How Helena Jacked Alison's Comments Section, Bought a Cheap Dress and Addressed Some Body Issues

I found a hot MILF-for-non-MILFs dress for $11.99 with a built in shaper that is now my favorite thing on earth
Publish date:
September 6, 2012
body image, thirty something, cheap fashion, shapers

I am secretly in love with Alison in the slightly creepy way that most of us at xoJane are maybe just one lock-in away from feeling each other up in a neon-lit utilities closet. Too much?

Really, I'm just a mega fan of anyone who hearts cheap clothes just as much as they covet the costly stuff. In my closet there's equal parts Phillip Lim 3.1, Zara and Thrift Store. The highlight of my life thus far, the story I will be telling my great grandchildren, was when Tim Gunn told me I looked fab at a gala, specifically his "top six of the night," and I blurted out, "Filene's. $69 bucks."

All that is to say I was trolling Alison's "Down & Dirty Fashion" post to reads-drop on what my fellow tribe of bargain hunters are spearing out in the online jungle. And y'all did not disappoint.

Commenter "Sonicshan" hipped me to some serious game: " it is a clearing house for limited brands returns, they have a warehouse in Columbus, OH that has amazing sales. I buy at least 3 winter coats a year from them. Not dirt cheap, but still some great finds."

Immediately I headed over to and found some of the most ridiculously, some of it hideously, cheap shit ever. Most of the stuff was anywhere between half to like 90 percent off the original price, which I'm always uber-skeptical of like the sushi place by me that advertises 50 percent off every single day. Just admit your salmon roe fell off the back of a truck heading to Sea World.

Anyway, after combing through pages upon pages of clothes perfect for a stylish receptionist who really wants to act or a "cool" English teacher who says, "Let's get this party started" at the beginning of class, I found a multi-colored faux wrap dress from Chadwick's for $9.99.

I needed it because you never know when you might get invited to a garden party with your boyfriend's boss the day before he plans on asking for a huge raise so that you can close on a condo in an up-and-coming neighborhood. My closet is currently filled with heretofore-unworn outfits for imaginary situations I dreamt about the night before. These include but are not limited to: the Oscars, "someone's" engagement party, a board meeting with Diane von Furstenberg and casually bumping into David Sedaris.

But it wasn't until I pulled this bad boy over my head and double checked how freaking awesome the dress was clinging to my slightly curvy bits that I noticed a lot of extra material south of my belly button. A tug at the hem revealed the magical culprit. A built-in shaper! I felt like such a fraud.

Confession time. I do not own Spanx. I have never owned Spanx. But I pretend to. Because I don't wanna be left out! Doesn't EVERYONE have a pair? Do they even come in "pairs"? Does this admission make me somehow less of a woman? Sometimes I think it does. Especially when getting dolled up in a room filled with ladies and all anyone can talk about is the shapewear we're all obviously wearing.

By the time you hit 30, no matter your size, shape or comfort level with the massive machine below your neck, I believe the tag line on body consciousness is that all grown women become masters of disguise. So we pass down the ancient knowledge of how to squeeze, pinch and suck it all in.

When I was 29 and older friend told me, "After 30 everything just drops. It changes." I didn't believe her then and although I sort of do now (Oh hey there, cellulite) the thing is I still have the "Who gives a care" attitude of a 20-year-old jiggling wildly in a 31-year-old's unyielding penchant for commando. More importantly, since I know full well that I'm smaller than the average bear and have been my entire life, I usually just bow out of the body image conversation because I don't want to get booed off stage. "Throw the bitch out!" yells the crowd.

I spend most of my time at home and therefore sans clothes or judgment. I grew up in a naked house run by those "real" women with "curves." I've seen my grandmother's wizened boobies and thought, "There but for the grace of god" and "Eh, not so bad." There's a full length mirror just outside my shower door and I bask in it more times than the Evil Queen. Saying that though, admitting that I really love my bod, which according to conventional 20th Century wisdom is firmly in the "Of course you do" category, has always made me uncomfortable. Other women have shamed me into shutting up with a simple, "What are you? Like a size double zero." For the record, "Um no," but I get it, I guess.

So. This "Shape Benefits by Chadwick's" dress. I feel like it's outside my wheelhouse, like if I pull up hem a bit to show an admiring vagina carrier that this in fact isn't how I normally look, she'll hit me with a, "Pfft!" Or maybe it's like a secret handshake that'll get me into the club?