Concept: I am a woman (I daresay some will find this less-than-hard to imagine) in search of a fetching outfit for my date with a (conceptually) really cute boy tonight. The catch is: I hate J.Crew, I just found out Urban Outfitters is owned by some evilesque Republican conglomerate corporation, and I don’t really do the Arc’Tyrex-chic Trailblazer thing. Fine — Wishlist?

I’d never crossed the Fretag-bag-phalanx of mannequins that guard the front of the latest addition to New Haven’s “shopping scene,” but their motto, roughly paraphrased, of “Everything for YOU and a dollop of over-priced sweatshirts for your boyfriend too!!OMG!!1!!1!” is not without truth. There’s bulk candy by the register; a selection of improving books like Proust on Love and How to Change Your Life by Doing Absolutely Nothing; and a more-or-less Juicy Couture-inspired stock of brightly-colored clothing for very small females. “Mom, I tried that dress on yesterday and it was totally WEIRD; it’s, like, covered in shells or something.” I was boggled: why does this exist? Why, in the midst of Yale University is there an entire store dedicated to dressing up 14-year-old girls in trashy yet vaguely self-empowering clothes? Honestly, anyone over the height of 5’4″ is going to have a hell of a time getting anything in that store to cover her rib-cage. Even though Brandon totally thinks my navel is cute, I just couldn’t do it. The whole pointlessness of the thing put me into a funk, covering over anything that was actually buyable with a sickeningly pastel pall of junior-junior prom.

Okay, Ryan, I’m doing this for you; it’s all for you baby: I enter walk into Padua for the first time. There’s a soft scent of the exotic, a Brazilian beat, and what I would have never expected: the frump. The mannequins who tend to stare out menacingly onto Chapel street in tight, tacky animal prints and unsettling fur accessories belie a stock of clothing that can only be meant to appeal to middle-aged women (of all ages) searching for the hip-hippie-gypsy in them. The skirts flow, occasionally with sequence; the sweaters droop and envelop — Brian hates this kind of stuff. I kind of love it, but only in that I can see myself aging not so gracefully in it. And I don’t think Stevie and I are ready for the snakeskin-print mini being suffocated between a chocolate duster and rosette-pinned pink blazer.

Suddenly, I knew where to go. Sure, sometimes the window displays look more like Venetian blinds than dresses, but Maxime had to have something. Besides, I think David has some blinds in his dorm. No. Nothing. Truly, I say, this is the town that gave America Ann Taylor. If I had three kids (Christian, Gina and Daphne, destined for Princeton, Princeton and Brown, respectively), a Land Rover and a husband I would then have been standing in heaven. So much cashmere, so many little cardigans and cute slacks and scarves. And the summer sale rack: you know, some day lime green is going to be my favorite accent color. Alas, that day is not today, nor is it in the next 10 years, and Mike isn’t going to be happy if I show up tonight in Donegal tweed trousers and an alpaca cowl-neck.

Lordz: closed (and I don’t think a shirt made out of men’s polyester ties is really the thing to win over Bradley).

Seychelles: if I have to see one more boring, crappy, mono-chrome silk dress emblazoned with random ruffle or rosette I’m going to puke — which, granted will make my stomach look flatter for Jeremy, but sure as hell isn’t going to help with my new outfit.

My last hope: Bottega. In searching through the racks for that perfect ensemble I was struck by not only how this store has everything good you could possibly find at Wishlist and more, but also how it manages to have an excellent selection (of type), and quite a lot of really cool clothing, yet still be the kind of place where I’ll never actually buy anything. The premium denim selection is massive, there’s an unaccountably large presence of D&G, and the shoes are at once frightening and fascinating — but nothing. Even the basement sale-section that always entices left me cold. Again, I think it was atmosphere that did it: the at once over-weening yet utterly diffident sales girls, the industrial warehouse Diesel-whore vibe. I’m just not cut out for JustCavalli silk prints and True Religion’s full-thigh embroidery. It’s so … un-simple — the kind of thing that really confuses Troy.

Defeat: I’m not a soccer mom, nor can I fathom wearing a cashmere boob-sweater with lavalieres hanging from the arm-pits. Why the hell don’t we have an American Apparel in New Haven?