What not to wear to your high school reunion, or how Nordstrom saved the day

Having not gone to my 10 year high school reunion, I was excited for my 20th. I really had no idea what to expect. And clearly, I had no idea what to wear either.

I could blame my clothing debacle on several things: 1) My friend Stacy, who told me how at her reunion all the women were dressed in jeans and tank tops; 2) The fact that two months after having a baby, my clothing options were limited – I can only fit into a few of my pre-pregnancy clothes, and definitely not the cute ones; 3) Baby brain.

My husband would tell you it was probably the latter. As he told me later when he saw what I was wearing: “I was wondering what you were thinking wearing that!”

Now don’t get all excited – I wasn’t wearing something ridiculous like stuffing my post-baby belly and big boobs in some tight-fitting, low-cut, slutty dress, or something crazy like a pink tu-tu and bustier. I still had somewhat of a brain after baby. No, it was really much more simple and benign – I was dressed like I was going out to dinner in Tahoe. Which basically means super casual.

I was wearing jeans, a white peasant shirt (mind you, I think it’s cute), and – in this my baby brain did kick in for I had forgotten to bring cute shoes – my Chaco sandals. To my credit, I had accessorized with long earrings and a necklace.

But clearly, I had not gotten the memo about the reunion dress code.

I showed up to my friend Linda’s pre-party and the first thing I see are two guys getting out of their car dressed in suits with their wives in nice dresses. “Well, won’t they be embarrassed that they’ve overdressed,” I thought to myself. I walk into the party. Everyone is in semi-formal attire. They are all dressed like they are going to a wedding. And then there’s me, Ms. Mountain Casual, wearing jeans and sandals.

I was completely mortified. How did I not know that you were supposed to dress up for a reunion???? Why did everyone but me know this??? It was almost like that scene in “Legally Blond” where Reese Witherspoon shows up to the non-costume party in a Playboy Bunny outfit. OK, so not quite that bad, but you get the picture.

After the pre-party, I run back to the hotel to nurse the baby. Siig tells me I need to go shopping. “You can’t go to the reunion dressed like that!” Great, where were you when I was packing?? It’s  7:30 pm. The reunion started at 7.  I make a decision. After speed nursing and a little pumping, I kiss the kids and hubbie good-bye and make a mad dash for the mall across the street. I run into the mall and ask the first person I see, a security guard, what’s still open. It looks like my choice is between Macy’s and Nordstrom. (Dam, Anthropology, why couldn’t you stay open late night???)

I run like a crazy woman to Nordstrom. The sign on the door says they close at 8. I have 15 minutes to find me a new outfit. I burst through the doors, take the escalator two stairs at a time (bemoaning the fact that I am not wearing a jogging bra), and run to the women’s section. Where do I start? I tell myself not to panic. I can do this. I start flipping through clothes on the racks in the  Junior section, where I used to shop in high school. Who am I kidding???? No body who just had a baby can fit into any of these clothes! I need help. I need a personal shopper. Then I see her. Like a shark eyeing an innocent baby seal, I pounce on a young girl behind the counter: “You’ve got to help me!” I say breathlessly. “I have to go to a party that’s already started. I’m totally wearing the wrong thing. I don’t know my size because I just had a baby. I can’t wear anything tight around the belly. I want something cute but kind of funky.  I have 15 minutes. GO!”

The girl looks shell-shocked for a minute, then she sprang into action. This was the moment, the challenge, she had been waiting for, after all. Between the two of us, I manage to find a pair of black pants and a fancy tank top. They are totally not me, but they would have to do. I rush out of the dressing room in the new clothes, my old clothes crumpled, like the scum they are, in my hands. I need shoes. Fast.

I thank my shopper and then bounded, barefoot, down the escalator and repeat my spiel to a cute shoe salesman who doesn’t know what hit him. I don’t really like any of the shoes, nor their price tags, but by the third pair he brings me I don’t care anymore. They fit, they had a heel that was not too high and not too short, and they a were bright, patent red. They got the job done.

My bill comes to $260. But it doesn’t matter. I will be returning everything in the morning.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know about Nordstrom’s clothing lending policy? Well, yes, it’s quite like renting a movie or a library book – you just “borrow” the clothes and as long as they are in good shape with the tags still on, you return everything the next day! I actually did this once before, in high school, for a New Year’s Eve party. Guess I haven’t changed much in 20 years.

Back to my story. So I run like a bat out of hell out of Nordstrom, carrying my new shoes in my hands so as not to scuff them, and jump in my car. I am so pumped up that I drive out of my parking space straight over one of those cement curbs designed to prevent that very action, a light goes on on my dashboard alerting me to some sort of damage – but I don’t care. I have a reunion to go to, for christ’s sake! And I finally got me my fancy new clothes and I’m ready for a cocktail.

I arrive at the reunion, run barefoot to the front door of the restaurant, and slip on my new shoes. Later, in the girls’ bathroom, a friend says, “Melissa, one of your tags is still on your shirt. Do you want me to rip it off?”

“NO!” I scream, whirling around to avoid the hands reaching for the tag. “It’s just a loaner!”

The whole night, I manage never to get spilled on or drop any food on my new clothes. The next day, I return everything without a hitch. $260 right back on my credit card.

You think Nordstrom’s “lending program” applies to children’s clothes? My kids need pants.