While on the face of it Ladies Day may sound like a long, drawn out event where women are forced to wear elaborate hats and drink tea (which actually sounds pretty awesome), Ladies Day is simply what it sounds like: A gals-only day out.
I’m not entirely sure of its origin within the family; I suspect that it may have begun with my grandmother, great aunt, my mother and her cousins — but this is a sheer guess. Frankly, I’m just going to fully credit my mother with the creation of this brilliant idea. For as far back as I can remember, one day toward the end of every summer — about the time my mother had exhausted both of the local department stores in her search of ANY clothing near the correct or appropriate kids sizes in our then-small town — mom would declare that we were to embark upon a Ladies Day. She’d then load us, her three daughters, into the car and take us all the way into The City (a.k.a. San Francisco) for a day of shmancy school shopping and a Crab Louie.
This is how I imagine it starting, anyway. My mother (whom you should know is amazing and perfect and also a saint), just loved the special, particularly feminine adventure of clothes
hunting shopping with her daughters. And naturally, we all loved the sorority atmosphere of “just us girls” going out to get NEW THINGS.
It wasn’t ever about getting a bunch of stuff; in fact, as I recall, each of us would have one or two things in mind that we definitely needed for school — new shoes, a coat, pants, etc. — and would sometimes end up coming home empty handed. No. Ladies Day was about us ladies. A special day, dedicated to a tasty lunch and the thrill of the hunt.
And what a hunt. I remember starting in The City and wandering through Neiman Marcus (looky-loos), hitting Macy’s at Union Square, then on to Filene’s Basement and finally the Esprit Outlet (Bay Area girls, remember that??), eventually hitting lunch in the Embarcadero or Pier 39 for said Crab Louie (a dungeness crab salad, for those not in the know) and a glass of white wine for mom; then off to Corte Madera to wander through Nordstrom, yet another Macy’s and all the amazing, smaller shops there.
Things I remember:
– Dressing up in *nice* clothes for this trip. And by nice, I mean nicer-than-church nice, but not quite wedding nice.
– Seeing Nordstrom for the first time. It was stunning; so beautiful and beige. I was completely amazed that someone played piano all day while we shopped.
– Oh, those prices. Small-town me was always shocked, and later filled with disdain, at the prices of anything in The City.
– Being overwhelmed with fear in The City. This was courtesy of my father’s admonitions to stay near my mother so I wouldn’t get kidnapped and sold into white slavery in Mexico. I had no idea what white slavery was, but nothing in me wanted to pick cotton down in Tijuana.
– And the best: My mom. I loved just spending girl time with my mom. My sisters, being six and seven years older then me, would inevitably be off and shopping in various departments, and my poor mom was stuck with me in tow. I wasn’t the best clothes shopper; in fact, I’m still not — for myself, anyway. (Truth: I hate trying on clothes and if I don’t see what I like? Done.) But I loved hanging with my mom and finding ridiculously, overly trendy items and gawking at the prices. I loved pretending I, in my striped-pink button down, grey corduroy pants and coordinating grey and pink argyle sweater vest, belonged in the store (even though I was secretly embarrassed because I just knew that everyone saw me as some Podunk kid from the sticks). Mostly, I loved that she loved this day. Something about how much it meant to her made it mean so much more to me.
After a few years, when Esprit was less fashionable and we’d realized we never actually bought anything in The City anyway, we began just driving into Corte Madera and shopping there. And then, again, as I grew older and time grew shorter, as I went off to college and on into life, the Ladies Days drifted away and became wonderful memories.
Until we, my sisters and I, had girls of our own.
Upon holding her first granddaughter, my mother openly declared her excitement over introducing that sweet baby to her first Ladies Day.
Fast forward twenty-two years: Ladies Day is still going strong. Mom, in her never-ending capacity for giving, still organizes trips with each of her daughters to take them, along with their daughters (her grandchildren), on these special shopping excusions. While we’re too far from The City, there are plenty of places to hit here in town. Sure, no Crab Louies; but one can always find a glass of white wine.
So if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my girls in action and get ready. One always dresses nicely for Ladies Day.