My Coworker’s Compliment MIGHT Be a Bit Back-Handed…?

My Coworker's Compliment MIGHT Be Back-Handed
So then…I push open the doors to the hotel pool and see that some of my co-workers also took our boss’ advice to relax a bit before we need to be at the conference dinner tonight.

I’m only 22, so I can hardly believe my good fortune that I have a job that allows sipping cocktails poolside – I’m literally giddy!

As I enter the hotel pool area in my navy blue one-piece, one of my co-workers says, “Oh, that’s a pretty swimsuit, Darcy.”

I grin broadly, sort of surprised at the compliment because that co-worker happens to be a girl my age who hasn’t been very welcoming in the past. She comes from money and an Ivy League education and she’s always acted sort of snooty toward me and my small town background.

So I stop in front of her lounge chair and smile happily with a genuine, “Thanks, Cheryl!”

She smirks with a side glance to her friend and says, “Yeah, I remember it being pretty when I first saw it. It’s from last season, right?”

I am thunderstruck.

Not because she’s rude.

But because it just now hits me: swimsuits have SEASONS?

I shuffle off to a lounge chair in a daze. I know I’m not exactly sophisticated, but it never occurred to me that clothes have SEASONS. Is there an EXPIRATION date for clothing?

As I lay out my towel and lay down, I think back on what my mama taught me about fashion:

1) Trends and fads come and go, so buy “classics” that you can wear forever.
2) Buy your clothes a little loose so they can last a long time even when you grow.
3) Take good care of your clothes so you can pass them on to your younger siblings.
4) Style and color are secondary to a great sale price!

So our entire buying strategy was based on the hope that our clothes would last practically FOREVER! The concept that a perfectly-usable garment would only be good for one season, then tossed aside and replaced with a new garment was literally MIND-BOGGLING.

We chose dark colors, classic styles, and larger sizes so we could wear our clothes for years! We practically looked like cast members of Fiddler on the Roof!

We knew not to even ask for whatever the latest trend was – tye-dyed bell bottoms, hip huggers, that burgundy-wine color everyone was suddenly wearing one winter, or whatever.

My closet was basically filled with conservative clothes fit for a funeral parlor – with the occasional wacky item from the mark-down clearance bin.

For example, as a high schooler, I wore a bushy ORANGE winter coat. Not a hipster so-retro-it’s-cool “burnt umber” winter coat. It was a HIDEOUS OMIGOD-WHAT-THE-HELL-IS-SHE-WEARING FLAMING-ORANGE COAT.

I’d walk down the school hallway, weaving in and out of my classmates’ black and brown coats like I was a Neon Orange Traffic Cone! A BIG sale. And so I wore that coat proudly.

I rub suntan lotion on my arms and look over at Cheryl and the other girl giggling and gossiping. Their swimsuits look adorable but I literally have no concept if they’re from this season or last season or from 17 seasons ago. Who’s able to keep track of such things?

I put on my sunglasses and think back to an afternoon when I was about 10 years old, back in Louisiana. My Mom came into my room and laid out two shirts on the bed. They looked the same – two blue short-sleeve shirts. She said, “One of these cost $6.99 at Kmart and one of these cost $19.99 at Dillard’s Department Store. Can you guess which is which?”

I studied and studied those shirts. I touched the material. I compared the colors. But they were practically identical.

“I can’t tell the difference,” I said.

My Mom looked me straight in the eye and said, “Exactly!”

Lesson learned, my friend, lesson learned. Talk about a great visual!

And so our family of 7 shopped at Kmart, Target, and Wal-Mart – with the occasional splurge at Dillard’s Department Store for special events.

And we were happy! We weren’t worried if our clothes had “expired” or they weren’t “labelled” by a fancy designer. We were just delighted not to be walking around nekkid!

So I’m certainly not going to let Cheryl shame my “dated” swimsuit now. I sit up, grin at Cheryl and her pal, then proudly sashay my ass over to the bar to order a cocktail and chat up the hot bartender.

— Darcy Perdu

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(What did your mama teach you about clothes, shopping, and sales when you were a kid? Any mortifying garments you recall from your childhood or teen years? P.S. While typing this, I’m wearing expired clothing RIGHT NOW!)

