This is possibly the most bizarre story of them all (when you really think about it)…
Back in 2005 or 2006, I was in New York during the summer. New York summers are some of the most humid and uncomfortable you can experience. Although I was thankfully out of the smog-choked city of Manhattan, where I was staying in the suburb of Jamaica, Queens was not much better. Before I left Australia, I had taken the unusual step of buying a couple of skirts to wear, having experienced a New York summer before and finding that even shorts aren’t always the most comfortable option.
One morning I was walking with my friend to the local deli when she commented lightly, “Well, I must say, I can see straight through that skirt!”
I froze with embarrassment. That morning I had put on my new white skirt for the first time and, impressed with the swishy, feminine feelings it gave me, had worn it out quite confidently. Now I was being informed by my friend that, in the unforgiving rays of New York sunlight, it revealed everything.
My friend examined it. “Where is the lining?” she demanded. I looked at her blankly. She sighed. “Most skirts have a lining sewn on, like a second layer, to prevent them from being see-through.”
I was crestfallen, and confused as to why my skirt had no lining. It was not the success I’d dreamed it would be. I didn’t have many outfits with me and, being so busy during the day, did not have time to do untold loads of laundry at the public Laundromat. The skirt was an indispensable part of my shoestring wardrobe for the next three weeks, and I had to come up with a solution.
It didn’t me take long to conclude that it was necessary to find a tan-coloured slip (or half-slip, to be exact) to wear underneath my skirt. I had grown up with a mother, aunty and grandmother who had an abundance of slips and camisoles and other such practical, lady-like items. I learnt early on that when you have a see-through skirt, you must wear a slip underneath. Simple.
Jamaica has an abundance of cheap, dollar clothing stores, and so I walked downtown to see what I could find. Nothing. I searched shop after shop. I received nothing but rude service and uncomprehending remarks, such as, “A what? Uh, no. Sorry. We don’t doo daaat.”
To be fair, Jamaica is a predominantly black suburb and they probably don’t deal with skinny, English-sounding white girls politely enquiring whether they sell slips in their dollar stores. Size 28 denim cut-off shorts plastered with sequins? You bet! Six inch white faux leather stilettos with bright red cherries stamped on them? Hollaaa! Slips? Wha…?
After two hours it became apparent to me that I would have to venture further afield to find my slip – into Manhattan itself. Now, being distinctly disinterested in fashion at the time, and usually preferring to spend my money on candy instead of clothing, I shuddered at the idea of a day in one of the world’s great shopping meccas. Such excursions typically bored me and I would usually come up with an excuse not to go. Today was no different, although, I reluctantly supposed, I was probably in the best place in the world to find a slip. I mean, if you couldn’t get one in Manhattan, where could you get one? And at least there would be good coffee there.
On cue, visions arose of polished, ladylike sales clerks from a big department store ushering me into the women’s undergarments section, beaming and nodding as they showed me an extensive and dazzling array of slips. I would promptly select my tan half-slip without any ado, and the sales clerks would be relieved from having to perform some sort of persuasive song-and-dance number, like Lumiere and and the enchanted serving staff did in Beauty and the Beast when they were trying to convince Belle to eat some dinner against Beast’s wishes.
So I caught the subway into Manhattan and started the hunt.
First I hit up all the small, boutique clothing stores lining the pavement. Nothing. Some cute clothing, but nothing even close to resembling a slip. I managed to stumble across some big department stores – Bloomingdales and Macy’s – and eagerly sought out the women’s lingerie section. They had nothing. I nervously approached a sales clerk in Bloomingdales, waiting for the capable ushering to begin. Again, nothing, only a look of unparalleled confusion.The sales clerk in Bloomingdales had no idea what I was talking about.
Now, I’m aware that my abilities to exemplify and discourse about fashion are largely unproven, but a slip is called a slip in any English-speaking country. You can’t get it wrong. Those who would suggest that I wasn’t clear enough in stating my objective must remember this: my mind was so uniquely uncluttered by any other knowledge of fashion at this point in my life that I was able to be perfectly clear about one of the few things I did know about – slips.
Anyway, in pure desperation, after more than three hours of fruitless searching, I decided it was time for one last, soul-destroying measure. I went into Victoria’s Secret. Wearing cargo shorts, a bright red T-shirt and a back pack. Like a ten year old.
“Do you have any slips?”
“Slips – you know, it’s sort of like a skirt you wear underneath a skirt.”
“Oh no, I’m sorry, we don’t have anything like that.”
Victoria’s Secret thought slips were weird and didn’t stock them. Now I’ve seen it all.
Sadly, there is no happy end to this story. In the whole of New York (well, a sizeable chunk of it) I could not find a slip, much less someone who even knew what a slip was. I was too poor (but mostly too disinterested) to buy new clothes, so I slunk around in the same stinky old shit day in and day out for three weeks, looking like a complete toss-pot. I longed to be transported to Capalaba Park Shopping Centre for ten minutes so I could just go into K-Mart and buy a damn slip, such was my desperation. Did you hear what I just said? Have you ever longed to be transported to Capalaba Park Shopping Centre?
This was seven years ago. Tonight, I Googled “slips” and found out that they actually do stock them in Macy’s. Perhaps my meaning got lost in my accent all those years ago, or perhaps some smart ass Manhattan sales girl thought it would be funny to pretend that I was talking nonsense. Both are equally plausible and equally funny to think about.
Either way, that’s the story of the time I searched all of Manhattan and couldn’t find a slip.