Maybe it really was the name; shopping in a place that likens you to a farm animal isn’t appealing to most women. It wasn’t to me, that’s for sure.
But when I heard that Dressbarn is closing, I was devastated to my core. Actual tears well up when I think about where I’m going to shop now.
Dressbarn isn’t just a clothing store to me; it’s my safe haven. Yes, that sounds dramatic, but let me explain before you start rolling your eyes!
Let’s rewind back 10 years ago. (Start hazy montage effect here)
My oldest cousin was getting married and it was the first big wedding of our close, Italian family. At 19-years-old, I wanted to look good.
My mom took me shopping for a dress at several retailers for a typical teen. And I had a typical teen girl meltdown inside all of those dressing rooms. Nothing fit.
I’ll put it out there, I’m not a skinny lady. My body shape is odd. I’m not shopping in the plus-sized stores, but I can’t wedge myself into trendy dresses without looking like what a can of Pillsbury dough looks like when you pop it and don’t peel off the cardboard tin just yet.
After many dresses and many tears, my mom parked at Dressbarn.
Which led to complete sobs. I couldn’t believe she had lost faith in me, bringing me to a place where “old ladies shop." I felt betrayed by my 19-year-old body, that I couldn’t shop where “normal girls” shop.
I walked around the racks, never looking or picking out one dress. I let my mother do the shopping, intending on picking apart each choice with vigorous words, facial expressions and eye rolls.
But as I tried them on, each dress was better than the next. I looked neck-snapping, mouth-drooling good. It was one of the first times I felt like my body type wasn’t a burden.
I walked away from that shopping spree with multiple options to wear to the wedding. I think it’s pretty clear by this picture of me on the dance floor, I was elated with my Dressbarn find.
Over the years, I’ve found dresses for every occasion. It’s also been my go-to place to shop for work dresses and clothes.
When I got a teaching assistant position in Grad school, taught leadership seminars at the Central Michigan University Leadership Institute, got an internship and job here at Local 4, anchored a local cable news program: I wore Dressbarn.
It’s been my place for ten years. I look at other stores but the scene is always the same: I’m inside the dressing room with 30 hangers of clothing, each one in three different sizes (praying that the smaller ones fit for my ego).
After 30 minutes, I’m sitting in something that won’t button up all the way, sweating from trying to wrench a blouse off my body and quietly crying so the women next to my room can’t hear me.
And 9 times out of 10, one of those small blouses gets stuck while trying to take it off and I’ve contemplated the following:
- Rip it off and pay for the damage;
- Put on my street clothes and shoplift the garment out of there;
- Sit there for days until I lose 5 lbs. from not eating and shimmy out of it.
I always find myself going back to Dressbarn and being successful, finding what I need. The employees there are encouraging, letting me know when something looks great or offering a better size in the kindest voice. I’ve never gotten stuck in a shirt there but even if I had, I wouldn’t feel ashamed asking one of them to help me out!
This past weekend, I went there to shop for a few events I have coming up, knowing the store might be closed by the time they roll around. The line at the cash register was long, filled with women ages 18 to 80 years-old.
It’s kind of special in a way. All these women of different ages, different shapes, different sizes. We’re all standing together, joined at the idea that this place matters to us.
We walk in with apprehension, searching the racks for that one piece of clothing to make us feel good about ourselves. We don’t walk out feeling inadequate, fat or betrayed by our bodies.
We walk out of Dressbarn feeling gorgeous, sexy, powerful, smart and happy in our own skin. We know that when we put on a something from Dressbarn, we stand out in a unique and classy way.
Our confidence in our bodies and in ourselves are at an all-time high.
So while I was ashamed at first that I shopped at Dressbarn, I became proud. When people ask what I’m wearing, I say, “Get this…It’s Dressbarn!” (I’ve converted many people to shopping there!)
It might just be another store closing to others, but for many of us, it’s our safe haven. We don’t know where we will shop next, but we hope it will be a store that gives us just as much confidence as Dressbarn.