Fitting rooms rank among my least favourite places on earth. They’re up there with train seats next to open mouth chewers and the Apple store. They’re unfeasibly hot, badly lit and never quite clean (why is there always a rogue plaster on the floor?). They’re also the place where I put my physical appearance under the most intense scrutiny; helped along immeasurably by those movable mirrors that allow you to see yourself from angles unseen on a day-to-day basis. The ones that dismantle any illusions we have about our appearance and replace them with the question, ‘is that really what I look like?’
Fitting rooms can make and break our fashion dreams. The jacket that looks incredible on the hanger looks like a wet paper bag when you try it on, but the dress you picked up on a whim fits like a dream and makes you feel invincible. The humble fitting room can both lift spirits and ruin days.
Some people – teenage girls in particular, as I found during my years in retail – love to share fitting rooms; swapping garments and offering up scathing critiques of what their friend has picked up. I will never share a fitting room. It’s a stretch to even go shopping with another person. The fitting room is a sacred place where the only critical gaze welcome is my own. Any unzippable jeans or disastrously ill fits are between me and the mirror; any outrageous choices are mine alone to either laugh off or go for broke and buy.
We all know that we think things about ourselves that we’d never dream of uttering to anyone else, so another opinion is entirely unwelcome and wholly unnecessary. The internal monologue which constitutes the soundtrack to every trying-on session I ever have is more than enough without another voice wading into proceedings. Allow me to share…
– Is that what I look like from the side?
– Anyway, I’ll try this first.
– Why is there a cut out there? Does everything have holes in now?
– Maybe I’m just old. Next.
– Why do these ‘boyfriend’ jeans fit like skinny jeans?
– Let’s see what they look like from the back.
– Wow, I should have brushed all of my hair. Not just the front.
– No to the jeans but this skirt will look great without sock marks and fuzzy legs.
– Well, I’ve tried on three sizes and none of them fit.
– Am I a weird shape? I think I’m a weird shape.
– Not to worry, this is the perfect dress. This dress will make me better at my job. More sociable. A better girlfriend. More attractive. It must be mine.
– Oh, it’s that much? Never mind.
– This jacket will help me get over the dress.
– I have a lot of jackets. Do I really need another one?
– Yes. Yes I do.
– OK, I saved the best til last. Prepare to be transformed.
– Nope, turns out it’s the worst.
– Ugh, fake pockets too. Definite no.
– Why is it so hot in here? My forehead is sweating.
– Time to leave.