EXTRA P.S. For another funny fashion faux pas, check out this VERY embarrassing thing I said to a co-worker! 

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72 replies on “My Coworker’s Compliment MIGHT Be a Bit Back-Handed…?

  1. Arionis said:

    It was a huge insult in my school when someone accused you of wearing K-Mart blue light specials. And, oh yea, I also rocked the Sears Toughskin jeans too!

    • Ha! Sears jeans! Love it! Sears — where you can shop for your prom dress AND power tools all at the same time!

  2. Screw those girls. I’m always reminded of a Chuck Paluhniak quote when I hear stories like this – “You work a job you hate to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.”

    Only you do like your job and you don’t care if you impress anyone so you’ve won!

    Also? The people who truly matter neither know nor care if your clothes in season. xo

    • Love that Paluhniak quote!!
      And I agree the people who really matter don’t care about your clothes!
      And the person who really matters prefers you without clothes anyway! :o)

  3. Paul said:

    Ha! Such a humorous post Darcy. My parents were the same way as yours – the whole concept of anything being seasonal or fashionable did not even occur to me until I too was in my 20’s or even older. If it was solid, clean and functional, then it was defined as “good”. Your story of the bright orange coat brought back memories of my first new car. When I got my license I inherited the old family station wagon and I was proud (although it was 8 years old). I drove it (with breaks for repairs) for 3 years until I could afford a little new car. I went shopping with my Dad and we found this bright orange Chevette at a dealer that was new but the previous year’s model. Someone had apparently ordered it and then abandoned the poor little car on sight. For a year it had sat and offered its services to anyone who wished to look, but no one would take it home. It was sad and unwanted. Until I arrived. It was perfect for what I needed (to get to university and back) and the price was right. So, that milestone in every young person’s life – their first new car- was happily and proudly filled by my little bright orange Chevette left over from the last year and on sale. We had many happy years together until the day I bought a tractor trailer and left home to explore the world. My girlfriend, a young lass of Irish descent whose flaming orange hair matched the paint of the little Chevette, inherited my four wheeled friend. The two soon-to-be best friends, stood in the driveway and waved good-bye as I set out on my next adventure. The funny part? The tractor I had bought was used and bright orange – I got it for a good price.

    • Ha! Love this story, Paul! I could actually picture all that vibrant orange — the Chevette, the Irish lass, the tractor!
      My first car was ALSO orange! We 5 kids shared an old used station wagon to drive to school, but by the time my older brother and sister went off to college, that car died. So when it was my turn to drive my little brother and sister to school, our family bought an old used Pinto that was ORANGE! But I didn’t care, because a Pinto is infinitely cooler than a station wagon! Me and my orange coat happily drove that orange Pinto all over town!

      • Connie Conehead said:

        I remember that Pinto! And, if it’s any consolation, I don’t remember the orange coat!

        • We did have some good times tooling around town in that little Pinto, right?

  4. Lynn N. said:

    When I was in junior high, baggy overalls and flannel over-shirts became trendy. I begged my mom to buy me an outfit like that so I would look cool. Her response, “If you want to look like a farmer, go on out and plant us a garden first.” As a pre-teen the very idea of doing manual labor was beneath me, so I was left wearing boring clothes.
    Let’s hope that style never comes back!

  5. You are so funny. And I never knew until TODAY that swimsuits were seasonal. If you wait until September you can buy a dozen for the price of one and a dozen can keep you water worthy for years. I say if you are able to slip the same swimsuit over your ass that you bought five years ago, you are a winner, no matter what season it came from unless of course your ass was super gigantic five years ago.

    • Great point, Millie! If the outfit still fits after a season, that’s a WIN! :o)

  6. I once had a conversation with a much younger co-worker in which she mentioned seeing something really cool at the thrift store (while shopping for a Halloween costume). She said she almost bought it, but she wasn’t sure how to sanitize it!?! Then she admired my skirt. I held back and didn’t tell her it had been $1.00 on half-off day at the THRIFT STORE!!
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted..Stages of Motherhood as Told Through Movie TitlesMy Profile

    • Love it! It’s so much cooler to feel proud about a bargain we scored, rather than bragging about a designer label!
      My friend G dresses impeccably and whenever she’s complimented, she’s delighted to say “$12 bucks at Ross Dress for Less!” or “$18 at Ross for the whole outfit!” She has amazing style and can spot those one-of-a-kind finds at places like Ross!

