she who struggles

I have decided that I am going to start a new series, appropriately titled ‘she who struggles’. So many people comment about how proud they are of me, of how much I’ve accomplished, etc etc, but I have news for you…underneath that exterior of someone who appears to be doing ok in life, I struggle. I struggle with stupid stuff, like staying on task when I am at work. I struggle with banal stuff, like getting dressed. And, I struggle with annoying stuff, like figuring out how to live a balanced life. This past weekend, I traveled to NYC and she who struggles had yet another classic episode. I couldn’t figure out what to wear to a party. Such an ordinary experience, trying to get dressed, and yet for one who struggles, let’s just say, I’m still recovering from what happened.  My dear friend Beth Roy is a goddess – she owns B.Styled and helps people like me figure out what to wear. This post is for her. Stay tuned for more from she who struggles, and feel free to share how you may have your own inner she who struggles.

My name is Karen Collins, and I struggle figuring out what to wear. I’ve known this about myself since elementary school, and frankly, I’ve grown used to this weakness. One way or another, I’ve always managed to figure out some sort of outfit. I may have mental scars from the effort it took to get dressed, but at least from the outside, I got the job done. I’m a work-a-holic, which means that you will never find me strolling through stores or window shopping. If I’m wasting time online, it’s reading blogs or articles or scrolling through Facebook, not browsing around looking for clothing. I’m a minimalist by nature…I very rarely wear jewelry aside from my wedding ring, I don’t own a lot of clothes or shoes, and while I have some make-up, I don’t really know how to put it on. Get the drift? Not a fashion-forward kind of girl.

As an adult, I continue to struggle with getting dressed, shopping, and apparently, packing for trips. I have a warped body image and avoid looking in mirrors as much as possible.  I am lucky, because I don’t have to worry about looking nice at work. I own a wholesale bakery & am a pastry chef, so getting dressed for work is easy…clogs, down vest  (much to Beth’s dismay, but I’m always cold and it works for me),  clothes that can get dirty. It’s just outside the bakery where I run into trouble.

I have been working with Beth Roy from B.Styled for five or six years, and she has saved me more times than I can count. I’ve done her closet cleanse and am in the process of buying the B.Styled 30 Essentials. It’s taking me a long time to purchase everything, because she who struggles doesn’t think she looks good in a lot of things. Once I round out my wardrobe a bit, my goal is to get up the guts to wear some of the items that Beth has recommended for me.

A month ago, my husband and I went to NYC to celebrate our 10th anniversary. I worked with Beth to figure out what to wear for the weekend, and while I was embarrassed by how much I packed for the long weekend, I loved what I wore, had no issues getting dressed, and was filled with gratitude that I didn’t have to make my husband wait an hour for me so I could figure out what to wear.  He  sent this to Beth that day:

Karen on balcony in nyc

Last weekend, my husband and I went back to NYC, this time for one night. I put almost no effort into planning what to bring, I didn’t call Beth ahead of time, and it did not turn out well. Here was the agenda for the weekend: show up in the city around 4pm on Saturday, go out for dinner to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday Saturday evening, help set up for his birthday party Sunday morning in their apartment, and Sunday afternoon, attend the party. I packed a cute sweater dress, tights and black booties for Saturday. My guess is that the only suggestions Beth would have made to me is that I could have added a ‘statement necklace’ (that’s my goal for 2017…one thing at a time). For the party on Sunday, I brought pixie black pant/legging things from J Crew that Beth recommended, an oversize gray cowl neck sweater, a white collared shirt and same black booties.

Everything would have been fine.

Except…it wasn’t. It didn’t even come close to the vicinity of fine.

Why? Because I brought ‘winter clothes’ because, it’s winter after all. Unfortunately, the apartment was 85 degrees. My husband summed it up beautifully: “they could grow tomatoes in there”.

I had clothes, I just didn’t have the ‘right’ clothes. And, to make matters worse, I had no plan B.

What ended up happening was what I would like to call a failed scrambled shopping nightmare. In my desperation, I texted Beth.  Here is a (only slightly edited) recap of our text conversation:

she who struggles: What would Beth do? Packed what I thought were appropriate party clothes (sweater/jeans/boots). Unfortunately, Grammy keeps the apartment at 85 degrees and  I will melt if I wear that. Should have brought tank top and shorts.

