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My kid, the clotheshorse

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The oldest daughter of Smartmom’s rich cousin in Baltimore is getting married in June — a black-tie wedding — and Smartmom’s clan is in tizzy about what to wear.

For Hepcat and Teen Spirit, a quick trip to a tuxedo rental will do the trick. That is, if Teen Spirit can be convinced to abandon his worn-in leather jacket and holey jeans for a few hours. He’s just like his dad, who considers a black T-shirt from Target and black Old Navy jeans to be dressy. Wonder how their Merrill slip-on mocs will look with the formal wear?

Needless to say, being 9-going-on-20, the Oh So Feisty One loves a party dress. Last week, she, Smartmom and Diaper Diva subwayed to Macy’s to find the perfect dress for the occasion.

That subway ride to Midtown might as well have been a train trip back in time for Smartmom, who dreaded sharing this particular rite of passage with her daughter. When Smartmom was a child, buying clothing with her mother was pretty traumatic. Her mother always had strong ideas about what she could and could not wear. And every trip to the dressing room became a referendum on what Smartmom didn’t like about the way she looked.

Ah, the prickly issue of self image. Smartmom envies OSFO her fashion sense and the fun she has dressing. Since she was a toddler, OSFO has always been opinionated about clothing. And Smartmom always let her decide what she wants to wear (no “Mommy Dearest”-syndrome, here). Consequently, the OSFO is much more comfortable with her own sense of style and the way that she looks.

The three determined shoppers averted the make-up department, where swarms of women converged on them like bees with small bottles of perfume, en route to the eighth floor.

Once there, it was clear that OSFO had an extremely clear vision of what she wanted. She scanned all the girls’ party dresses in an instant.

“These are too princessy,” she said waving dismissively at one display area after another.

And she was right. Too frilly, too frothy, too frou-frou, most of the dresses were more suited for an Easter service than a sophisticated Baltimore wedding. As far as OSFO was concerned, they were way, way off base.

Then Smartmom spotted the tween prom dress department. “How about this?” Smartmom asked, holding a yellow-and-green patterned dress. “Too fruity,” she said. And this one? “Not right for a wedding.” OSFO replied with an assurance way past her years.

“What about these?” Smartmom was holding up two or three perfectly acceptable choices. “I like them. But not for this wedding.”

This wedding? Smartmom wondered.

Then OSFO made a bee-line for a dress — a cross between a ballet tutu and something a tad more burlesque. Tight black elasticized top, light pink, tulle skirt with an uneven hem. Diaper Diva looked a little skeptical.

Smartmom knew it would be either really great or completely tacky.

OSFO and Smartmom crowded into the small dressing room with a thicket of hangered dresses. Diaper Diva was dispatched to the shoe department to search for appropriate footware. The sexy tutu was the first thing OSFO wanted to try. Tight on the top, frilly on the bottom, it actually looked pretty terrific. Smartmom pinned up OSFO’s hair and she was a vision to behold.

“I think this might be it,” Smartmom thought to herself. But OSFO looked at herself quizzically.

“What does ‘slutty’ mean?” she asked staring at herself in the three-way mirror. Ah. Ah. Ah. Smartmom stalled not sure what to say.

“Why do you ask?” she stammered.

“Because I heard [Diaper Diva] whisper that the dress might be slutty,” she said.

“Oh. She meant … sexy,” Smartmom said nervously, OSFO continued to stare at herself in the mirror and then pulled the dress over her head and reached for another hanger. And so it went, dress after dress.

“Nope,” she said pulling off a pink dress that looked utterly stunning. Finally, a white chiffon dress with faded flowers met her approval. “I’ll need the right shoes,” she said.

But still she persevered. A half-hour later, the room was awash in inside-out dresses as a half-naked girl surveyed the mess.

“I like these two,” she said, picking two out of the pile. “One for the wedding. One for the dinner party the night before.” Where she got the idea that there might be a dinner party the night before is anyone’s guess. She’s probably right.

Truth is, she selected the two most perfect dresses — and the sexy tutu wasn’t even in the running.

No big fights, no fits, no yelling matches. Once the dresses were selected, OSFO tried on every pink shoe in the shoe department and settled on a pair of jeweled slides. As they waited to pay for their booty, Smartmom and Diaper Diva reached their department store saturation point and were in dire need of double mocha latte frappucchino macciatos and a similarly sized Advil. Still, Smartmom was proud of her girl. That OSFO, she thought. She sure knows what she wants and she’s damn good at finding it.


Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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