Lessons to learn.

When the boys were babies, it was so fun dressing them in ridiculous little outfits; tiny sweater vests, wee little golf shirts, khaki pants and those teensy running shoes for their fat, unused feet.

Come to think of it, I dressed my children like miniature Chandler Bings.

Anyway, when they were small getting them out of their precious little footie pajamas and into their outfit of the day was a great joy for me. If we were going out, I’d coordinate both their outfits and sometimes even my own, because a lonely, overwhelmed, stay at home mother of two under two entertains herself any way she can.

As they got older, I noticed something. I noticed that the selection of boys’ clothing was much, much smaller than that of girls’ clothing. What this meant was that a lot of the time, the boys would have the exact same outfit but in different colours, not because I was trying to coordinate them, but because that was what was available to me. Shoes, especially, were difficult: frequently the boys would have the exact same pair of shoes, and I would put coloured stickers inside them to indicate which pair was for whom.

This year I took the boys to Mountain Equipment Co-Op to get fall jackets. There were two styles available, and only one style had their sizes, which has resulted in the boys wearing the exact same jacket to school. They don’t mind this at all, but I find it kind of strange to see them walking together in their identical jackets.

All of which is to say that shopping for boys is a utilitarian experience. My children in particular live in jeans and t-shirts: long-sleeved for winter, short-sleeved for warm weather. When I shop for them I do it online; I show them the colours of t-shirts available and they choose a few. One of my favourite stores to shop online is Old Navy – they almost always have a discount code, they have “slim fit” jeans for my beanpoles, and their clothes are pretty durable. I normally order things in bundles a few times a year; this system works well and we are all happy with it.

But this week I realized that the boys had outgrown a good number of their jeans, or – in the case of one child who climbed over a fence and got his back pocket caught on the chain link – had a massive hole in the seat. They still had a few pair thanks to some bulk shopping I had done last spring, but they were desperately in need of a couple. I didn’t have time to wait the 7-10 days for free shipping, so yesterday, I ventured into the mall to buy some more.

As they say in Pretty Woman, Big mistake. BIG mistake. HUGE.

Old Navy online: easy, fast, organized. Old Navy physical store: a disorganized, soul-crushing experience.

First of all, the boys’ section is the smallest in the entire store. It’s tiny, and there are piles and piles of clothes stacked everywhere. And the jeans. THE JEANS. There is no sizing order, so I needed to dig through piles to find size 10 and 12, and because I wanted “slim fit” I had to dig even more. Finally I found a pair of slim fit size 12, but when I picked it up, it was clearly not what the tag said. I read the label actually inside the jeans and discovered it was a size 12 “husky fit” into which I could have fit two of my children. A solid fifteen minutes of going through every pair of jeans on the shelves, I found two pair in the appropriate sizes. Then I went to the cashier.

People, the cash register and surrounding area reminded me of a yard sale gone awry. There were clothes everywhere, stacked around the register, behind the register, and surrounding the “line up starts here” shelving. There were two girls working and they both looked extremely harassed. I felt sorry for them as they slowly worked their way through the lineup. Each person took forever to check out, and when it was my turn I discovered why: they were taking down and confirming email addresses for every single person in what appeared to be the least efficient process ever. I tried to bypass it – I’m already on your mailing list. I am! – but the girl would have none of it. Because I generally don’t want to make someone’s day harder, and I’ve worked in retail, I submitted to the process, feeling badly for the eight people behind me in line.

I don’t know why some lessons need to be re-learned constantly. The lesson for this week: shop online.


  1. Old Navy’s physical store really is horrible. L needs new jeans too, but since ON sizes can vary so much, I will probably have to take him to try some on instead of just going to the next size. You’re right that it’s easier to clothe boys, though. Now that my daughter is in puberty it’s hard to find cute, well-fitting, decently modest clothes. 🙁

  2. Ugh retail establishments if you have to be there, not want to be there, are so awful. I thought I was being so clever the other day and bought two pairs of sneakers at payless (buy one get one half price) for my two boys, but without them, only to discover that each pair of feet has grown a size bigger since August. SINCE AUGUST. So now I have to go back, WITH THEM, and exchange one of the pairs. I am not clever. Not at all.

  3. Favorite part: “their fat, unused feet”

    The Old Navy store is IMPOSSIBLE. I HATE it. I only go in SEVERE EMERGENCIES, such as when the online store was sold out of dinosaur socks and I was desperate enough (toddler would wear ONLY the dinosaur socks) to try the physical store. (Happy ending: I bought, like, forty pairs of dinosaurs socks in various sizes, all on clearance.)

  4. Totally agree!… Eventhough I have a girl and usually the selection for girls is better at Old Navy I HATE shopping in that store!. We used to love going there a couple of years ago, it was very good organized, I usually found things on sale that weren’t available online and the kids would entertain themselves with the toys/colouring table but not anymore. I don’t know if the managament was change but it’s a pain to shop there. If I really need something desperately, I go there kids and all but never close to a weekend…. Wedenesday is usually a good shopping day, at least you deal with the mess but not the tons of people.

  5. I actually find our Old Navy pretty well organized, especially for something like boys’ or mens’ jeans. It’s a huge store, though, so if it wasn’t, I imagine it would suck big time. It kind of drives me crazy that Angus orders clothes (jeans, khakis, shorts) but doesn’t want to come try them on, but in reality it’s pretty rare that I have to take something back (except for that one time when the first jeans were too big and the second ones were too skinny and he was becoming the Goldilocks of pants). Bottom line – you HAVE to come here and take Eve shopping with me some time. 🙂

  6. One advantage of June being so small for her age is that a large portion of her clothes are hand-me-downs from friends and I don’t have to shop much for her.

  7. For the longest time, my son wore my cousin’s kids hand-me-downs, supplemented by the occasional purchase by my mom, with shoes purchased by my mil.
    Then he caught up in size to the older boys, my mom decided that boys’ clothes are boring and she’d rather get him toys, and my husband decided that he had an opinion about son’s shoes.
    Now I have to buy him clothes.

    ON used to be very tidy and well-organized. I shall see what it is like when my son grows out of this, the last batch of hand-me-downs.

    (the husband takes him shoe shopping, in case anyone else agrees that if you’re going to have an opinion you should be the one to have to take the child to a shoe store).

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