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  • Lucia Laski

The Stress of Buying a Tank Top

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

One fateful early summer day, I walked to the Grove. The iconic LA shopping mall is one I frequent, due to my proximity to the Caruso-owned complex. As I make these small trips, I usually do not end up buying much, opting for window-shopping and smelling the selection of perfumes at Sephora.

Sometimes, I go crazy and get an iced matcha.

Without fail, I have always entered the Brandy Melville, located in the back area of the mall. The cramped, tween/teen girl-targeted store sells controversially one-sized clothing, consisting of cotton basics like tank tops and shorts. As a 12-year-old, I worshiped Brandy Melville. It was the “thing,” it was what the girls in 7th grade were wearing. Now, as a 16-year-old, I like some of their clothes, but am not nearly as obsessed as I was in the beginning of my adolescence.

Here is the problem with Brandy Melville, and specifically the one at the Grove: When you enter, after walking past the dads waiting for their daughters on the benches outside, you are immediately thrust into a crowd of girls, and sometimes moms, navigating through the narrow passageways between the tables of white and navy crop tops and 24-inch waist cargo pants. After picking up a couple items just to try on, you must wait in a line of girls to get the changing room which extends into people’s shopping area, exposing those who have decency and say “excuse me” versus the ones that shove you to get to their cream pointelle print baby tees. Once you get inside, a pretty 19-year-old will direct you to the changing stall, where your only privacy is a curtain that does not close all the way and is as short as your knees. It is also 90 degrees outside, and you have not had your deliciously overpriced iced Matcha yet.

You try on your clothes. The white knit tank with a ribbon detail looked way better on the hanger than it does on you, and you cannot justify the $24 price point for such an item. You wonder why it fits so awkwardly on your body. Next, you try on a jean miniskirt. It’s cute, but is 30 dollars cute? You reach your conclusion and decide to let the skirt go. Finally, you try on a navy ribbed V-neck tank. Your eyes light up for the first time in the day. It fits just how you want it to and reminds you of the 60’s mod style that you are ever so fond of. The $22 price point throws you off and you spend the next 15 minutes in a dilemma that seems as dramatic as life and death. You try to justify the potential purchase, wondering if you will wear it often. At this point, you feel cheap. Why is it so easy for you to spend $22 dollars on lunch and an overpriced latte, yet it is so difficult for you to buy a tank top for the same price? Why are you sweating as you look down at the $15 boxer shorts, which were $8 the last time you came into the store and bought a pair? I was disillusioned with the previous mystique Brandy Melville possessed for a tween me, now understanding the value of money and how I could buy lunch and a drink with the $22 dollars that I would eventually spend on a top. You make your decision. You walk up to another long cashier line and take a deep breath. As you wait for your turn, you watch a young girl set about seven items on the table and the mom tapping her card on the reader. This is an endearing moment, as you can tell this girl is very excited about being in this store, given its status within the world of American teenage girls. It becomes less endearing for you when the cashier asks “Just this?” as you set the navy tank on the table. “Yes," you respond, as she scans the tag and you insert your card. She then asks if you are aware of their return policy, which you are, but for some reason, after your stressful 25 minutes, you reply, “Uh, no.” After relearning the 14-day policy, you thank her, take your bag, and leave the store. There are some new dads waiting out front.

As you walk home, deciding to make an iced matcha yourself, you wonder why your mind went through such a process while buying a simple tank top. You wonder if everybody thinks this way.

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