  7. Caitlin said:

    I was the oldest child, so not only did those rules apply, but the hand-me-downs had to be gender-neutral. One of my biggest complaints was having to wear BOYS long underwear in the winter. That way, it could be passed down to both my brothers and my sisters. All I wanted was a pair without a fly and maybe with butterflies or bunnies on them, but my parents were cruel. Of course, by the time they had my youngest brother, they were a lot more laid back, and he pretty much wore whatever hadn’t worn out after being passed down through 6 kids.

    • Although, you must admit, Caitlin, that it’s probably better for YOU to deal with plain boring long underwear, than to make your BROTHERS endure your hand-me-downs of long johns emblazoned with butterflies and bunnies! HA! And bless your youngest brother for hand-me-downs from SIX kids! He’s lucky to be clothed at all!

  8. Judy P said:

    I have a coworker who works weekends at name brand store in the mall. She is always giving me clothes. She says it is to make room in her closet but I suspect she is trying to drag me into a more fashionable life.

    My clothing horror story is we moved from Ohio to Arizona the summer before I was to start junior high (when kids-in my day-start noticing that stuff). I had a growth spurt so my old stuff was too small but I wore it anyway, not having anything else, belly and ass cheeks hanging out. My mother had a myriad of excuses to not buy me clothes. Let’s get settled in our house first, let’s wait and see what kids in AZ are wearing, it’s summer anyway, let’s wait for back to school time, let’s get new draperies first… the neighbor lady took pity on me and gave me her daughter’s old clothes. From the 70’s This was the 80’s. I had red plaid bell bottoms and a red and white striped polo style shirt (and a little clip on koala bear). I thought I was the bomb in 1980 as I went to my first day of school. This new kid was not welcomed with open arms. That’s when I learned about fashion. A couple of months later my mom took me to Sears for those sturdy basic un-stylish back to school clothes. Those weren’t popular either but at least no one poked fun.

    • Oh Judy, I’m dying over the red-plaid bell bottoms and polo shirt — with CLIP-ON KOALA BEAR!! That’s amazing!
      Those Arizonians just didn’t appreciate your eclectic style!
      At least your mom didn’t follow the Sound of Music plan and use the old draperies to make you clothes!

  9. Bill Mesker said:

    Ah good ol’ K-Fart, The Big Red Bulls-eye (Target) and Wal-Fart.. You can always find good deals on stuff at any of these wonderful stores!

  10. Julie said:

    I want to give you a smart assed comeback one liner for the lovely Cheryl. I want to so badly. but while I was searching around in my head for the perfect reply I realized this wasn’t yesterday, and you probably don’t even know where Cheryl is today. I mean besides shopping for this year’s fashion in swimwear. Really? (apparently I am not much of a fashionista)

    • she’s probably at a Botox party showing off her new calf implants and discussing her recent purchase of a coveted handbag made of baby seal fur…

  11. Renee said:

    Oh my goodness I am SO glad I read this post!!! I am going on vacation in August and have already tried on my bathing suit to make sure it fits…it does..but I bought it for my honeymoon….TWENTY SIX YEARS AGO!!! I just bought a cute skirt to go over it. Golly do you think it’s out of style??? hahaha

    • Renee, if you can still FIT into a swimsuit you bought 26 years ago, you are my NEW HERO!!!
      In fact, I wouldn’t even try to pretend that swimsuit is from “this season” —
      I’d be wearing a sign that says, “I bought this 26 seasons ago and it STILL fits! Hollah!”

      • Renee said:

        It does fit but it must have been REAL stretchy cause I am NOT the same size as I was back

  12. Exactly just like our mom taught us! Even until now I would not buy new clothes even when my friends tease me about wearing the same shirt over and over again. What is wrong with that? At least I am not naked, right?

    Sometimes pricey clothes and dresses is soooo ridiculous, my grandma would say “Hey. I can sew my blanket and it would look just like that dress.” Haha!

