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24 May 2011


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Speaking for myself, possibly because I'm self-conscious about money, I say, "Oh, thanks, I got it on eBay" or "I bought them online from Zappos" or "at a yard sale," but don't usually mention the label unless it's fairly unpretentious: "Oh, thanks, it's from Old Navy, actually!" I think there's no wrong answer as long as you don't seem to be bragging about the designer/how much you spent (and whether naming a more expensive brand comes off as bragging will obviously depend on context). "At the Mall of America" or "In Delaware" does seem a bit evasive; you want to avoid seeming embarrassed or defensive about having nice clothes. Bragging slightly about your bargain-hunting prowess is okay, I think.


When a woman asks you where you got something, they are saying, "I think that is so cute that I want you to tell me where you got it so I can get one too." It's definitely a compliment.

I would answer a combination of B, C, and D. "It's It's BCBG Max Azria. It picked it up on sale at Nordstroms."

I agree with SE. Don't be afraid to brag if you got it on sale. Other woman appreciate a good deal!


I know that if I ask someone where they got something, it's to save that really long search for it, because WHAT do you put in the search box if it's a cute a-line black dress? That would be a never-ending list of hits... And I do NOT have time or patience (which is probably more the problem) to look all over for something like it. So when someone asks me, I usually say where I got it, and it's almost always been on sale, which I often would mention. And sometimes I can't remember, which I consider somewhat embarrassing, but mention anyway, since it's a good way to keep humble. :)

I'm not so good at small talk, either, though, so it's highly possible that I've been missing a whole layer of subtle meaning. However, since I'm not really into either clothes (trying to not be too conspicuous was my m.o. for a long time) or trying to figure out what people are saying if they won't say what they mean, I take them at face value and go on from there.

Also, I read the book It's So You, which really helped with the whole wardrobe discernment and building question. Your post about filling in the gaps actually reminded me a lot of it.


Sort of a different take: a book I read once really explained a lot to me about how women and men interact in conversations. Here is the link:
http://www.amazon.com/You-Just-Dont-Understand-Conversation/dp/0060959622 It is a very interesting read, not too academic. And even though I read it about 15 years ago, I think of it often because I witness the truth of her ideas just about every day.

It is very interesting to read about your history of dressing styles, mainly because it pretty much describes my own history.

I think sometimes it is easy to read too much into things and wonder what the intention is behind the other person's question. I would just answer with something simple, maybe, "Thanks! I got them online." If the other woman seriously wants to know exactly where, she will probably ask. And I agree with Morgan, we women love a good deal and would share your enthusiasm at scoring a great pair of shoes at a great price.


I think you're reading way too much into the question. Small talk is often just that, conversation filler. (Related to: "Oh, you have your hands full!") If you don't really want to talk about it, just say, "Oh thanks, I don't remember; I've had them for a while."

As Morgan says, though, it's generally a compliment on your style and an acknowledgement that she who asks is looking for something like that to fill out her own wardrobe. To her, it *does* matter where, if she would like to find a pair, just as it might matter if you happened to be looking for a sturdy yet practical coffee grinder such as your friend has.


I don't think it has quite that many sub-texts, although such a question will often be the preliminary to the real question. But almost always there is an implied compliment -- I like what you are wearing. Maybe even -- I like how that looks on you.

The implied questions can vary. Start with -- where did you get it and how much did it cost (can I afford it?)? Was is a worthwhile expenditure (how comfortable is it? how much use do you get out of it? Is it long-wearing? Easy to wash?)? How easy is it to find (what brand name is it? how did you find it?)?

And if there is an implied criticism, that varies from person to person, just as much as the compliments.

Of course, it may just be that that person is curious. I know I've asked that kind of question about something that I have no intention of buying; I'm just curious. But then I'm a librarian -- I collect information.


I'm very open about where I shop, what I buy, what I like and how much I paid for something. Women are information seekers. If I see a friend who's rocking a cute pair of shoes I will say "Wow, those are great! Where did you find those?". Because, underneath it all, if I see something that looks good on someone I may just incorporate that look into my look. I need muses. My sister is a great one for me - she's able to take risks without looking like she's trying too hard. So to answer your question, I wouldn't read anything into it other than the person likes your shoes and wonders if they would work for her.


Firstly I would say it's always a compliment, so "thanks" is in order.

I would interpret "where did you get it" as a request for further information. After all, sometimes someone will just say "that's really cute". So I would answer like Morgan above, depending on how the question was framed, and it's not necessarily because they want to run out and buy exactly that thing, but because they're wondering how much did it cost (can I afford it), where do they have stuff like that, maybe I would like that brand's other things too.

BTW, I am sartorially challenged too, and have always (but especially since moving to Europe) felt sort of vaguely bad about running around in tshirts and jeans all the time, without really being able to figure out how to change it. Part of it I'm sure is from growing up in a small town where dressed up meant that your clothes were recently laundered and did not have holes in them. But within the last couple of years I've had an epiphany - tailored clothing that is not made of jersey doesn't fit me, therefore it is uncomfortable and looks like crap on me. I'm 5'10" and have a 36" inseam and long arms, with an overweight hourglass figure and a low bust point. It's a nightmare. If I try to buy a tailored, woven blouse the sleeves are too short, and if it fits in the waist and hips I can't button it over the bust (and if it fits across the bust it hangs like a sack everywhere else), and if there's a breast pocket it's up in my armpit. So I've basically forgiven myself for looking like an overgrown ten-year-old and have been working on figuring out how to sew for myself.

