Shopping for clothes was something I used to do pre-pandemic in between various errands: grocery run, dentist appointment, library, UPS store. I’d stride down the aisles of the nearest outlet shop: Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, DSW, Old Navy looking for the clearance rack and the red tags indicating further reductions. I had a list in my mind of a few things I was looking for and maybe I’d find them, or maybe I’d find something else—an irresistible bargain. The out-of-season tulle party dress for $10 or the leather sandals purchased in winter for $12 were some of my most memorable purchases. But then it all stopped, like everything else when the lock-down went into effect last spring in the United States. In person shopping became a distant memory as I realized I didn’t really need much of anything in the way of clothing. Blue jeans, pullover and sneakers were just fine for sitting in front of the computer and walking around the neighborhood.
What few things I did need could be purchased online. But I already knew that my staying current with fashion trends was irrelevant. As someone who was working from home when the coronavirus arrived on our shores, my bouts of shopping were more for the serotonin high than for clothing needed for office meetings or business trips.
Still, when my husband Peter suggested a trip to the outlet malls in neighboring Queen Anne’s county on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay bridge because he needed new blue jeans, I got excited. Foregoing the exchange of gifts between ourselves, it had been our tradition to go shopping at that particular mall the day after Christmas. The last time we’d been there had been December 2019.
On a sunny Saturday, a parking space was easy to find. I saw people masked and unmasked. Forty-four percent of all Marylanders have been fully vaccinated, last time I checked, and over fifty-five percent have received at least one dose. Signs posted at various stores gave varying instructions regarding mask protocols. All sales clerks wore masks and most customers did as well, even outside.
Inside the various establishments that included: Levis, Ralph Lauren Polo, Brooks Brothers, and Calvin Klein; stores were sparsely stocked. No rack of $15 dresses at Black and White Market meant I left buying nothing. At Eddie Bauer’s, however, I found a long red hoodie reduced from $68 to $12 and had to have it. Levis offered attractive savings when you purchased two pairs of jeans instead of one.
The feel good sensation of purchasing brand new piece of clothing gave me a charge. To be able to touch and handle items rather than judge them based on photographs was a privilege. As much as I try to stay grounded and practical, trying to recycle already purchased goods, it is still fun to spend money.
The United States economy is hoping we’ll all be spending money and the ugly truth is that things are going to get more expensive. Labor costs will continue to increase as we put the focus on more domestic production and start increasing the minimum wage. This summer, as long as the number of coronavirus infections continue to decrease, is a good time to go shopping. Enjoy the bargains while they last.