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.