My sister and I have a game we like to call, “I’d sell a kidney for that!” It’s exactly as the phrase implies! I raise you one healthy kidney, and (insert-house-of-couture-here) matches with one iconic and coveted garment. You get it, right?
We grew up in a household with two educators for parents, and a brother who lived and breathed sports. They worked really hard to give us everything we needed. We didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend outside the bare necessities, but my mom took it upon herself to find creative ways to give us what we desired.
My mom knew that my sister and I liked to express ourselves with idiosyncratic clothing, so she took us to stores that were distinctive and fit the family budget. Enter the San Francisco outlets! Home of Gunne Sax, Esprit, Fritzi, and You Babes. We also had a secret little outlet in Santa Cruz that was a staple for our summer seasonal binges: Pretty Mama. Think boho babe meets surfer siren.
We stood in line for hours just to get in to some of these places, so it wasn’t exactly a routine that any normal folk would surrender to. And we are not normal folk. Typically, these places popped up in abandoned warehouses in the seedier parts of town. Cramped, dirty, disorganized, these buildings had little to no air circulation. Women would come from miles away to find a bargain, often bringing their second and third cousins. It was a family affair–shopping conscription if you will. You got drafted by the eldest and were called to duty. Here’s how it went down in my family:
“Mobilize the troops Geraldine, we’re heading to Gunne Sax for the day.” “Shit, Nora! Well, let me call Charlotte by god! We’re gonna need reinforcements.”
You were screwed if you were a young boy, like my brother. Poor sod. I think he suffered PTSD from a forced excursion when he was 10 years old. It wasn’t easy. The experience was anything akin to a sample sale at Barney’s New York or H&M’s exclusive designer collection on opening day. You literally entered the store at your own risk!
My mom would camp out in the dressing room line, while my sister and I scooped up everything we could get our hands on. Get in, get out in two hours. That was always the plan. If you were trampled on or got lost, that was the breaks. It was every man for himself!
Bereft of expensive designer labels from the likes of Saks and Neiman, our wardrobe suffered from lack of couture and requisite designers. Woe is me. So my sister and I started a game called: “I’d sell a kidney for that!” It seemed to distract and ease our pain from not being able to afford the caviar of fashion.
Having been a college student, a waitress, and then a teacher for most of my life, I still continue to play the game. Magazine pages are dog-eared and style.com runway looks are downloaded with compulsion as my sister and I contemplate the styles that would be worthy of a kidney. We sit at the table like card sharks at a hot poker game ready to call someone’s bluff.
My sister throws down her novice selection: Gucci Pink Ruffled Crepe de Chine Mini Dress (Net-a-Porter). Not bad! Not bad! I up the ante with mine: Valentino Pre-Fall Psychedelic Tunic (featured photo montage). Hard to beat that one as it’s not even available yet!
She raises me with: Chloe Off-Shoulder Crepe Mini Dress (Net-a-Porter); and I follow with: Dolce and Gabbana Majolica Organza Dress (Luisaviaroma). Snap! She throws down a “big blind special” with: Dolce and Gabbana Leaves Print Poplin Dress (Luisaviaroma). Touché, my sister, touché! I finish with: Antonio Marras Lace Embroidered Mikado Jacket and Pants (Luisaviroma). My spirits are high.
The final round is for the high stakes. We’re all in. No organs left to give. My move: Saint Laurent Metallic Blue Star Sneakers (Net-a-Porter); Hers: Laurence Dacade Embroidered Boots (Net-a-Porter). Mine: unbelievable Gucci Embellished Leather Biker Jacket (Net-a-Porter). I think I have her cornered. She moves stealthily…and then…KABLAM: Blue Glitter Shark Bomber Jacket (Luisaviaroma). Shit!
I fold. I am not worthy of a jacket with a glitter-bombed JAWS on it! We grew up with that shit! Jaws was the bomb. He terrorized us both–in a weirdly fascinating way. I concede the win.
We both agree with our picks, “We’d definitely sell a kidney for that!