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ADHD and Clothes Shopping: Nightmare at Chico’s

Posted on June 05, 2012

My older daughter is getting married this summer. I couldn’t be happier. Until I realized that it meant buying not one, not two, but three outfits for three main wedding related events: the wedding itself, a bridal shower and the rehearsal dinner.

Now let me ask you: if you were to talk to a non ADD woman about her daughter’s upcoming wedding celebrations, would she be sweating and fussing about what she should wear to the shower and rehearsal dinner? Maybe there would be some concerns about finding just the right dress for the wedding. But would she be ruminating obsessively? I doubt it.

I actually lucked out and found a dress for the wedding a few months ago. I thought that it would be clear sailing after that. But oh…was I wrong.

I absolutely could not find an outfit for the other events. I searched high and low at all the usual stores and nothing worked. Even after losing the required MOB (mother of the bride) pounds, I felt like I could be a walking billboard for the MOB Muffin Top. But weight gain, aging, ADD and hormones are for another article.

After my freak-out, I decided to go to the store that has saved my butt many many times over the years: Chico’s. I should be a paid spokesperson for that company, since I always sing its praises when I present and write about women with ADHD and the difficulties many of us have when it comes to figuring out WHAT TO WEAR. WHAT TO WEAR is right up there with WHAT TO COOK as two of my main phobias. But Chico’s has coordinating outfits that make it (somewhat) easy to pull outfits together. And usually a large clutch of helpful staff.

Bear with me as I share the details of what has become one of the worst shopping disasters of my life. And you know there have been many.

I have ADD, right? Thus, I didn’t think about the fact that I chose to go to Chico’s on a Friday, two days before Mother’s Day. When I entered the store, I should have turned right around and run out screaming just for the sheer number of human beings clumped together zipping through the racks in sheer delight, ecstatic drool dripping from the corners of their mouths (Mother’s Day! Time for a treat!). But I had my courage badge on, determined to get two outfits THAT day so I could be done with it and tuck away my ruminating and obsessing about the whole thing.

I started browsing the racks and began to feel my pulse quicken. Not out of excitement like most women who see beautiful colors, fabrics and patterns, but out of panic. What top would work with that skirt? Is that too casual for a shower? Will that look right on me? What to choose? What to choose? Numerous clerks approached me to offer help, but I wasn’t ready- I needed to scope things out a bit, first. Then my strategy was to find a gal who dressed similar to my own tastes and who could then help me get “the look” I wanted.

My plan lasted all of 5 minutes before I knew I needed professional help. Not a therapist’s- but a fashion maven who could save me from this clothes purgatory. And I needed the kind of clerk who wouldn’t judge me by the ill fitted, faded jeans and tennis shoes that were currently decorating my body.

I found her. She was just a bit older than me, so I knew she’d understand my body limitations. She had a flair. And she didn’t do the “looking me up and down and faintly scowling” that I’ve come to be so sensitive about.

Her name was Natalie. No, Madeline. Heck, I can’t remember. But she was nice. She also got 10 points when I told her of my upcoming wedding dilemma. “Oh, don’t you worry about a thing- I have three daughters and my youngest just got married. I know exactly how you feel! We’ll get this figured out!”

I wanted to drop to the floor and kiss her perfectly manicured tangerine painted toes. Don’t worry- I didn’t.

She grabbed the three things I had chosen from my hands, placed them in the dressing room, then told me to just hang tight- she’d find pieces to go along with those items.

30 seconds later, she arrived, with her arms covered in skirts, tops, sweaters and all the rest. At first, I was deliriously happy! She had figured it out- what goes with what- what would work- the colors, style, lengths- everything. All I had to do was the Barbie Doll: try everything on that was in the room and scrutinize myself in the mirror. She disappeared to let me do just that. I’m in my 50s. I have ADD. So I’m good at scrutinizing myself and obsessing over my flaws.

But then I froze. Wait- did she say to try THAT top on with THIS skirt? Or THAT one?

This is where my executive functioning (or lack of) kicked in. I went into overwhelm. And overwhelm causes anxiety. And anxiety causes sweating and a burning stomach and the adrenalin flow that makes you want to run away as fast as possible to the closest candy store. But I forced myself to stay and to talk myself down from the panic.

I figured that with all these pieces to choose from, surely something would work. So, I started putting things on. Randomly but as best I could. Then I stepped out to look at myself in the mirror and was horrified. Sure, I need to lose a bit more weight, but what reflected back at me was outfit after outfit that simply looked awful on me. I knew exactly why and gave Madeline/Natalie a laundry list of all the things I know that won’t work on my frame: no short tops, no tight skirts, no cropped slacks, etc. etc.

