Making the Most of The Fitting Room

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Ah, the fitting room. A dreaded location for many women. The room is often too small, sometimes smells funny, the mirrors are so unflattering (it's not you!), there are pushy salespeople lurking when you want to be left alone and not a soul in sight when you need a different size. Often the doors don't lock, the slats are open enough for someone to see in. The lighting is atrocious and there are never enough hooks to hang our potential purchases from.

I have many friends and family members who bypass the fitting room experience all together. They buy off the rack, go home to try, and then return when necessary. This can be quite time consuming and result in being lazy and not returning items because you can't get yourself back to the mall. Others swear by online and catalog shopping. They again return when necessary. This can become quite cost and time consuming as well, spending time in the line at the post office and paying to return things that were plain awful.

If you know a store or brand well, sometimes buying sight unseen or item unworn can be successful. For the rest of our gender, it is best to put on a brave face, close that shrunken door and face your fear of the fitting room. Armed with the right tools and the right mindset, it can be less daunting of an experience.

Dress the Part: I have mentioned this before, but it is worth mentioning again. If you know you are going to the mall to buy clothing, wear the right things.
Clothes that still look good after being pulled on and off multiple times (think jeans with stretch, knit sweaters, matte jersey separates).
The proper bra. Something smooth that is invisible under knits. Preferable a skin tone so it disappears under white tops. If you are looking for something strapless, wear or bring a strapless bra.
The proper underwear. Do not wear granny panties if you are looking for a tight knit skirt or swimwear. Again, you want it to seem to disappear under garments. You want to make sure it fits correctly come time to wear it out in public.
The proper footwear. If you are shopping for jeans, wear shoes the height you usually wear with jeans. Same with suit pants. Along these lines, if you are going to try on capris or skirts PLEASE remove your socks. Nothing looks more unflattering than capris with black trouser socks. You will never get a true image of how the item flatters you if you have stunting socks on your feet.

Take it All: Once you have removed your clothes, shimmied in and out of things, mussed your hair, been depressed, elated, frustrated and thrilled all within 30 minutes, then put the clothes back on and the hair back in place, the last thing you want to do is go through the whole procedure again. Take a lap around the department or the store. Grab a salesperson to start a fitting room for you. Finish your lap, take a breath, and now take a second lap. Go in a different direction, check out displays, folded stuff on shelves, rifle through racks. It's better to grab everything in the first trip, than have to get all gussied up again and find the perfect something on your way out the door.

Be Real: When I stand in front of the mirror, suddenly I put one foot in front of the other, swivel my hips and suck in my tummy. my sister pulls her arms away from her sides and stands very very straight and stiff. My friend puts her hands on her hips, turns her head and juts out one hip. We all seem to be Vogue! Vogue! Vogueing! in front of the mirror. Why? Well because we want to look our best. We want our waists to look small, our arms slim, our legs long and lean, our necks as long as Audrey Hepburn's. The problem with this? We don't strike a pose when in line at the bank. We don't Vogue! our way down the hall at work, we don't pirouette, stand on our toes or suck in our gut at the grocery. So when you stand in front of that fitting room mirror, feel free to do your “flattering pose,” but then be normal. Let your stomach relax, your shoulders drop. Try moving around, look at your profile. Sit on the bench and check out the view – does it ride in the back? Is it too tight in the sleeves when you cross your arms? When you rise from the bench, how do the pants look? Are they riddled with creases or looking fresh? Do you have to perform a lot of adjustments to get the top or dress back in place? Give each garment a reality test before taking it to the cash register. Be yourself!

Be Realistic: Yes, that pink sequined halter dress fits you like a glove. It makes you look slim, tall, sexy and sassy. It's on sale, but it has no place in your wardrobe. You never have been to an occasion that would find such a dress appropriate, nor will you ever. Yes it's fun, and pretty and flattering. However it is a poor investment if it never leaves your closet, and never has the tags removed. Only buy what you NEED. If you buy what you want, you'll have a closet full of great stuff, but never anything to wear. Be good to yourself and your wallet and buy what works for your lifestyle.

Think Quality: Over an over I hear women say they don't like the fit of their jeans, but they were on sale. They bought this GREAT sweater, except that it gaps at the neckline and is a bit too short. They didn't have any luck shopping, so they bought something just to feel a bit successful with the trip. The dress is perfect if it is worn with a girdle, a minimizer bra, control top panty hose and a shawl. Why do this to yourself and your wallet? No matter our income, it isn’t a wise choice to buy that which we don’t love and doesn’t love us back. Those who have great style do not necessarily have the largest wardrobes. It’s okay to wear the same black pants every time you go out with the girls. It’s okay to wear the same one or two suits for corporate events at work. It’s okay to wear the same black shift to a wedding one weekend, a holiday party the next, and a Bat Mitzvah the next. No one will whisper behind your back about your miniscule wardrobe if the clothes fit and flatter. It’s all about how you put your outfits together – the shoes, the accessories, the hair. It’s the whole package. You are far more likely to get the whispers for an ill-fitting dress, a cheaply cut suit, a blouse that gaps at the buttons, a pair of jeans that are too short or too tight. It’s okay to leave a mall empty handed. It was a learning experience – you saw what didn’t work, and you won’t have to stress yourself with trying on those sorts of things again. Filling your drawers with not-quite-rights will stress you out the next time you are trying to figure out what to wear. When the perfect garment comes around, you may not feel justified in purchasing it because you spent all your money on mediocre pieces.

Just as you wouldn’t give up on a project at work, you wouldn’t give up if your child was having trouble in one course of study in school, you wouldn’t give up if there were a leaky pipe in your home, you shouldn’t give up on yourself. Giving up on your appearance is giving up on your whole package. Whether we like it or not, we are judged by our appearance on a daily basis. You are beautiful, you are intelligent, you are talented, giving and kind. Your exterior should properly represent your interior. If you wrote the Next Great American Novel, you would let just any old cover be published with this tome. No, you would want it to reflect the contents properly, allure readers to pick it up and purchase it. You are a novel, a novel that people would enjoy reading. Make sure your cover reflects your contents well.

Shopping can be a chore. Fitting rooms can be taxing to your self esteem. We all do things we don’t enjoy to reap the rewards. We don’t want to write our dissertations, change diapers, clean our homes, go to work every day or go to Motor Vehicles to get our license renewed. We do these things because the rewards are great. Looking good is just as great a reward. It’s representing yourself properly and respecting yourself.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Dilly, thank you for posting a new one on this blog! I read your other 2 every day, but I always check this one too just in case, and I am so happy to read a new post. With “Back To Work” looming ahead of me, I need the support!

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