Drama in the Dressing Room

On Long Island, if it’s a weekend, and it’s cloudy, chances are everyone is at the mall. I’m usually much too intimidated by the lack of parking and the overpriced stores to venture there even on a weekday, but this weekend I was looking for something specific, (a dress for an occasion) so I braved the crowds of teenagers wearing midriffs, all riled up from the end of another school year, and I went shopping. Needless to say the mall was a nightmare involving scary parking garages, overpriced clothing, the aforementioned throngs of screaming teens, and of course, no clothes that fit.

I usually love shopping, especially when I have nothing particular to buy. Once I need something specific, however, nothing fits, nothing is affordable, and, like Saturday, all I end up leaving the the store with is low self esteem. Without fail, whether it’s shopping for shoes, bras, a bathing suit (which I’ll get to later in the week), or anything else you really need, suddenly a seemingly simple task turns into a horror of dressing rooms, mirrors, and ill fitting garments. Nothing kills self esteem like a bad shopping trip, frustration comes easy when you’re staring at yourself up-close in a claustrophobic mirrored box when you could be doing something vastly more productive.

My experience Saturday played out like many a shopping trip throughout my life. I walk through the store until I’ve accumulated an armful of 10+ pieces to try on. At first I’m excited, there are pretty patterns, new shapes, and the potential of finding that perfect addition to my wardrobe. Then I enter the tiny dressing room with the oh-so-unflattering florescent lighting and everything goes to hell. Immediately I realize I’m wearing far too many layers. I used to insist on leaving on as much clothing as possible while trying things on, but that’s how you end up with tops that are too big, or skirts that are way too short, so I’ve resigned myself to stripping down before I get dressed up. I always start with something I’m not crazy about, and then work my way up to the things I’m really hoping will look good. There is a desperation in it, as the number of potential items dwindles. This shirt is too baggy, that skirt doesn’t fit over my hips, yikes, is that a balloon hem!? By the time you get down to those last couple pieces, you’re praying that something, just one thing, will look good, and be affordable too. Perhaps like me, once you realize everything looks awful, you go back and try it all again, just to make sure. Then you attempt to justify clothes that make you look terrible, just so the whole trip won’t have been in vain. Of course once you come to your senses and realize you have no money, and like Stacy and Clinton on What Not to Wear tell you, you should buy clothes that fit, you give up.

So, I emerge from the dressing room with nothing, handing back those 10+ beautiful garments that will never look beautiful on me. I look like I’ve been through a war. The sweat has made my make-up a blotchy mess, my hair is in tangles from pulling things over my head, clothes are all askew and rumpled from sitting on the floor, and when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I leave, I feel utterly hopeless. It’s not the worst thing in the world, it’s trivial, but it can ruin the whole day, or even the week, particularly when you remember you have to find something soon and you’re going go through the whole ordeal again.

I wonder if there are women who don’t have this problem, who breeze into a store and everything they pull on looks amazing, but I doubt they exist. Maybe one day stores will implement better lighting, or make clothes that fit more diverse body shapes (no really, who looks good in a balloon hem? I want to know!), but I don’t think that would help anyway, maybe it’s something we do to ourselves, maybe it’s the pressure. I’ve tried shopping online to avoid the whole mess, but I only end up with badly fitting garments that I then have to pay to ship back, or take to the post office or retail location to return, so I guess there is no solution. Actually, my solution on Saturday was to go to Sephora, where I could buy something that I knew would fit. I’m not saying retail therapy is a good thing, but sometimes it is just the thing, especially when it comes in the form of a lip stain you’ve been wanting for months that is finally in stock.

Tarte Lip Stain with LipSurgence™ Technology in Enchanted

One coat:

Two coats:

See, all better!

More on lipsticks tomorrow, stay tuned!

What does everyone else feel about the nightmare that shopping can be? Is it always fun? Do you have a method to get through it? I’d love to hear from you!

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16 Comments

Filed under acceptance, shopping

16 responses to “Drama in the Dressing Room

  1. As a man who hates shopping for basically the same reason (excluding the balloon hem thing), I wear all of my clothes until they are thread bare and awful and everyone yells at me. Then hopefully someone will take pity and buy me new clothes during the holidays and I never have to shop. Besides I don’t have the patience or the money!