M/N insisted I keep trying things on and brushed off my concerns about how these styles have never looked right on my particular frame. “Oh”, I added,” and please…no bright purple or zebra stripes. Or owls or anything that reminds me of 1965”.

She encouraged me to try on outfits #5-8 and again, more cropped tops, tight this or that- bright, wild graphics- ALL the things I told her that won’t work for me. More animal patterns found their way into my room. Now I was wondering who needed a therapist more- her or me.

She began to get exasperated and brought in another clerk for her opinion, which not surprisingly, matched hers: “Honey, I don’t know what you’re talking about: that outfit makes you look slender and youthful.”

I could see it was a Chico’s “make her think she looks skinny” conspiracy and I felt helpless and angry with them for not listening to me.

Outfit #9 is now on and I walk out to (not) admire it in the mirror. By this time, M/N had grabbed at least five other clerks to stare at me in these goofy outfits and get their unanimous opinion that they all looked awfully swell on me. My heart dropped and I knew that my last shot at getting outfits wasn’t going to pan out; I’d have to dig up something old from my closet and hope it would work.

Until a little voice called out to me. “Hey, come here for a second.”

Was I hallucinating? Was I in that bad of shape that I had to retreat into a semi psychotic state? Was I having a religious experience? I looked at where I thought the voice was coming from and thank GOODNESS it wasn’t from inside my head. Just to the left of my dressing room, was a little lady, about 70, standing 5’1 or so, who obviously had been watching the entire scene unfold. She had a pile of clothes in her arms and was apparently waiting for me to get the hell out of that dressing room so she could try her outfits on.

“Look”, she said. “Those gals don’t know what they are talking about. Listen to yourself and choose what YOU want. You can do it!”

I thought I had walked into that old Michael Landon TV show where he talks to angels but no…this was real and this perfect stranger gave me the courage to go back into that room and pull out all the crap I hated and hand them back to the saleslady whose name was now Miranda. I think.

“No- sorry- these won’t work, but I do like this top I picked out earlier.  Could you find something that would work with this THAT IS NOT CROPPED, or looks like it was shot and killed in Africa? Thank you so much!”

The three women with Miranda scurried out and raced back in with yet more outfits that looked horrific. Still, I tried them on, hoping that maybe they knew something I didn’t. Wrong!

By this time, instead of falling into a pit of MOB depression, I began to watch it as a comedy scene unfolding, as if it were someone else having this little dilemma instead of me. That’s a trick I’ve often used to get myself out of ADD hell. Therapists call it depersonalization. I call it shopping survival.

Outfit #10 did not disappoint, for it, too, was a disaster. I start to laugh at the insanity of it all, when I heard the 70 year old angel call out to me again:

“Listen- they are wrong. You are right. Those outfits don’t suit you. They don’t know what they are doing- look at how THEY are dressed; they look simply awful!”

I turned around and saw through her eyes- sales ladies wearing outfits that accentuated their worst features. And they were trying to do that to me, too. I didn’t know that some people in retail could be so…sadistic!

The angel’s words gave me more courage and I really snapped to. I had two pieces that I liked and I quietly but firmly told the clerks that I wanted a “flowing top that has a soft look, neutral colors and is long to the lower hip.”

One woman scowled, saying that I should strut my stuff instead of hiding it, but I held firm and finally…finally…one gal threw a few tops at me. I tried them on and…they worked perfectly.

They got all excited that the Barbie Doll was looking pulled together and that she was (finally) smiling. The frenzy continued as they accessorized me with jewelry, belts and who knows what else. I only knew I wanted to pay the bill and run out of there to find a chocolate éclair to calm my nerves.

So you’ve come this far wondering what is the moral of the story, right? The obvious is within the story itself- hold your ground and don’t get intimidated. Listen to your inner Barbie. Listen to the kind angels who are watching over you, whether they are real like my little Chico’s lady, or the angel within yourself that knows and protects you…the “you” that can take care of herself. Even while clothes shopping for your daughter’s wedding.

23 responses to “ADHD and Clothes Shopping: Nightmare at Chico’s

  1. Shannon

    Oh my gosh – that sounds like a nightmare. My pulse was racing just reading it! Shopping can be a nightmare for ADHD peeps – especially when faced with salesfolk so highly trained in the skills of BS. You hardly know which way is up and you need honesty, but all you get are sales pitches. It makes it very difficult to know your own mind.

