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sad woman

The first dressing room I remember was at Hudson’s, a Detroit-based department store where middle-class people in my town went to get things that were “nice.” It was the place where my mother bought me overalls and hair bows, where she bought herself high-heeled shoes displayed like pastries on wooden pedestals.

On those shopping trips, my mother would gather a pile of clothes, hunting and pecking her way through the various women’s departments. We both loved this part. For me, the initial search on a shopping trip is when optimism is at its peak, the time when all the garments on offer might actually fit, when they still might actually look good. It is during the second act of the shopping experience when it all goes awry.

My mother, always so neat and thoughtful, hung up her garments before changing out of her own clothes. She had once worked in a Hudson’s, and so was aware of all the perpetual folding and steaming that the saleswomen had to do. She unfurled each pair of new pants, stepped inside...