    And one more thing. You know I wear hijab, and you can find some of the hijabs here like $300 a piece when you can get it for $3 at the night market! And the material is the same, I tell you.

    I can’t understand girls. Hahahahaha.

    • $3 vs. $300? Yikes! Sign me up for the $3 please!
      Your grandma sounds so funny! I bet she could make a great dress from a blanket!

  13. William Kendall said:

    Cheryl sounds like a delightful person. And by delightful I mean the sort who, if she were on fire and we had a glass of water, we’d drink the water.

    • LOL! I’ve never heard that expression before — that is hilarious!!

      • Julie said:

        That expression has been stored. can’t wait for the chance to use it! That and “oh for the love of my first dead dog”

        • ha! I haven’t heard that one either! very colorful!

    • Ha, thanks, Roshni! I FELT like a bad-ass when I was wearing it!

  14. Oh, yes. We were the discount-shopping, hand-me-down people. I still pride myself in being able to get things on the cheap and for discounts, but for also being able to make them look like they weren’t cheap.
    Mercy recently posted..Leaving Chennai, part 3 – Final RoundupMy Profile

    • Exactly! Discounted clothes don’t need to look cheap — you can still look like a million bucks (for just $14.99!) :o)

  15. I STILL shop that same way, loose-fitting and classic colors that never come IN style, so they won’t go OUT of style :)
    I used to hate fashion “trends” but now I’m grateful for shiny magazines and people like Cheryl who fall for the marketing gimmicks each season, without those suckers I would have a lot less to choose from at Goodwill and resale shops! hahaha I LOVE “last season” it’s totally my look! (and 17 seasons ago.)
    Joy Christi recently posted..Failure To Launch: Motivating Young AdultsMy Profile

    • love it — clothes that “never come IN style so they won’t go OUT of style!” hilarious!

  16. I’m not going to lie…my children wear a name brand. Because my kids are long and skinny…if I buy a 5t when they are 2? Depending on the style they can wear it until they are 8. My Daughter has pants that were baby pants, but are so well made, she rocks them as shorts now (she has no butt) But as far as the name brand? I bought PJ pals 7 years ago at the Disney Store (mickey mouse, buzz and incredibles) that she rocked for 4 years, and now her 3 year old brother rocks them. But, I know how to take advantage of their sales. Sometimes a little bit better quality at a reduced price really is the way to go. (Which is also why I shop at bullseye over the other two)

    • Good point, Meredith! Sometimes the quality clothes are worth the price if they last longer. I used to stalk the Gymboree sales because their clothes are so soft and last long enough for hand-me-downs, so I loved scoring their clothes at the bargain sales prices!

  17. Jen said:

    I hate when people make fun of clothes though I am not the most fashionable but if you want a great deal on swimsuits all year long when your cute blue one is ready to be retired try amazing deals and discounts for all shapes and sizes!

    • Exactly! I don’t get people who feel better about themselves by making other people feel bad!

  18. I grew up in an age of Geranimals and velour. There is no picture of me from my childhood that does not leave me embarrassed about my clothes (although the “The Tin Grin is In” TShirt from my 6th grade picture might take the prize).

    If I have ever in my life worn a piece of clothing from “this season”, I would be shocked.

    • LOVE velour! It’s such an accommodating fabric for all my lumps and bumps — and so shiny!!

  19. I remember that cattiness at high school but I can’t imagine that someone would do that at a corporate event. Well I guess I could, but I was so happy that I was living on my own and paying my own bills I thought it was amazing that I had clothes!! Lol! Great post, as always!!
    Kathy Radigan recently posted..The Moments That MatterMy Profile

    • Yes, it was so cool to finally be on our own and pay our own way with money we had earned! Such a great feeling!

  20. My bathing suit is at least five years old. Maybe older. I’ve worn the same suit for Easter for almost as long. Buy classic.

    My father’s sister was about as catty as your co-worker. My mother told me several times about a remark Aunt Joyce made. “What a lovely dress. I always did like that one – even when you were single.” Meow. Mind you, my parents were married in September 1941, and by December 1942 you wore what you had and thought yourself lucky, because civilian clothing was hard to come by.

    BTW, is Cheryl the same gal who called you “Laura Ashley”?

