That tiny room. That seemingly massive mirror that is staring you down. Those LED lights that highlight every bump and indent on your body.
You stand awkwardly in the middle of that dreaded room and hang your clothes up on the rack. You’re so excited because you’re convinced those jeans are going to perfectly compliment your legs, and you know that shirt is the exact cut you’ve been looking for.
If the jeans fit the way you imagine, you know you’ll sashay out of that tiny room with your head held high, hair flowing behind you, elated about your new purchase. But more realistically, you know that it’s more likely that they don’t fit exactly the way you want them to, and you’ll be propelled down a vortex of disappointment, depression, and self-loathing. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there — far too often.
And the feeling is, well, suckish.
I’m 5’11, so from a very young age I was painfully aware that my body was different from just about everyone else I saw – both girls and boys! When my friends invited me to the mall, I always had the image of that dreaded fitting room lingering in the back of my mind. I often wondered if I was the only one who hated those rooms and the way they made me feel.
Did no one else cringe at the thought of having to put on a little “show” for the “audience” of people waiting for you on the other side of the curtain? Did no one else tremble when you inevitably had to take that walk of shame back to the rack to swap out the pair of jeans you just tried on for a size (or two) up?
I had to be missing something….right?
Recently, I’ve been giving a lot more thought to the whole fitting room-customer dynamic. Major brands have taken great strides to make women feel more welcomed in the dressing room — from quotes to aesthetically pleasing rooms, it’s obvious that they’re trying to make the atmosphere less intimidating. But, honestly, no amount of ‘body positivity’ messaging is going to make me feel comfortable when I walk into that cold, sterile room. The mirror telling me “you look hot!” or “that was made for you” just feels like an artificial attempt to assuage the brand’s own guilty conscience.
Although we might not always realize it, the relationship we have with clothing is a very intimate one, filled with sensitivity, insecurity, and vulnerability. Clothing can, in many ways, be like those middle schoolers who seem to have an uncanny ability to sniff out your biggest insecurity on the first day of class and hit you right where it hurts. Think about it, when a pair of pants don’t fit you or a shirt is just a little too tight around your arms, you almost feel as if your clothes are rejecting you. Why do we take it so personally?
Well, I have my theories. But ultimately, I believe it boils down to how we feel about our bodies and the expectations we’ve set for what an “acceptable” look is for our body shape. When we find something that “fits like a glove” we feel “understood” by our clothing, like we finally got it right. We seek validation through outfits that our bodies are “normal” — that the person designing that pair of jeans did it with YOUR body in mind. And honestly that feeling, in the moment, is an incredible rush. But the faster we realize that brands themselves have inconsistent sizing, the sooner we can throw away those deeply ingrained insecurities that they themselves taught us, and stop seeking out that supposed “perfect fit” from brands that were never made to suit our bodies in the first place. As we abandon these preconceptions, we can also start to change the way we view that dreaded fitting room. Figure out what makes you feel the most confident, and don’t let one tiny room take it away from you.
Maturity comes with age, and I think my relationship with clothing is slowly becoming a healthier one. Yes, it’s about knowing my own body and the clothing I feel compliments me, but it’s also about understanding why I react the way that I do in certain situations. I wish I could go back and tell my 12-year-old self that the fitting room is nothing to be afraid of, and in fact it can tell you a lot about your relationship with yourself and with clothing. So, embrace the vulnerability. Use it to better understand the intimacy of your relationship with clothing. And know you’re not alone as you try to navigate the complexities of that relationship.