In case you’re feeling pretty good about yourself for dropping a few pounds, go shopping for a nice outfit. That’ll bring you down to earth.

By “nice” I mean stuff by Jones New York, Eileen Fisher and Ann Klein – clothes that will set you back $200-$300 for a single outfit. That’s what I was after this weekend. I have some occasions coming up where my faded capris and extensive t-shirt collection wouldn’t even be acceptable for the kitchen help. 

Paying full price is rarely an option. I’m physically incapable of doing so. I mean, I dream of outlet malls. Besides, the fall collections were coming in. Translation: Deeply discounted summer clothing. It’s only July and it’s the South, which should mean racks and racks of bargains.

I spent a big chunk of Saturday at my favorite mall, which was packed – mostly because it was 100 degrees outside. I didn’t care; I love crowds of shoppers. Reminds me of the holiday season, and I get all goofy just thinking about it. (Yes, I’m one of those 4 a.m. Black Friday people.)

The first place I stopped was Belk, where I could never go wrong. Until that day. I tried on a skirt from Liz. It fit, but looked completely wrong. I started to try on a jacket from Jones, in the same size as the Liz skirt. I couldn’t even pull the sleeve past my forearm. Eileen Fisher, even on the clearance racks was out of budget, but I tried on gorgeous, flowy top, anyway. Too big, and it was my current size as well.

What gives?

I went up and down sizes for two hours. Frustrated, I ditched the designers for some Hot Cotton. It’s not high-end, but oh, do I love those clothes, and there was this killer white, linen blazer in my correct size. Fit like a glove, but it would have been inappropriate for the occasion, and I was on squeaky-tight budget.  I spent another 30 minutes looking at dresses – gag! – then left Belk for Macy’s.

I couldn’t find anything I liked there, but here’s the worst thing – and Macy’s is the only decent store I know that does this: So you’ll know what department you’re in, “Sizes 14-24” is posted in foot-high, black letters on the wall. Not Juniors. Not Petites. Not the ubiquitous Womens.

It might as well spell out  “Welcome Cows.”

Me, I’m not so self-conscious that it bothers me, but remember, Macy’s places this particular section as far as possible from the mall entrance. It’s like two steps away from the parking lot. Maybe I take stuff like that too personally, but Macy’s doesn’t seem to want us pear-shapes in there.

Or apples. Or figs, which is the shape I feel like I’m in when “my” size doesn’t fit.

I stopped in a few more stores, then hit the off-price stores for a couple of hours. Nothing.

Sunday, it was off to my other favorite mall. Jackpot. The “Dillard’s Woman” section was loaded.  I tried on some pants and a top from Nygard, only because it was calling me from across the room. I took back pieces in my current size, plus a size larger – just in case – but my current size fit perfectly. The price was right, but the look really wasn’t what I needed to be wearing. I’d come back for the outfit later. Maybe.

I spent the next 90 minutes trying on outfits, and it was absolutely maddening. The sizes were grossly inconsistent from one collection to the next. When I finally found what I wanted, the size that fit the best was three sizes larger that what I usually wear.

Not one size. Not two sizes. THREE.

I almost didn’t get it, for that reason. To see that size in my closet – and see, I can’t even tell you the size, it causes me that much embarrassment – is seriously off-putting.

On the way back, I called my mother. She knew I’d been hunting for an outfit, and I called to tell her that after two days, I’d finally had some success.

“What did you end up getting?” she asked.

 “I pulled together a nice outfit from Kasper separates,” I said, adding I got each piece for 40 percent off.

 “Oooh, Kasper,” she said. “I like them, but you have to be careful because their sizes tend to run small.”

That absolutely made my day.

I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.  ~  Tammy Faye Bakker

Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.