Shopping the Mouse

08 May Shopping the Mouse

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover date 8.5.23


It was my Coco Chanel moment but it involved Minnie Mouse. Of course it did.

Legend has it the French fashion designer advised: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.”  It’s a “less is more” thing rather than an encouragement to be plain. Coco wasn’t ever trying to blend in.

I was heading out the door of my hotel for Day 3 of a five-day Disneyland holiday and about to attach my new Minnie Mouse pin when I thought of Coco and stopped to consider the full effect. Black and white polka dot trousers, red spotty jacket, Minnie Mouse t-shirt and matching mouse ears with bows. No, I decided, the pin was too much. You could feel Coco approve.

My penchant for Disney goes back many years – about a dozen visits since the first one in 1995. It’s about fantasy, nostalgia, simplicity and magic. A safe and happy place, and what a therapist might refer to as “an antidote for trauma”.

I feel at home there, and possibly look like I belong, too. An hour later in the park, Daffy Duck saw my ensemble as she paraded by and did the hand-gesture equivalent of “Oh, my!”

My aesthetic has always leant towards the cartoonish – I adore a polka dot and suit a set of ears. Years ago I was asked in a magazine interview to describe my “style” and I looked to my teenage daughter for help. “Minnie Mouse,” she said, “on acid.” We had both grinned.

It’s a look you can really take for a romp in a theme park. No matter where travellers go, we bring home souvenirs – snow globes if you can get them through customs, teaspoons, the ubiquitous t-shirts. I go for Minnie merchandise, though I’m aware you have to rein it in at some point and ask yourself, “This feels right in the park, but will I wear it in the other world outside these gates?” I have a new red beret with my favourite mouse on it. We’ll find out soon enough.

But also on this last trip I exercised discipline and saved some shopping for elsewhere. If there’s a thing I like almost as much as a theme park it’s bargain hunting. So I signed up for a package designed with Kiwi travellers in mind to cheer up the last day of their California holiday – that limbo day when you checkout out of your hotel with your suitcase at 11am but don’t board a flight home until 10pm.

Karmel Shuttles took me from the Disney Anaheim neighbourhood about half-an-hour north to Citadel Outlets, one of those outdoor malls where you get ridiculous discounts off well-known brands. Popular with locals as well, you might find yourself briefly queueing to get inside stores – a thing which feels alien as a shopping experience but oddly familiar after queueing for theme park rides in the days before.

As part of the package, there’s a lounge to store your luggage and then repack at the end of the experience before the shuttle returns at 6pm to take you the rest of the way to the airport. It feels luxurious and unhurried and looking forward to it helped me stick to budget the whole trip so there’s enough left for something special.

My “something special” was a handbag I’d been wanting for a long time from my favourite store. I bought a very fancy Minnie Mouse tote. But of course I did.