Well okay, the boys can read this one too. But I wanted to give them fair warning that they might want to click elsewhere right now. I can picture my pal Dusty Rhoades suddenly shoving his fingers in his ears and chanting “La La La, I don’t wanna listen to this” when he finds out that this post is About Women’s Fashion, and has only a tenuous connection to books. But there is a connection. Sort of.
Those who know me know that I am, um, fashion challenged. As I type this, I’m in bare feet and wearing blue jeans, a cotton L.L. Bean shirt, and cotton underwear bought at Walmart. That’s my summertime outfit. In winter, I add a flannel shirt and socks, but otherwise it’s the Same Old Thing, seven days a week. I’m a stickler for comfort, plus I’m that dire combination of being both a Yankee and of Chinese descent. When it comes to thrift, no Scot could hold a candle to that.
But there comes a time in one’s life when one realizes one must evolve. And that moment came when I learned that TNT is sending me on the road to promote the new TV show “Rizzoli & Isles.” They are flying me out to Hollywood at the end of June to do what’s called a “junket,” where the cast and I will be available for interviews. That’s followed by public screenings of the pilot episode in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, and — egad — Times Square, NYC, where I will appear alongside Angie Harmon.
That’s when I decided to trawl through my closet to see what I might wear to these screenings. I discovered several things. First, that I still had half my high school wardrobe in there. I’m happy to report that most of it still fits, but still…
Not a single outfit I owned was Angie Worthy. I imagined myself onstage with the svelte and stylish Ms. Harmon as the audience titters: “Who’s that lumberjack in the flannel shirt standing next to her?”
Clearly I needed to go shopping, but I am probably the only woman in the world who can walk into Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC, spend six exhausting hours combing the racks, and find absolutely nothing that looks good on me. So, on the advice of friends, editor, and agent, all of whom heard the desperation in my voice, I did something I’d never dreamed of doing.
I made an appointment with a personal shopper.
A week before my planned trip to NYC for Book Expo, I spoke on the phone with a nice young woman named Danielle, a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman. She wanted to know my height, weight, measurements, age, coloring, and budget. Then she asked: “Which designers do you normally like to wear?”
“Does, um, L.L. Bean count?” I asked.
There was a silence. “What sort of occasion are you shopping for?” she asked.
“I need to look good!” I blurted. “I’m going to be onstage with Angie Harmon!”
“Oh dear,” she said. Probably thinking: Honey, you are so f***ed. But she cheerfully suggested a few designers and told me she’d have a nice selection picked out when I arrived.
A week later, I arrived at the Personal Shopping department of Bergdorf Goodman and was escorted to a giant private dressing room where Danielle and her assistant had about two dozen outfits waiting for me to try on. Since I don’t trust my own fashion sense, I wheedled my agent and editor into coming on the expedition with me, not realizing that we would all be in the same dressing room together. Where everyone would watch me strip down to my Walmart underwear.
Danielle zipped me into the first dress. From the moment I stepped into it, I thought: Oh my god, I love this one! And it fit like a glove. Ditto with the second dress. And the fourth. Without ever having laid eyes on me, Daneille had managed to choose just the right outfits, and to take all the pain out of the experience.
Within two hours, I bought four dresses, a sweater, and three pairs of shoes. Then a seamstress magically materialized and pinned a few nips and tucks where they were needed. Then it was all whisked away to be altered and shipped to my home.
I even came in under budget.
What did I learn from the experience?
I learned that inside the most diehard L.L. Bean girl lurks a wannabe fashionista. I learned that even I can wear big-girl high heels. And I learned that, when the occasion calls for it, yes, I can rise to meet any challenge.
Even when it means stripping for my editor.