Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ragstock: the clothing store for people who hate clothing stores

I am not a good shopper. I attribute this condition to my earliest memories of shopping, as my mother and grandmother speed-walked through department stores at the mall, fingering through clothing racks and performing some fashion-quality-price-size calculus in their heads as I tried on fancy hats. I had a hard time believing that any of the clothes I saw on the mannequins could become clothes I wore. "Do you see anything you like, Erika?" I just didn't know. My sweaters were all at home in my closet; why did I have to try to come to terms with this new sweater that I knew nothing about, that knew nothing about me? And why this sweater, above all the other sweaters in the store? What about the sweaters in other stores?

I also had trouble picking out ice cream flavors.

This personal deficiency has spilled over into my adult life; I still feel overwhelmed in clothing stores. (See: Ben and I spend four hours at Briarwood trying to find him a suit. We could have been a case study from Jonah Lehrer's book How We Decide.) Internet shopping is even worse; you can purchase anything from anywhere in the world. As a result, I have tried to bow out of the fashion rat race. I just can't handle it. Ninety percent of the clothes in my closet are things my mother gave me as gifts, things she wore in the 80s (trends are cyclical) and odds and ends my friends have given me, by choice or by default.

So when I found out Ragstock was opening in Ann Arbor last year, I did not take special note of it. Yet another downtown clothing store I probably wouldn't patronize.

Plus, the mannequins in the window are hipsters.

A few weeks after Ragstock opened, Ben's grandma celebrated her eightieth birthday at Sava's. Quinn had just gifted me a pretty, flowy skirt that was too long for her (this is how I get clothes) and I had approximately matched it with other items in my wardrobe. Coming from school, I found myself downtown with a few minutes to spare. You know what would look great with this skirt? Brown boots! I had been lacking a pair of brown boots since the zipper on my old ones broke last year. Where could I afford a pair of boots downtown?

Cautiously, I wandered into the new store. Men's clothes to my left, ladies' to my right. Walls of lumberjack hats, racks of hipster sunglasses, flannel shirts as far as the eye could see: everything looked exactly the same, except in different colors. I could feel it. This was the place for me.

And then the sea parted, and there was an entire wall of The Thing I Needed.

All the boots at Ragstock are $8; some are new, some gently used. (The separate wall of cowboy boots could be up to $25.) Too much selection, you say? That was my fear as well. Luckily, as I rolled up my sleeves, I found that the wonkiness of the sizes (lots of sixes and elevens, not a ton in the seven-to-ten range) narrowed my selection right off the bat. I ended up finding a pair of dark brown suede boots. For $8.

You know what else would match this boot-skirt combo? A brown shirt. And look! Ragstock has one style of shirt in any color imaginable. It costs $4.

Look at me. I'm shopping.

I've shopped at Ragstock twice more in the intervening months: for a last-minute New Year's Eve dress (the one the mannequin was wearing, and I bought the one matching headband they had) and for tank tops for a dance performance (those racks look pretty much just like the one above). It is my favorite store because it does not try to confuse me with too many options. I have to quote Miranda from Sex and the City here:
Why isn't there a store called "This Is the Crib for You"? And they just have one great crib. They deliver it and assemble it, and help you raise the child.
That is how I feel about Ragstock. Minus the part about the child.


  1. Can we go there when I get back???

  2. Shopping and a Sex and the City quote?!

    I've never been so proud.

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