  2. Megan

    As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried really hard to only buy clothes that are practical, comfortable and fit well. Unfortunately that means a hell of a lot of trying things on and handing them back. I find two things help in this downer moment. I remember that it’s the stores fault that things don’t fit me, not mine – its their job to design clothes that fit well. And I also like to pat myself on the back for my frugality and environmental consciousness. A little smugness can take the sting out.

    • I always try to comfort myself by thinking “well at least I didn’t spend money on something I didn’t like” because it’s true, when you buy something you never wear it is a reminder that it doesn’t look good on you on top of being a waste of money, and it sits in your closet and long outlives any let down you have from leaving a store empty handed.

  3. emily

    k. here’s what i think…
    i think that i tend to get my hate on before i even get to the parking lot of a mall. i hate that there are parking lots. i hate that i am in a car. i hate that i had to drive on a road with lots of other cars around me to get to another place to tell me how to be. i also understand (having worked in a mall since age 15) that, for a fact, malls really ARE commercial institutions designed to scrape away at our identities and self-esteem to buy into the insanity each and every little store tries to sell us into becoming. the genius behind mallness is that we are never meant to become. we are only meant to buy. knowing this, i still, falsely, enter a store and then a dressing room, hoping that a single thing will fit my body in a way that will make me casual/a bit fancy/a bit rough/a bit refined/ a bit of me in a way that i will be able to be taken seriously enough in the world, so that what i have to SAY is heard. that is what is really fucked up. i am trying to BECOME physically beautiful so that i can participate in the world. because the more “attractive ” i am, the more what i say will count. then my beauty will be allowed to shimmer through. but it won’t. it never will. the mall, shopping, all of it has NOTHING to do with me, or you, or anyone.

    it was designed through the mind of a man with a fantastical wanting to either hyper-sexualize me (straight) or asexualize me (gay).

    nothing will ever fit.
    the lighting will always suck.
    UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD YOU TRY THINGS ON IN THE MALL.
    go home and try on. always.

    buy candles, makeup, gifts, socks, jewelry at the mall.

    buy clothes in pieces at cheap stores.
    buy dresses at the goodwill.
    save money and buy expensive, but tailored things.

    never go to the mall.
    it was made for no one.
    it brings only sadness.

    we love to express ourselves through our clothes.
    we love to define ourselves this way.
    we are artists.
    we can still do this.
    but the mall will never help us with that.

    TRUST ME.
    i worked in one for a long time.
    i studied it. i understand it.
    i am from new jersey.

    trust me.

    • Emily, thank you for your poetic comment, I love it! Us Long Island and New Jersey girls certainly know our malls, and having worked in them as well, I also harbor a particular hatred for them, the insipid music, the stale air, it’s all the more painful when you have to go there everyday and face the crowds of eager shoppers. I try to stay away from them, but sometimes it just happens.

      I love this:

      i am trying to BECOME physically beautiful so that i can participate in the world. because the more “attractive ” i am, the more what i say will count.

      SO TRUE, I will do a whole post about this sometime, it’s pretty much the whole reason I am doing this blog, because it’s crazy that we have such a narrow definition of beauty, and then anyone who falls outside of it becomes irrelevant, it has to stop, we are all doing horrible things to each other by letting it continue!

  4. I try to only go when I actually need something, and whenever everything looks awful, I tell myself at least I didn’t spend any money! That helps a little.

    And yeah, what is up with the lighting in dressing rooms??

    • I know, don’t they realize if they had nice soft lighting and “skinny” mirrors they would sell a lot more clothes? I guess they would get a lot more returns then too!

  5. haren

    Hey it’s twice as bad for us plus size gals because the designers clearly think that if you are tasteless enough to wear a plus size you must want ugly clothes!

  6. alison

    I despise malls! I do not recall the last time I voluntarily entered one. If I need a dress in a pinch, I go to Macys, Filenes and Lord and Taylor (with coupons and spanx!) I find that it helps if you know what shoes or bag you will be wearing, it narrows down the colors you can buy…if Im buying shoes and a bag I start in those sections..(my 2 favorites) Happy Shopping! Its rarely fun when you NEED something…..If you cant find something, buy new accesories and wear something you already have!

  7. alison

    good luck :0

  8. Brandi

    I prefer one coat… lol

  9. Pingback: Celebrating 100 Darts | beauty dart

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