I'd driven the car to work, so I called Lut at about 3PM and asked if he minded if I went to the mall after work so I could shop for clothes.
"Can you pick me up first?"
"You want to come with me? I'm going shopping. For clothes."
"Well, how long are you going to take?"
"I don't know. I'm going shopping. For clothes. I really don't think you want to come."
"I can take you. I need to get a headset adaptor anyway."
" ... If that's what you want. You're sure?"
I finished up at work, and Lut and I headed off to the mall at about 4:45PM. We parked over by Sears. Lut and I agreed to split up immediately: he'd go get his adapter, then buy a book and wait for me in the food court. We didn't set a time; I almost suggested that we set a meeting time, just so he'd know a maximum time he'd have to wait, but I decided not to worry about it.
And thus, I embarked on the Great Slacks Shopping Expedition.
My criteria were fairly straightforward. I was looking for "dress slacks", For women, this is loosely defined as "no patch pockets, crease down front and back of legs, zipper on front or side". I also didn't want a stretch material -- nothing with a waistband that was obviously elasticized, and no drawstrings, either. They had to be machine-washable, too; I don't do dryclean. I prefered a flat front to pleated, but that was negotiable.
Lastly, I wanted pants that came to my waist.
I didn't think that finding professional slacks waist-length slacks would be the hardest part of this, but it was. Apparently, there's a huge number of business women out there who are eager to bare their belly button to the world. Or at least, the people who stock the mall shelves in Emerald City thinks so. (Sort of makes you wonder what business they think we're in.) I got to be really, really good at telling at a glance whether a pair of pants was a hip hugger or not, which was good because almost all of them were. One store I went into had a guide to their four styles of pants, which ranged from "hip hugger" to "may not be legal attire in your county, please check with local authorities before wearing in public".
And these were not jeans or hot pants for teenagers, either. No, I'm talking linen pantsuits with sober jackets and trousers that didn't cover the abdomen. What are they thinking?
My first foray through Sears was not too promising. I combed through the petite section and found several styles that I thought matched my criteria, until I tried them on and noticed the low waist- (really, hip-) line. One style had the right waist length, but it didn't have quite the right "look". It had the crease down the front, a side zipper, and came in conservative colors: black, grey, navy. But it was awfully stretchy and the size I tried on -- a 10 -- fit much too snugly. It wasn't that it was uncomfortable -- it was a lightweight stretchy fabric, so snugness didn't make it hard to breathe -- but it looked ... er. Painted-on, which is OK in jeans but not so good at work.
I gave up on the petites and wandered through the rest of the store. It turned out they had some more pants-for-short-people outside the petite section. After wasting time on a few more pairs with too-low waists, I latched on to a normal-waist, conservative fabric, size 10, short-leg, black pair of pants. They had a pleated front (well, nobody's perfect) and fit a bit more snugly than I wanted. OK, maybe I need a size 12.
They didn't have a size 12 in that style.
I gave up and set out for the rest of the mall.
One thing Sears had going for it was prices: most of their stock was in the $20 - $35 range, and tended towards the low end of that, which is quite reasonable for a non-discount store. (And their selection, for all the problems I had with it, was still WAY better than Super WalMart's).
I walked to the Jones Store at the far end of the mall, after skipping past several smaller clothes shops on the lower level that looked like teeny-bopper places. I almost stopped at Hot Topic for kicks, but decided to stick to my goal. Shopping is, I've come to realize, a lot more fun when you don't know what you want. When you know what you want, you have to dig through tons of stuff you don't want trying to find it. But when you don't know what you want -- hey, you could find it at any moment, in any given item. Much more relaxing.
The Jones Store was very nearly not worth walking into. Where something on the order of 75% of Sears stock had been hip-huggers, the Jones Store was more like 95%, and their typical price range was $30-$60, so even the rare find that wasn't hip-hugging was too expensive to be worth trying on.
I'd just about given up when I spotted, on a sale rack, the brand name that I'd tried on at Sears and they didn't have in size 12.
Well, they didn't have it in size 12 at the Jones Store, either.
But they did have a similar style that fit all right and didn't look bad. They only had black in my size/height, so I bought it and moved on.
I wandered back towards Sears, along the top level this time. I poked my nose into a few more small stores -- "Casual Corner", which has never sold what I'd call casual clothes but now sells hip-hugging pantsuits, whatever category those belong in -- and Lerners, which had individual names like "Audrey" and "Cassiope" for their hiphuggers. Nothing in any of them.
Dillard's was the mall's last anchor store, and not worth the trouble of walking into. I saw perhaps three styles that would have suited my criteria, none of which were priced at a $100.
I went back to Sears.
I tried on the too-stretchy pants in a size 12, decided I didn't care that they looked sort of casual and bought pairs in navy, grey, and black. I also got the nicely-styled size 10 pants (they're comfortable enough, they just don't look quite right at that size) and scrounged up a pair of blue size 12s in that style. That put me at 6 pairs, one over my goal, even if you assume that none of my existing slacks counted. I handed over my credit card and left, triumphant, for the food court. Total damage for all 6 pairs, including tax, was about $150.
In the meantime, Lut had bought his adapter, discovered that the mall didn't have a bookstore, went across the street to Barnes & Noble, bought a book, came back to the food court, eaten dinner, started his book, finished his book, waited for a while, wandered up to the camera shop to see if they sold lens pens, come back to the food court, waited some more, bought some more food, waited some more, and was thinking of going back to the book store again when I showed up.
Me: "You got a Myth book? C'mon, you could've bought something more substantial."
Lut: "I didn't know I'd have time to read War and Peace."
We went home.
But hey, I have pants now!