Mrs. Sommers is surprised and excited by the small windfall in her possession. The question of how to spend the money—a whopping fifteen dollars—absorbs her entirely. In the early hours of the morning, Mrs. Sommers decides that the money should be allocated towards much-needed clothes for her children, Janie, Mag, and the boys, and she meticulously and methodically draws up a mental shopping list. The very idea of seeing her children in fresh and fashionable clothing makes Mrs. Sommers so eager for her shopping trip the next day, that she lies awake all night in restless anticipation.
However, when she arrives at the department store the next day, Mrs. Sommers is unable to begin her “shopping bout” because she is too fatigued. Completely devoted to the needs of her children and household, Mrs. Sommers had spent the morning catering to everybody else, forgetting to “eat any luncheon” at all. As she gathers her strength at an empty counter in the shop, Mrs. Sommers finds herself admiring a discounted “line of silk hosiery.” Mrs. Sommers loves a bargain, and although the silk stockings are still far too expensive and extravagant for a poor, ordinary woman like her, she is quite tempted by their elegant and delicate texture. After inspecting them a little while longer, Mrs. Sommers declares to the shop assistant that she will buy a black pair.
This first purchase is a catalyst to the spending spree that follows. Disappointed by how “lost” her stockings seemed in “the depths of her shabby old-shopping bag,” Mrs. Sommers is drawn away from the bargain counter and instead towards the elevator. Once upstairs, unable to wait until she gets home to enjoy her new lavish purchase, Mrs. Sommers removes her old cotton stockings and puts on her silk ones. Able for the first time, perhaps in years, to renounce her domestic responsibilities and forget her familial errands, Mrs. Sommers is overcome by an unfamiliar yet pleasing sensation.
Mrs. Sommers continues in her pursuit of satisfaction and moves towards the shoe department. Here she delights in the authority she is able to exert over the judgmental clerk, bossing him around until she finds the perfect pair of new boots. Shortly after, Mrs. Sommers makes a stop at the glove counter, where she is fitted with a beautiful pair of “kids.” Subsequently, she pauses at a stall to buy two expensive magazines, which remind her of the “pleasant things” she had been accustomed to before her marriage.
The new purchases empower Mrs. Sommers with a feeling of importance and “a sense of belonging,” which she is desperate for. As she walks down the street, she carries her magazines proudly and lifts her skirt in order to reveal the fashionable shoes beneath. Mrs. Sommers does not seem to feel any remorse for spending the money, which had been previously dedicated to her children, on indulgent purchases for herself. In fact, the children do not seem to cross her mind once throughout the course of the afternoon.
Having worked up a real hunger during her shopping extravaganza, Mrs. Sommers approaches a restaurant hesitantly, worried that her inferior class position will prevent her from entering such an upscale establishment. Once inside, Mrs. Sommers is able to relax as orders a rich and lavish lunch of oysters, lamb chop, wine, dessert, and coffee.
Finally, with just a few coins left, Mrs. Sommers visits the theater. She watches a magnificent play alongside the “brilliantly dressed women” who attend such events solely to show off and be seen in the latest fashions. The “gaudy” women accept Mrs. Sommers as one of their own, presumably because her new clothes conceal her true identity and class status, and she enjoys her time with them. At the play’s close, Mrs. Sommers feels as if her “dream” has ended. Traveling home in a cable car, Mrs. Sommers silently harbors a “poignant wish” for her journey to go on forever and ever.