So, when last I had updated, I was on my way to the Fashion District to visit start-up designer Monif C's shop to purchase one of her convertible infinity dresses. I ended up buying her ruched Marilyn model in a gorgeous shade of purple, thus using all of my early birthday money from Christian. (He told me not to spend it all in one place, but I think I did...) The link above doesn't seem to have the purple model, which I believe was a leftover from a previous season, so here's my own somewhat less effective picture (I'll add some selfies in several different variations later on):
From there, I eventually headed to Mood Fabrics together with a friend from college who now lives in NYC. There I acquired enough of a lovely pinkish wool blend knit to make a slightly more upscale hoodie, enough silk jersey in a sort of raspberries 'n' cream tie-dyed look to make a summer dress, and enough of a black and white Missoni knit to make myself a skirt! I figure, hey, Missoni doesn't make clothes in my size, but since they sell their fabrics on the bolt, I may as well make my own! However, they sell their fabrics for $40 a yard, which is why I'm making a skirt instead of a whole dress, which is the more traditional Missoni format. (Hmm... though it occurs to me, if I could find a complementary print or a nice solid, I could make a dress similar in cut to the one featured in this fashion blog post.)
The next day, I went to Bloomingdale's, the big one on 59th and Lexington. I have to say: if you're a plus-size woman in North America (or just planning to head to NYC), and you have money to spend, go here. I will not go so far as to say it was my dream shopping experience, but it's as close to it as I can ever recall getting. The plus-size section (still called "Woman's", which is pleasant but inaccurate) occupies about a quarter of the fifth floor, with half going to home furnishings and another quarter going to evening wear. (Deviation from Dream #1: My dream shopping experience would be a place with the whole floor of a department store that size.) It had virtually no lingerie (and the lingerie section on 4th had very little in my size), though I did get two tops from a shapewear brand called Yummie Tummie, one I hadn't heard of before (think Spanx for your upper half). (Deviation from Dream #2: My dream shopping experience would have a quarter of that whole floor devoted to lingerie, both everyday and special occasion with a nice sprinkling of naughty girl, as well as sleepwear and exercise clothes.)
I get the distinct impression their sales staff is either entirely or partially on commission, given the way they (very politely!) glom onto you when you enter the department, offer to open a fitting room for you, and put their card in a holder by the fitting room. I had the assistance of a lovely older Peruvian lady named Fanny, so if you go there, look for the short cap of bright red curls, or ask for her by name. My only gripe, about the sales staff in general, not about Fanny in particular: only one of the sales associates in the department looked to be of an actual plus-size nature. This is especially tragic and wasteful on the store's part, as I saw at least two or three down in the lingerie department. (Deviation from Dream #3: My dream shopping experience would have a shop staffed exclusively by fabulous fat-shionistas.)
The Bloomingdale's Women section carried the following brands: Ralph Lauren Woman, Calvin Klein Woman, Jones New York Woman, Tahari Woman, MICHAEL Michael Kors, and Eileen Fisher (which features several garments with organic fibers!). The Bloomingdale's online shop carries a few other brands as well. (Deviation from Dream #4: My dream shopping experience would have TONS of different designers and styles represented in the shop, hence needing to be housed in a space at least as large as an entire floor of a Bloomie's-sized department store.) I was pleased to see that so many of their lines were plus-size extensions of name-brand designers, as SO FEW designers do this. From what I could see from my peeks onto the 3rd floor, at least some of the Woman collections featured the same garments as the mainstream size collections, just larger (I was about ready to have a fit at Michael Kors for his tops being all baggy and shapeless, until I realized that his regular collection looked that way, too).
Major complaint: TOO MUCH F'ING POLYESTER! There were SO many dresses and tops that were just gorgeous to look at, but as soon as I touched them or read the fiber tag, my heart sank. Admittedly, there was one top that was so silk-like to the touch that it had me fooled until I read the tag, which speaks volumes about what really, really good polyester can be like; however, most designers don't use really, really good polyester. Most designers use mediocre or crap-level polyester, and way too much of it. (Deviation from Dream #5: Any designers trying to slip polyester into my dream store would be given a stern talking to, and strong encouragement of the "or else we won't sell your clothes here anymore" variety to discontinue their use of polyester.)
The one exception here was Ralph Lauren Woman. Almost everything was in natural fibers, or natural blends with very small portions of synthetics. For example: I got a wonderful pair of jeans, which were 98% cotton 2% elasthane! They were $75, but I've paid more in Europe for jeans I liked less. They seem to be a good, solid denim, and I have high hopes about how they'll wear (I frequently achieve inner-thigh blowout in less than a year). They're a bit higher-waisted than is currently fashionable (which I prefer), but straight-legged rather than tapered, so as not to be the prototypical Mom Jeans. (If I hadn't spent so blasted much already, I'd be tempted to order two more pairs from the Ralph Lauren website, have them shipped to my mom, and have her bring them with her when she visits in August, as they're currently on sale for $30 on the website!)
And this gorgeous sheath dress from Jones New York Collection Plus:
Here's me trying it on in a 22, which was too big:
And here's the 18 (!) I actually bought it in, a bit wrinkled from being in my suitcase, I'm afraid:
I truly love service staff who go the extra mile and take pride in their work, which Fanny clearly does. Even though it was obvious from my accent that I'm American, we had enough friendly conversation that she learned that I live out of country. Since I could produce ID of foreign origin, she popped down to the Visitor's Center to get me the voucher for 10% off all purchases, and complimentary Bloomingdale's tote bag (not in the style of the classic Brown Bag, but very nice nevertheless).
Truly, by this point, I was tired of clothes shopping, and what little remaining shopping-oriented energy I had went into books. On the last day of our stay, the morning before our flight, Christian and I popped by Macy's just for the sake of seeing it. I have to say, I wasn't all that impressed. Sure, it's big, and the plus-size section occupies about a third of its floor. It carries most of the brands that Bloomingdale's carries. But the additional brands it carried seemed to be the usual assortment of "meh", "ugly", and "grandmotherly" that makes me want to scream and tear my hair out when I shop for plus-sizes. As far as I could glean from brief observation, the salespeople seemed dramatically less helpful, and the overall impression I had of the store was just nowhere near as pleasant as my impression of Bloomingdale's. So, obviously, I didn't buy anything at Macy's, not even an ice cream from their Ben & Jerry's scoop shop, since Christian had been there a previous day, had said it was the slowest ice cream shop he'd ever been to, and we were in a hurry.
All in all, I have to count myself as pretty pleased with my New York shopping experience, disappointments notwithstanding. I came back with some great clothes, some clothes cheap enough to make up for being not-so-great, and some fabric from which great clothes can and will be constructed. Although it left me with fairly overwhelming sensory overload, I really loved NYC, and I can't wait to have the money and opportunity to visit again! (Next time, more theater!)