Beth:  The day you melt is the day hell freezes over. What time is the party?

she who struggles:  Hell hath frozen.  And turned into sweat. Party is in one hour. Out shopping a sales rack for the first time ever.

Beth:  You need your jeans, boots and a great blouse.  And a funky necklace.  Steal one from Grammy.  Sales racks are the best!  Are you at Barney’s?  Do they even have sales racks?? Send me a pic before you buy anything.

she who struggles:  I have no clue where I am.  I am supposed to be buying ice cream.

Beth:  Is it a clothing store?

she who struggles:  I’m so confused.  I don’t know what kind of store this is. I asked the lady where the new arrival non-sale racks are.  Turns out it’s a consignment shop.  Never been in one of these.  Found a DVF white wrap blouse for $50 bucks?

*Note: Had she who struggles slowed down one tiny bit, she might have taken note of the name of the store, which in turn, may have clued her into where she was shopping. What was the store, you ask? 2nd Time Around. Sigh. Great place, by the way.

Beth:  A consignment shop on Lexington Ave. must be good.  Buy the shirt, you done good.  Wear a cool necklace with it.

I bought the shirt, grabbed some ice cream and ran back to the apartment. 40 minutes until the party started. I showered, did my hair, and started to get dressed.

That’s when the second part of the nightmare started.

The shirt just happened to be a bit sheer, and the only bra I brought with me was, of course, lace. I didn’t have a wrap with me that would have helped cover up the fact that you could see my bra. And, just like that, I was back again in the land of wearing a cashmere sweater in an 85 degree apartment.   Following orders, I texted Beth a picture:

AKA the Flying Nun look
AKA the Flying Nun look

Beth:  Can I see it without the sweater? And you are freaking adorable.

she who struggles:  No, you can’t because I only packed the skinny shirt and the new shirt is too see through and I only packed a lace bra so can’t wear it.

*Note:  a “skinny shirt” is a faux button down shirt Beth told me about, and it’s totally genius, unless you need to shed your top layer because you’re sweating to death.

Beth:  Then let me see it without the collar. The collar sticking out of the turtleneck reminds me of the flying nun.  Sorry.

sweater, no necklace
What about this???

Beth:  Yes!  That’s it!  Love it! Now go steal a long necklace from Granny.   On a substantial chain and  you’re good to go.  Don’t stress about the necklace but remember it for next time.  Unless Granny has one, in which case steal it.

Picture of karen in a sweater with necklace
Alex, my final answer is…this.

Beth:  Home Run!  Perfection!  Where has that necklace been all my life??

she who struggles:  In my drawer.  Gift from Eddie. Don’t feel comfortable wearing it.

Beth:  You look gorgeous.  Now go have fun. I love you, grasshopper.

Beth:  Will you keep the necklace on just for me?

she who struggles:  Yes, I will keep the necklace on but I am SWEATING SO MUCH I might have to take off the rest of my clothes.

The story ended well enough. Like always, I managed to get dressed. I went to the party and stood by an open window when possible. I was drenched the entire party, but no one saw a thing.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Never ever travel with just one bra.
  2. Always pack back-up options and accessories so that you have options
  3. Try on your outfit before you leave the house to avoid the last minute messing around.
  4. Travel with jewelry.
  5. Travel with baby powder. And tissues.
  6. Travel with sweatbands.
  7. Travel with one pair of flats.
  8. Plan outfits around layers.
  9. If you think you might be in a consignment store, don’t be a jerk and ask where ‘the new stuff’ is.
  10. Never try to shop before noon on a Sunday. You won’t be able to get much done.
  11. Find out Beth Roy’s cell phone number and text her for help during any dressing emergency.

May your next special occasion preparation look nothing like this.



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Owner, Baker,
& Storyteller

You know that friend who has it all together? Yeah. That’s not me. What I can offer you instead are my experiences, insights, and passions. Pithy observations about making cookies. Wry commentary on running a business. Loving (if slightly sarcastic) parenting advice. And if that doesn’t interest you, I have dogs. Cute ones.

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