Eloopstra dress 3 29 ndiuke

You know you are doing something wrong when an annual event rolls around, and your go-to dress is the same one you wore to the same event the previous year. Never mind adding new pieces each season; I recently realized that, somehow, four of those had gone by and the only thing I could remember buying was a Nike sweatshirt.

Yes, spring had arrived, wildflowers and fresh green growth filling in the barren landscape ravaged by our weirdly intense winter. And yet, there I was, with that same old shabby dress, which is black with white flowers and nicely slimming. Okay, actually, I still like it—but still.

Life intervenes! Work and meal-prepping and birthdays and dog-walking and house-cleaning and … um … Queer Eye. Shopping is a time suck, an energy suck, and—especially—a money suck. Last year, we had to buy a new A/C for the house and I got veneers, which together left me feeling a bit tapped out. However, the veneers ought to tell you something: I’m not without vanity. I do want to look good.

I was reminded of that while reading this month’s incredible guide to the 100 best shops in Houston, curated by Abby Ledoux—all the more incredible, by the way, when you realize that Abby, a total dynamo, only moved to town in November, before seemingly devouring our entire shopping scene in one gulp.

Reading the feature brought into focus a couple of things for me: a) just how much the shopping landscape has changed since Houstonia last took on this topic, in March 2015, and b) just how much I needed a new dress.

I put together a game plan, wanting to try some new places. I decided I’d stick to the new Heights Mercantile development and the shops along 19th Street, both featured in this issue and both areas I’d recently visited—but, I’ll admit, only for eating and drinking purposes. 

And so there I was on a recent Sunday afternoon, wandering Heights Mercantile, utterly fascinated. It is definitely a new level of hip for Houston, with the clientele to match. There were so many things I wanted—leather bags and tops embroidered with tassels and funky home goods. But I couldn’t find quite the right dress.

I made my way to 19th, where, in-stead of popping in and out of Alice Blue for a weekday lunch, I lazily walked the length of the street, feeling dazed by how much it had changed. There were barely any antiques purveyors left, and even the junkyard that had been there for eons had been cleared out. A few stalwarts from the old days remained, but an onslaught of newer shops had also opened up, creating a completely different feel and energy. I was struck by how many people were out that day. In fact, the line at Boomtown Coffee was so long, I walked out.

It was inside the adorable Emerson Rose that I found it: a soft blue cotton dress with bold, colorful embroidery. I knew it was the one as soon as I pulled it over my head. It looked fresh and fun and fit me right. A familiar little thrill went through me as I carried my bag out of the store and, later, hung my new dress in my closet, where it awaits me even now, ready to make its debut in Houston society, or at least at that barbecue I’m hitting this weekend.

I can’t wait.

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