Starting with the Girl in the Mirror

Walking into a fitting room and seeing a lack of mirrors often sends me into a cold sweat. I dread leaving the comforts of my rectangular chute to appraise my garment in front of a stand of jurors (or rather, annoyed consumers waiting in line). I get achy wondering if my underwear might be showing, or that the fitted silhouette of my skirt really hugs the wrong curves. Why should I be forced to make these (self-esteem punching) discoveries in public?

There have been a handful of occasions where I have tried something on, noticed there were no mirrors, taken the item off and left it behind, all because I was too shy to wander around looking for a reflective surface in an overcrowded store. On a side note, does anyone else hate having to try on accessories in an open store environment? Many a beautiful hat I have walked away from because I was alone and too wimpy to try it on in front of other shoppers. What if it doesn’t fit right? Or messes up my hair? Or makes me look like I’m attending church in 1923 — in a bad way? I guess what it all comes down to is an aversion to looking at myself in the mirror in public in general. No one wants to be the vanity-case caught giving their best Zoolander in H&M. So I try to keep my moments looking in mirrors outside the fitting room brief, and often don’t buy anything that I haven’t been afforded the luxury of examining in private for at least three minutes.

I must admit, my place of work is guilty of the public mirror. In a men’s suit store, mirrors outside the fitting room become more necessity then hindrance. A suit is worn multiple times a week, and is a foundational garment to a man’s wardrobe, so professional opinion and tailoring is often expected as part of the shopping process. While I have experienced the tremors and consequent pitfalls of being forced to come outside the fitting room to assess a garment, working in this type of environment has also led me to see some benefits. When I, as the salesperson, am able to actually see the garment on you, I can help in more efficient ways. If you show me the best and worst qualities of the piece you are trying on, it’s easier for me to pick out a designer or brand to suit your needs. I’ve stopped counting the times that I have been left at close to put away 26 pairs of pants left in one fitting room, all because the customer didn’t want to come out to take a look at where the problem was. Instead I heard him lament over and over “it just didn’t feel right.” Rather than confining yourself to defeat in the fitting room, remember that coming out in the garment is beneficial to both yourself and the attendant. I’m not getting paid to stand around and make fun of you.

It seems to me that in most cases when the mirror is outside the fitting room, the store wants to foster a relationship between salesperson and consumer. Though daunting at first, I actually think this relationship can have its upsides, even in an environment outside of men’s suits. Though some may sit with a snarl suited to Sid Vicious, fitting room attendants ultimately should make your shopping experience less stressful (even if they are just grabbing a different size or color). As for the customer with the 26 pairs of pants, in the end we were able to find one pair of trousers that he liked, but if he had come out to look in the mirror wearing the first pair he tried, maybe I wouldn’t have been restocking pants until my fingernails bled. So it seems I am lucky enough to see both sides of the looking glass, and in light of it all I am urging myself to start a (small) revolution. Take a deep breath, draw the curtain, and come out of the fitting room.

- Casie Brown

5 thoughts on “Starting with the Girl in the Mirror

  1. So very true. I’m the worst with shoes… I hate having to ask people to get them and then I’m worried they’ll think my feet are ugly; I think its some form of shoppers paranoia. You make a very good point however; why be afraid?

  2. Despite causing uneasiness there’s a clear mutually beneficial perk to setting up the mirrors like that. I get more annoyed when the mirror is clearly distorting my reflection. Mirrors of Value Village, I’m looking at you.

  3. Heh – I’m just the opposite.

    I have actually declined to purchase something because there was no OUTSIDE mirror. I find the size of change-rooms – and my proximity to the mirror in them – doesn’t allow me to have any realistic idea of what a garment really looks like from top to bottom. I need a bit of distance to see ALL of me and not just one bit at a time.

    And sometimes it’s handy to prove to an especially enthusiastic salesperson that you’re barking up the wrong tree. I remember coming out of a Gap change-room in a pair of khakis. The attendant looked at me dumbfounded and exclaimed, “Those aren’t OURS, are they?!” Needless to say, she did NOT try to sell me any more pants.

    Though Alyssa, I totally get the shoe thing. Many a shoe has gone untried because I couldn’t remember if I had holes in my socks or whether or not my toes were decently groomed. I think shoestores should have carols – like libraries. Shoebrary!


  4. Sometimes you got to let that salesperson in. I was recently at a hipster clothing store with an alliterative name, not known for it’s friendly or helpful service, but this German guy was all over me. He brought me ten different shirts and talked me into buying a larger size because, even though it didn’t fit perfectly then, it probably would after the first wash (he was right). Sometimes, you need to just let people in… to the change room.

    Also, what is the BAD way of looking like a church lady circa 1923? do you have a photograph? I think you should find one.

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