    As a side note, I have noticed in general that I usually get the hard sell in White House/Black Market, which is an affiliate of Chico’s. I’ve worked in retail myself so I see it coming a mile away and it just takes so much ENERGY to convince them you don’t want to buy something. It takes enough energy for me to just shower, get dressed, and drive to the mall! I don’t need that, too. I’ll bet they all have to watch the same training video since they’re affiliates. 🙂

    Good for you, Terry, for standing firm!

  2. Sherra

    Most women simply do NOT understand WHY I despise clothes shopping so much! I’m like you…jeans, t-shirt, sneakers. If the store is not crowded, I don’t have the kids with me, and I’m not in a hurry, THEN just MAYBE I can look at more than a couple of things. But, 95% of the time I either immediately see what I want to buy or I don’t. I am so thankful I work at home so I don’t have to “dress” for work. Which really means I don’t have to go clothes shopping!

    • Sharice

      I was just diagnosed with ADHD 4 months ago at the age of 42(Now 43). I’ve always felt like some sort of outcast for not enjoying the feminine (so called) love of shopping. This since I was a kid. It feels so good to finally understand why shopping among other things was torture for me. I’ve had so many scenarios like the one discribed here. I was so ashamed of my inability to shop like “normal” people that I NEVER took anyone clothes shopping with me as an adult. Being overweight more than added to the undesireability. Thanks for listening and for sharing everyone!

      • Terry

        Sharice, I really know how you feel. And it’s not just clothes shopping! Cooking, sitting down and playing board games with our kids, manicures (an upcoming blog), etc.
        Thanks for sharing your story. We are NOT alone! 🙂

  3. Lisa

    I can relate! I HATE clothes shopping – any shopping really. Pretty much after a 3 second scan of the store I am overwhelmed and walk out. But, if I bring one of my (adult) daughters with me I totally let go, they comb the store for the right items, and I leave happy and well dressed. I agree that salespeople in the” woman of a certain age” oriented stores are pushy

  4. Kathy Coons

    Ah shopping. Try adding plus sized into the mixture! AACK I have finally learned to shop online in many sizes and then send them back if they don’t work. My favorite is Coldwater Creek as I can return them to my local store without return shipping fees. They also have terrific outlet sales. I even found 3 swimsuits at Lands End that fit and looked good.

    I feel your pain. I end up finding too many things and then I blow the budget because I can’t decide so, “Might as well get them all.”

    Now my conundrum, I would like some dresses. Yes, I found lot’s online. I can’t decide and I can’t afford more than one. Gotta love this ADD brain. I can see there are no dresses in my near future.

  5. jeg700

    I believe we have all been there and felt that for sure! LOL My strategy is always to leave…then go back at the 11th hour and snatch up the first thing that catches my eye and hope for the best:) Doesn’t work often, but no matter…I can barely remember those occasions anyway LOL

  6. Terry

    Ahhh…you guys can relate! I love hearing your stories! I know that as far back as I can remember, I hated clothes shopping- even as a kid. You too?

  7. Amanda

    this DEMANDS pictures. 😀

  8. Marla

    This is me exactly. One time a salesperson approached me – just to ask if I was okay. And I’ve even been accused of shoplifting (and I’ve never shoplifted, EVER ) when a store cop mistook my shopping panic for nervous theft. I HATE CLOTHES SHOPPING to the point of tears. Loved the article, thank you.

  9. Marina

    Wow! I cant believe I found this blog. i thought I was all alone in my ADD Brain, with those same thought patterns! I just recently got officially diagnosed even though I suspected it for many years. Clothes shopping is impossible for me. 99% of the time i don’t find what I like and i have never found a real outfit, top and bottom. Forget the shoes and accessories. I own 5 pairs of shoes: two pairs of sneakers, one pair of black boots, one pair of black work shoes, and some sandals that I use to go swimming. At times I have had more than that, but usually i lose a shoe. Currently I can’t find my car keys, my cell phone, and I left the lid open on my hair gel that I conveniently put in a basket of stuff on top of my microwave upside down. Which then dripped all over it.
    not to mention that I have 3 kids, two of them boys with ADD….

    • Terry

      Marina, sounds like you could write your own story about your ADD escapades! But you know I understand what you’re going through…!!