My impression is that you're really petite, maybe that has something to do with your fashion challenge too?

Christy P.

Huh - I was going to ask where you finally sourced your 'white t-shirts that look new'. I used to use Gap but have become dissatisfied with how large the neck hole is. Not helpful when it is bigger than the neck of the cardigan atop the shirt.

It's a jungle out there in the shopping world, and many of us want to navigate it more efficiently. If I asked where you got something I would be seeking the following items: 1) the brand and 2) the actual store (Nordstrom, Sierra Trading Post) so that I could add that brand and source to my mental list of places that might possibly have clothing I would like. Not so much worried about cost. It's such a flexible concept. I wouldn't pay a lot for sparkly ballet flats that I didn't plan to wear much, but if you planned to wear them a lot they are probably worth more to you. I still wear a pair of Birkenstocks that I got with high school graduation money and seemed terribly extravagant at the time, but since I am still wearing them 19 years later they were a great value!


Agree with the previous comments. If someone asks "Where did you get it?" it would seem weird if you didn't answer the question or answered only vaguely. If the answer is Zappos, say that, and then the conversation could naturally drift toward the amazingness of Zappos. I found out about Zappos myself in such a conversation a few years ago.

As you continue to branch out fashion-wise, you might find Pinterest a good resource. In the past week I've searched for everything from "navy blouse" to "carrot soup" to "herb garden" and found neat ideas there from real people. I don't think you need an account to search (though I could be wrong about that).

Robin E

I agree totally with those who've said it is true info-seeking, and also a great compliment. I am always asking people where they got a cute purse, skirt, pair of shoes, etc. Not because I want to slavishly copy them, but because it's a good lead on cool stuff. One can never have too many leads!

I also love it when someone asks me the same thing, as it opens a topic near and dear to me - again where to get cool stuff, hopefully of good quality, and at a good price. There is no subtext. Most women just genuinely love shopping stories. Men have their equivalents. ;)

Christy P.

I genuinely love shopping stories that involve food, too.


OK, loving these comments! Thanks everyone (especially for the reassurance that I'm reading too much into things -- a common overcorrection I make as I tend to take speech at face value).

I wish I could brag about bargain hunting. SE said I should not appear embarrassed or defensive about spending money on things . That's interesting, because if I do buy a high-ticket item, I do feel embarrassed and defensive about it! A couple of years ago I splurged on some really interesting boots at full price (I couldn't get them on clearance without committing to not being able to return them), and I love them and they're comfortable and really well made and maybe I'll have them for 19 years like Christy's Birkenstocks and then I won't feel guilty about how much I spent on them. I have been secretly hoping no one asks me about them. Gosh, I'm neurotic.


@Christy -- I was raised in a foodie household so have no trouble speaking foodie fluently.

Jennifer Fitz

Funny story: For years, whenever someone complimented me on an outfit, I would answer with, "Thanks, I got it from _____."

And then one day I realized that was not strictly required.

So my conclusion is that it is mostly just a conversational habit, but sometimes is a request for useful information. In either case, just give the amount of answer you wish to share.

If you prefer to be vague, "I picked it up at a sale," or "It was a gift" is fine.

I personally think brand-mentioning can *sometimes* be tacky, but only if you are actually trying to show off. I'd only make a point, though, of not mentioning brands if I thought it would be a difficult topic for the other person -- say it would embarrass them about their own limited budget, or something like that.

Hallie Lord

I'm really late to the party but I think that the primary goal of a question like that is to find out where the person in question can buy whatever cute thing you happen to be wearing. Or simply to compliment you (I'll often ask the question to indicate that I appreciate someone's style). Those are the reasons I usually ask the question, anyway.

Ultimately, of course, it's up to you how much you're comfortable sharing! I think all of the suggestions above are excellent! :)


I do a cost for wear analysis every time I shop. There are some things that NEVER go on sale, and there is a reason for that. People are willing to pay full price for it, the price point works, it's in high demand. My husband got me a Gucci belt (double G, gold tone, dark brown) and it cost about $300. I've worn that belt almost every single day from October - April for the past 2 years or so. It makes ordinary jeans look awesome. I wrap it around a dress and it instantly looks great. I can't tell you how much it's changed my look. So now my MO is that I will spend $ on certain accessories and shoes, but no longer on clothes, like jeans or cotton tee shirts (best ones are James Pearce, get them at Nordstrom Rack, Off Fifth, Last Call or Lord & Taylor on sale). I just bought a pair of Cole Hahns that cost $200 and three of my friends bought the same pair (different color) because they loved them. I walked about 5 miles in them in Chicago and my feet felt great. That's worth the $.


The books How Not to Look Fat and How Not to Look Old have changed my life along with talking to A.H. in our homeschool co-op about my colors. It's been a total transformation in my wardrobe. I now only buy clothes that are the color for me and flattering. Both books are available through the public library.

And you did look great at FC interviews.


Reading your post made me conscious of the way I interpret the question when it's posed to me--and I interpret it almost always as an inquiry into price. Probably, because once or twice I've received the followup comment--"Oh, that's expensive." For some reason, I'm inclined to lead people to believe I've spent less, or have less money than I may or may not have. And I think it's because I don't want to give the impression that I fuss over my appearance, or invest unworthy money into it. I usually say something about having bought the item at Goodwill--which is my own way of bragging about my frugality.

But maybe I do just need to clear all of that up in my mind, and not be prematurely defensive about it.

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