    • Lady Anne, I love you for remembering my Laura Ashley story! Cheryl is actually a different coworker at that company. Very style-conscious employees there!

  21. Swimsuits DO have seasons. It’s called summer. Cheryl is a serious beotch, and not just because her name is Cheryl.

    She would hate to know how many seasons old my suits are. She would also hate to know they came from Kohl’s on clearance.

    • Ha! Yes! The season is called “summer!” Love that!!

  22. I knew there was a reason I adored you right away when we met—-we were raised the same! Honestly, I did grow up in an affluential family, but my mom came from a poor family and never forgot her roots. She taught us how to word hard, scrimp and save for what we wanted. She had the EXACT same rules about clothing that your mom did, and I still abide by them. I’m appalled at how kids nowadays spend a fortune on clothes, then toss them aside 6 months later because they’re “old.” Hell, I’m still wearing underwear I bought in 2006! And when clothes get too old to wear, you cut them into scraps for household cleaning rags or use them in a patchwork quilt. Although I do NOT plan on using my old underwear for any of these things…..

    • That’s so funny! My mom would do the same thing — rip up old clothes for cleaning rags!
      In fact, we still tease my older sister for being so mad when she found her beloved white jean shorts (that my mom deemed “too sexy” for a teen girl to wear) all cut up into rags in the laundry room! It was the “Noooooooooooo!” heard ’round the world! Ha!

  23. Bea said:

    I totally had a Cheryl in my life. Through middle school, I went to a private school with a very strict uniform policy, which meant that outfit choices for school dances or any other occasion on which we got to dress up were an even bigger deal than that sort of thing usually is for middle school girls. Many of my classmates were very wealthy, and would have a new outfit for every event. I had a few nice outfits that I mixed and matched (that’s pretty much still how I roll). There was one girl in my class who would never fail to call me out if I wore something that she’d seen me wear anytime in the last two years. “Didn’t you wear that dress to the LAST dance?” she would say in an “oh-I’m-so-embarrassed-for-you” tone, as though telling me that my underwear was showing. Or, “You must really love those black shoes, you wear them to EVERYTHING.” I could laugh something like that off easily now, but at 12 it drove me crazy. I finally lost my temper after she saw me at a party in a shirt I had worn before and said, “Oh, I guess you didn’t get a chance to go shopping since the last party, huh?” I snapped back, “No, I didn’t, and I guess you didn’t get a chance to become any less of a bitch!” She left me alone after that :).

    • HA! Way to go! Glad you put her in her place!
      Your retort reminds me of that awesome line by Winston Churchill:
      When self-righteous Mrs. Braddock criticized Winston Churchill for being drunk, he said, “Yes, Mrs. Braddock, I am drunk. And you are ugly. But tomorrow morning, I will be sober.”

      • Bea said:

        I love that quote! And of course their other famous exchange: “Winston, if you were my husband, I’d put poison in your tea.” “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it!” :)

        • Oh, yes, I love that one too! That Churchill was hilarious!

  24. Demi said:

    Not going to lie — glad someone else went through something similar! I am 21 years old and I had no clue till last year that swimsuits had seasons. How much change can a one piece black swim suit change over the years is what I am wondering.

    • Exactly! I guess the clothing industry needs to perpetuate the myth that clothing goes “out of style” so people will buy more clothing!
      I’m surprised they haven’t started emblazoning the year the clothing was made right on the front of the clothing itself! If your clothes aren’t marked with “2014” then people would pity you. “Oh, did you see that girl walk by? Her sweater was from 2012! And her pants were (gasp) from 2009!!”

    • Ha! I could actually hear the Fiddler on the Roof cast singing along with your comment — TRADITION! :o)

  25. Jen said:

    You got to wear BOUGHT clothes? Spoiled! I would beg my mother for knickers bought from a shop but noooooo. She bought knickers as a present for when I went to birthday parties. And I’ve just realised why I didn’t get invited to very many. *facepalm*

    • Wow, your Mom certainly was thrifty! Knickers for a present!
      Reminds me of my friend whose birthday is 4 days after Christmas — when he was a kid, his grandparents gave him a right shoe on Christmas — then 4 days later on his birthday, they gave him — you guessed it! The left shoe! Bwahahaha!