Style Mysteries, part 8

Love it or hate it, at some point in her life, every woman has to step into . . .

. . . a clothing store.

It can be an exciting adventure, or a horrifying experience, or an overwhelming journey. Often times, a single shopping excursion tumbles through all three.

You may walk in knowing exactly what you want only to discover that simple thing doesn’t appear to exist in any form in any corner of any store. Or you may walk in having no idea what you want and then you want everything and you try on a thousand things only to find . . . nothing. And you leave wanting to slam your head against the wall and then visit a plastic surgeon.

It’s not you. It’s the clothes. And the dressing room. And the salespeople.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

No really.

As a budget-conscious shopper, I have a lot of experience wrangling shopping excursions and subduing them. And refusing to let them win.

“Gee, Halee. You make it sound like a battle.”

It is, my friend. It is. But I won’t let you walk sacrifice yourself or your sanity. I’ve learned things, tips to help you stroll in armed and ready.

  • Lists are your friend. If you find yourself recognizing a need for something (more sweaters, a lightweight jacket, a black dress, etc.), make a note. There’s no need to run out right away. Wait until you have a couple things on your list. That way, you won’t feel pressured to buy an okay version of what you want. I always keep a long-term list, things I need but aren’t particularly urgent so when I’m shopping for something else, I can keep an eye out for those things. If I find them, awesome. If not, no big deal. I’m patient. I’m now willing to settle for “acceptable.”
  • Dressing rooms are evil. The sooner you acknowledge this, the better your self-confidence will be. The moment you look in that mirror, your arms are suddenly marshmallows and oh my gosh have your thighs always looked like that? No. It’s not you. It’s the lights. Harsh overhead lights give you bags under your eyes and weird shadows. As difficult as it is, ignore that. Focus on the clothes themselves. This is not the time to rethink your skincare routine.
  • If you don’t love it in the dressing room, don’t buy it. I don’t care if it’s the best deal you’ve ever seen. If there’s anything that makes you slightly uncomfortable in the dressing room, it will be compounded a hundred times when you’re at home, choosing between that and something you absolutely love and are comfortable wearing. Your new whatever will end up relegated to the back of your closet. You both deserve better.
  • Think holistically. Okay, so you love that blouse. It’s cute and it’s a good price. But how will this fit into your wardrobe? What are you going to wear it with? Or do you perhaps have five other blouses just like it? Think big picture.
  • Buy off-season. Here’s where that list comes in handy. The best prices are going to be right after the season ends. Yes, I know you’re not thinking about sweaters and coats when the temperature starts rising, but that’s the best time to buy them. You know how you’ve been needing a new winter coat? Buy it in March or April. When stores get the new season’s styles, they’ve got to make room. All those cute summer styles you were eying a couple months ago? They’re going on clearance right about now.
  • Know your limits and stick to them. For years, I’ve had a mental budget for articles of clothing: $15 for tops, $20 for sweaters, $30 for jeans/pants, and $40 for dresses. I rarely go above that. For me to break past those limits, it has to be incredible. Like, “This makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world” type of incredible. It’s helped me keep a solid perspective, especially since I know it’s possible to find fantastic pieces in each of those price ranges. If it’s outside my range, I hardly look at it.
  • Buy online. Believe it or not, Ebay is a great place to find specific things. New. Yes, you don’t get the chance to try it on, but a lot of sellers will list the measurements of the garments. So know your measurements or look for a designer you’ve worn before.
  • Ask yourself if it’s your style. Is it you? I know that’s hard to measure but it does it make you feel most like yourself or like you’re playing at being someone else? My style is neither traditional nor corporate, but I can still rock professional business attire without losing myself by finding something that has a little bit of a different flair to it. A gray pinstriped suit or an ivory dress with a black, ruffle-back blazer, for example. It’s still me, just the business version of me.

I guess you can say I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. And I hope my tips enable you to step into a store with the confidence necessary to walk back out with your sanity intact.

Because style’s important, but so is sanity. It’s entirely possible that’s my life motto. Well, that and “coffee makes everything better.”

dear Bridget: when the darkness comes

Dear Bridget,

A talented man died on Monday. He was the person everyone wanted to be best friends with. He made a lot of people laugh and breathed life into a whole mélange of characters.

He took his own life.

A lot of people struggle to understand it. “He was so successful,” they say. “He had a family. He had children!” They have trouble understanding how someone who seemed to have it all could end it all.

They haven’t been to the dark places.

But I have. Maybe you have too.

There are a lot of things about life that other people, the ones who haven’t felt the weight of darkness, will never be able to understand. Like how what you know is a gift can feel like an unbearable burden. Like how, when you’re drowning under the weight of life, it doesn’t matter who loves you or all those wonderful reasons to live. In that kind of darkness, you can’t see anything.

So what helps, when someone is struggling with deep depression?

The knowledge that it doesn’t last. It’s temporary. Sure, it feels unending when you’re in it. It feels overwhelming, like a monster trying to consume you.

I read once that J.K. Rowling’s experience with depression inspired her creation of dementors–soulless, faceless wraiths who suck the joy from you and make you feel alone and so cold inside. There may be no more apt analogy for depression.

But there is hope, Bridget, even in darkness. There is love, even in pain. And nothing in this life is permanent.

And slowly the darkness becomes a memory. Life is brighter again, and hope, tangible.

If you ever find yourself struggling in the darkness, Bridget, know there is still light. Even if it’s beyond your sight for a moment, the light is there. It doesn’t cease to exist when you’re blindfolded by pain.

There’s life on the other side of the darkness. It’ll be there waiting when you fight your way out.

I know. I’m there.

It’s been years since I lost myself in the darkness. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally have bouts with it, feel it tugging on my arm and whispering in my ear when life gets overwhelming. But I can honestly say that I have a beautiful life. I have dreams that may very well be achievable. I have a husband who loves me and sister-friends I know will stick with me forever. I’ve won enough battles with the darkness to know I can do it again. And that keeps the darkness at bay for me.

But not everyone’s experience is like that. Some people need medical intervention. No matter what anyone may tell you, there is no shame in asking for help. The darkness will lie and tell you no one can help you. It’s not true. It’s a silent killer, depression. No one benefits when we ignore it. Don’t let it bully you into hidden suffering.

There’s a reason you’re in this world, Bridget. No matter how dark things may get, your reason still lives and shines. If the darkness ever threatens to consume you, remember this: you’re worth fighting for. Fight for yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.

Much love,




What’s Dear Bridget all about? It’s a new series, composed of letters to a hypothetical teen girl named Bridget. Why Bridget? It means strong. And it represents the current generation of young women. These letters are my attempt to break through the chaos and the crap that’s flying at today’s young woman in order to offer advice and encouragement, from me and other incredible women who remember what it was like to be in her shoes.
If you’re a teen girl and you’ve got a question or issue you’d like us to address, let me know. Just click on the contact button (that round envelope icon at the top of the sidebar) and send me your thoughts. If you’re an awesome adult woman who remembers those teen years clearly and would like to write to Bridget, feel free to contact me and tell me about yourself.