Shopping at the New Jersey Clothing Factories Led to a Life of Power Shopping

26 May

My sister and I can be power shoppers. We can go to a sales rack in most stores and find something wonderful. Others are sometimes amazed by our accurate determination of what would look good even when it is on the hanger. It is a talent we inherited from our Mom, the queen of power shoppers.

When we grew up in New Jersey, there were no true outlet stores or factory outlet stores to be exact. But there were major clothing factories nearby. And as a perk to New Jersey teachers, several times each year, the teachers were presented special cards that allowed them to shop in the factory stores. These stores were usually reserved for employees and were filled with items that were not quite perfect.

For my sister and I, it was like magic shopping at the factories with our Mom. Our two favorites were Trousers Up and Evan Picone.

These expeditions were a women event only. Dad and my brother would stay home. My sister, Mom and I would venture out on our journey to the New Jersey highway system. This was a major event. My Mom hated to drive on the highway. Due to a childhood accident, she was blind in one eye. So to take us out to the factories was a big deal. And we knew it. We were instructed to help find the right streets.

We would spend hours out there going from one factory to another and stocking up on clothes. I loved when we returned home and told our Dad how much money we saved him. His response was always the same, “I don’t care how much you three saved. I want to know how much you spent!” We never told him that number, we gave that responsibility to Mom.

My all time favorite memory was shopping for my trousseau. My Mom was a traditionalist. I was getting married and I needed to have new clothes for my honeymoon and my life. I especially needed a special outfit to wear to travel the morning after I married.

My sister, mom and I were on a mission that day. And it was a day I will never forget. I can still see some of the clothing that was purchased even today, over 35 years later. I remember the dusty blue short overalls from Trousers Up. And I remember the electric blue and white striped top with blue skirt my Mom purchased for me to wear on the plane. It was a knit Evan Picone outfit.

To be honest I kept it for years, until my daughter forced me to clean the closets one day. She informed me that I would never fit into that outfit again, and someone else could wear it. She had no emotional attachment to it, but I did. However, she was right. So about 5 years ago, I finally parted with my honeymoon ensemble.

By the time my sister married, five years later, the factory shopping expeditions were no longer available. Factory outlets were opened to shopping for everyone. And my sister had a favorite outlet, Harve Bernard. I owned two suits by this wonderful company, but my sister could live in this outlet. (My daughter made me get rid of these suits as well. They also hung in my closet for many years.)

Do you like these jackets?

Do you like these jackets?

I can still hear my Mom telling us to try something on. “Try it on,” she would say, as we shook our head looking at an item on the hanger. “You don’t know what it will look like until you put it on. You never know. It might look wonderful!”

And often it did. We learned to always try it on. A sentiment we taught to our daughters.

Why is it that some of the most important experiences between a mother and daughter and even granddaughter occur while shopping? I think because so many lessons are shared during these moments:

Always treat people with respect in the dressing room and at in the store.

Hang up your clothes after you try them on. (Cleaning as you go along makes the chore easier.)

Encourage the people you are with, but be honest on how they look.

Don’t buy something you will never wear, (do not waste money).

Never buy shoes that hurt, if your feet hurt your whole body hurts.

I loved shopping with my Mom. And in later years, I loved shopping with my daughter. And the best times were shopping with my Mom, my sister, and our two girls as well as our niece. We had many shopping bonding times. During our times shopping, we passed along our important lessons.

It's a mother's job to hold the purchases.

It’s a mother’s job to hold the purchases.

But the love of shopping is not just important on my side of the family. My sister in law and I, along with our daughters, also had wonderful times on girl weekends.   My daughter and I would drive to St. Louis to be with my sister in law and niece. We would have a great time shopping, going out to eat and visiting. Even though my daughter could not be there, I went to St. Louis to go bridal gown shopping with them. My niece now has her own daughter. I look forward to shopping with her one day as well!

For a while my cousin’s daughter was in college at Washington University in St. Louis. Of course we would pick her up for a dining and shopping treat.

And it is a treat. Sometimes we do not even buy anything. We just browse. We try on. We examine the newest styles. We guess the prices on expensive looking items. My young cousin likes shoes and boots. So we would always tried to browse through a shoe store. With all of these women I have shared laughter and joy as we shopped.

As well as excitement when we find a special treasure: a dress or shoes we were not expecting to find, but there they were calling one of our names; a bargain that cannot be passed by. These bring out the ‘power’ shopper in us.

Take me to a sales rack in any store and I will have a wonderful time. I do not care if I do not find anything for me. My sister just told me about a power shopping she had with her sister in law, who needed a certain color brown slacks. My sister led her to the sales rack in Bloomingdales. And there among the many items were the perfect pants, on sale and special sale and then 40 percent off!

What more could a shopper desire?

My daughter is now engaged. As we plan the wedding, we have discussed the wedding gown shopping experience. She wants her aunts and cousins to come with us if they can. Who better to tell her the truth and share the joy? The most glorious of shopping experiences!

Shopping at the factory outlets on the New Jersey highways brought my sister, Mom and I laughter and fun. But it also led us to a life of power shopping and a lifetime of memories with our daughters, sisters, sisters-in-law and nieces, along with many moments of joy.

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