that it has happened to others.
In a moment my jeans, boots, shirt, and jacket were either soaked, or permeated with gasoline. A lot of gasoline. The attendant came out and said, “Ma’am, are you okay?” It wasn’t a little fountain. He saw it from inside the shop on the other side of the car. I was truly thankful no one was smoking anywhere near.
There was no salvaging what I was wearing. I either had to buy a new outfit— including shoes— or expire from the fumes. I was already sick and being soaking wet with gasoline wasn’t helping any. Walmart was close by, so I whipped in there to grab my replacements.
I quickly pulled four knit dresses to try, and headed to the dressing room. I’ve had great success with knit dresses from Walmart.
Five minutes later I left with a comfy striped t-shirt dress and picked up a pair of cute floral ballet flats to replace my boots.
I love how the softness of a floral plays off the structure of stripes. The two paired automatically boost an ensemble’s interest. It’s one of my favorite looks.
After a speedy change in the ladies’ room, I headed to the car with a bag of reeking clothes and boots, which I stashed in the trunk. I remembered that as a child of God, no weapon formed against me would prosper (Is.54:17), took a breath, and went to lunch (during which I’ve started writing this blog).
Let’s turn this experience into something good. Ladies, you may encounter your own version of a gasoline fountain someday, so here is my guide (field-tested) to buying a replacement outfit on the fly:
Remember you are not buying your wedding dress (hopefully!). This is just a temporary replacement, so it’s okay to relax your rules on perfection.
Go for items that don’t require an exact fit. A-line and T-shirt dresses, flowing shirts, and elastic waist or drawstring pants are all good choices. Bet you never thought a stylist would recommend elastic waist or drawstring pants, but everything (almost) has its use. I opted for a dress because one piece is quicker than two.
Keep in mind the lingerie you are wearing when you are choosing items. A white dress won’t work with a black bra, some clothing requires specific foundation garments, etc.
Stick with shapes you know. Save adventurous dressing for another day. If you know that you like, and look well in, a certain kind of cut, go with that.
Grab no more than four, or five items to try on. When you’re in a rush that is plenty to take into the dressing room.
Save yourself some time and hold the items up to you in the mirror before you peel. By doing that I eliminated two dresses because I saw the knit was so thin it would show everything. Skip high maintenance garments that require you to work to look well in them.
Spend no more than $20 per item. Shoot for quick, ready to wear (not wrinkled), and inexpensive. My ensemble cost $22.46, including the shoes and it took me all of 20 minutes to acquire.
While I didn’t end up with a designer outfit, I did score a cute little number that I know is going to play a big part in my everyday Spring wardrobe. My other knit dresses from Walmart have lasted me years, in part because I take as good care of them as I do my designer clothes. Just because you don’t pay a lot for an item doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care for it well.
I like to bump up the fashion value of these basic knits by pairing them with special accessories that extend the feeling of their higher dollar value to my bargain pieces. It’s “style cache´ by association” and it’s one of my favorite styling tricks.
Next time you get caught in a disaster that requires you shop on the fly, remember these tips, take a breath, and be thankful that it wasn’t a gasoline fountain.
Parting Tip: Always keep a lightweight jacket in your car, even in Summer. A medium to dark-colored neutral is your best option. You never know when you might need it. I was glad I had my brown cotton blazer in the backseat to pop over my new dress. It saved me having to buy an additional rescue piece, or freezing on a cold day.