        I have to tell you I relate to everyone here! There are a few things I have learned that sometimes helps me-watch the show ‘What Not To Wear”. This show has helped to give me the confidence to sometimes pick out what fits me. Also, I NEVER shop when it’s busy like on weekends or around holidays. I will go during the middle of the week like on Wednesday. Hope this helps someone.

  10. Jessica Hayes

    THANKYOU! I just found this site and am in complete awe… Shopping is a nightmare at best no matter what needs to be purchased- people in stores is more overwhelming than anything I can imagine and have passed out in the mall because so many people were in my space. I have forgotten my purse in stores, bought ridiculous things I don’t need, spent an hour trying to decide what brand of BBQ sauce to get…I try to make lists and go when the store isn’t busy but as I am sure you know I spend as much time trying to aviod shopping which makes it even worse…I too loose EVERYTHING- keys, phone, wallet- I have had to cancel my debit card a half dozen times from leaving it at stores…I try to shop online as much as possible but you can’t get everything that way and I like to select meat and produce…It just keeps getting worse NOT BETTER…

    • Terry

      Jessica, I have to agree with you about grocery shopping. That, too, is a nightmare for me and I avoid it whenever I can. Which is nearly impossible. I try to shop at smaller stores or have a set plan so I can run in and out as quickly as I can. I hate it!

      • Catherine

        Grocery shopping takes me forever!! And what an energy drain it is to make all those decisions!! Two things have helped me A LOT, though:
        1. My significant other pointed out that since we mostly like specific items in a category, there’s no need to look at the rest of that category — so for example, I just get two boxes of regular Triscuits, rather than looking through the entire cracker section each time I go to buy crackers.
        2. For a number of years I lived in a very small town and always shopped in the same grocery store. One day I made a list on my computer of the various sections in the store *in the order I always walked through the store*, leaving space to fill in some items on the list. I printed this list out (actually, I printed three of them to a piece of regular letter-sized paper and then cut them into long, skinny strips, to save paper) and attached a bunch to the fridge with a magnet so we could list foods we ran out of in the appropriate spot on the list. The trick, of course, was remembering to take the list with me to the store, but when I was able to do that, I knew what I needed to buy *in the order I would encounter the items in the store!!!!* And even if I was in a different store, my list was grouped by section (e.g. “fruits and veggies,” “packages and cans,” “meat,” “frozen,” “dairy,” “snack foods,” etc.), and all stores have those sections, even if they’re in a different order.

  11. Selina

    Wow! That sounds really stressful! I agree with a previous poster who said to watch “What not to Wear”. I used to watch that a lot, not because I love fashion(I actually hate fashion with a passion) but because they give out a lot of tips on what suits different body types and eventually I learned what are the best types of clothes for me. So now shopping is a lot quicker because I know what I want before I go in.

    I can also relate to giving in to the pressure and trying on what they suggest. It’s so easy to second guess yourself when someone who seems to know what they’re talking about is so confident about what you should do. I HATE being rude but sometimes you have to to get your message through to them! Annoying!!

  12. Terry

    Such great comments from everyone. Y’know, my angel at Chico’s was right- she pointed out to me that the salesladies were horribly dressed (for their figures) and I didn’t even notice. If you DO have a friend who likes clothes shopping and will not judge you, maybe bring her with you next time. I bring my daughter who has a great eye and knows how stressful this is for me. Too bad she wasn’t available that day. 🙁

    • catherine

      I found out last year that I have an attention problem, I am 28 and single mum of two. I can’t believe it’s taken so long for me to find out I have ADD and can’t imagine how hard it is not to find out until 40 or over. I don’t hate myself anymore, I try and laugh about things but it’s not always that easy. Shopping…..I try to do everything online,I get so distracted at shops, I went to Tescos last month to pick a few things that I always run out of: toilet roll, milk, tampons! All the important stuff! Anyway, there was a new aisle, full of, well i don’t know, I was stood there for over twenty minutes, and I couldn’t leave, i hadn’t bought the stuff I needed and now I was standing in front of an aisle I didn’t want to be in front of! I did leave in the end and went to the garage on the way home instead.

  13. Wisdom Seeker

    Thanks for the reminder, Terry, that we know ourselves better than any one (even when we have our doubts). Seldom has that “still, small voice” failed me when I have the courage to listen and disregard the “well-meaning chatter”.
    That does NOT mean to disregard the voice of others but, rather, to run the advice they may offer through your GOD FILTER. Uniquely created, one-of-a-kind, “one size” does NOT fit all and only God and you know the perfect fit.
    Gather information and opinions but in the end, trust your personal instincts.

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