vintage shopping

Vintage shopping in DC?

Next week, I’m heading to Washington DC for a tradeshow. I’ve never been to DC but have heard wonderful things about it. I’ll get in on a Saturday and leave on Thursday… while I’ll be busy at the tradeshow most of the time, I always like to have a plan in case I have some unexpected free time to slip away.

Retro Roadmap doesn’t have any listings for vintage shopping in DC, so I’m on my own to find the hot spots. Janey of Atomic Redhead has tons of great finds from Buffalo Exchange–there are two shops in the DC area; I hope to be able to scope out at least one. Whichever is closer to the Convention Center.

Any recommendations?

Map of DC, copyright Lonely Planet.

Map of DC, copyright Lonely Planet.

pencil skirt

The pencil skirt problem

I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t have some characteristic she perceives as a barrier to finding clothes that fit. No matter how envious others are of her figure, every gal’s got at least one thing that makes it hard for her to buy flattering clothes.

You know what I’m talking about. Think of your own dressing room mantra. “My boobs are too big-too small-I don’t have a waist-my legs are too long-I hate my arms-I’m too short…” whatever.  A coworker who resembles Jessica Simpson swears she has cankles. (I can neither confirm nor deny this, as I haven’t seen her ankles in the 8 months we’ve worked together.) We’ve all got SOMETHING.


From bottom of bra band to natural waist: 6 inches

I have three such characteristics:

  • a long torso
  • epic hips
  • shelf ass.

Note that I didn’t call them figure flaws. I don’t consider my butt, hips, or long torso flaws–I prefer to think of them as traits that contribute to my appeal, yet make shopping difficult.

We’ll start with the long torso. Most dresses look Empire waisted on me. Waistlines usually hit at the bottom of my rib cage, a good 2-3 inches above my natural waist. Anything high-waisted minimizes the look of the long torso: good.

But then there are the hips. With an 11 inch difference between waist and hips, things that fit my hips generally gap at the waist. I haven’t found a good tailor yet, so my options are limited.

Finally: shelf-ass. When I played roller derby, my teammates joked that you could balance a drink on that thing. It sticks out even now, almost two years after I retired from the rink.

In addition to The Powder Keg, I work a full-time day job doing B-to-B marketing for a high-tech company. At work, I want to come across as intelligent, polished and professional. Not Va-va-VOOM. A pencil skirt that accentuates my backside can push me over the line, even if the rest of my outfit stays conservative.

Next week, I’m slated to attend my company’s global sales meeting.

And I’ve recently worn out all my black or gray pencil skirts. By “worn out” I mean torn, shrunk, faded, outgrown or otherwise rendered unwearable.


Naturally, this revelation didn’t occur until it was too late to order online from Heartbreakeror one of the other places whose sizing works for me. Double ugh. So yesterday, I went to the mall on my lunch break. I hit the dressing room with three black pencil skirts. One: too tight all over. Two: too big in the waist. Three: do they have this in a smaller size? Looks like the proportions are right, but this one is just too big.

pencil skirt

Next go-round, four more skirts. (No, they didn’t have option three in a smaller size.) Four: Squishing hips. Do they have this in a larger size? (No.) Five: this isn’t even a pencil skirt, this is A-line, and it looks frumpy. Six: Um, maybe. If I don’t eat and wear super-control top hose. Which I hate. Dang. Seven: This is another A-line, but it’s not bad. I really need a pencil skirt though. This could be cute, but it’s not what I came here for. Hit the racks again.

At last: Two more skirts. The same skirt in two different colors and IT FITS. High waist, no gap, enough curve to accommodate hips and butt without looking indecent. Just past the knee, not too tight or too loose, and only $25 each. Mission accomplished. AMEN.

When I got back to work, I emailed my friend Bernadette a link to the skirt online. Her response: “model looks shapeless. I’ll have to see it over your ass.” So we got together for lunch today where she validated my opinion that this was a good skirt for me. Pardon the background, the parking lot offered limited options for photos.

I’m pleased with my purchases and can see myself getting a ton of wear out of these two skirts. So, what characteristics make it difficult for you to find flattering pencil skirts? Maybe we can source great fits for different shapes or concerns. And remember–they’re characteristics, ladies. Not figure flaws. When you try on a shoe that doesn’t fit, you think, this shoe doesn’t fit me. Not OMG I’m a whale. Try to start thinking that way about clothes. There’s not something wrong with you, or even something wrong with the skirt. You’re just not made for each other. So when you DO find that perfect pencil skirt, you’ll appreciate it even more.