An Expert Guide to Surviving the Fitting Room
I watch a lot of sci-fi shows, and I’ve got to be honest — I’m really surprised that I’ve never seen an episode featuring a fitting room. In my experience at least, these everyday spaces definitely hold supernatural powers. They’re like Narnia closets that lead to a word of self loathing and despair. They’re miniature Bermuda triangles that suck up happy women and spit out empty shells. “What year is it?” They beg, grappling at sales associates. “Who is the president? How long was I gone?”
In short, that shit is serious business.
I know what it’s like to greet that three-paneled mirror and feel like you’re facing down a frothing hydra. I know what it’s like to have a perfectly lovely day, week, or Jesus, even month ruined by one evil pair of skinny jeans. And after years of being repeatedly psychologically traumatized at every retail location in the greater Pittsburgh area, I’ve come to realize that I now employ an entire set of strategies to make the experience just slightly less horrifying. Basically, I prepare for trying on jeans the way the Winchesters prepare for a duel with Lucifer.
Do the strategies I’ve created make me super excited to try on clothes? Do I burst forth through the fitting room doors belting Disney anthems? No, definitely not — but I don’t spiral downward into an endless pit of self loathing in the middle of Marshalls, either. Progress is progress, am I right?
I know a lot of other people struggle with trying on clothes, so I thought I’d share some of the things that help me. I hope they help you too!
Prepare for Battle
If there’s one thing I’ve realized about this fitting room business, it’s that you can’t just waltz in and expect everything to go swimmingly. You need to get in fighting shape long before you enter the ring. There are actually a lot of things you can do before you go shopping that can help stack the psychological deck in your favor. Here are some of those things:
- Get enough sleep the night before shopping.
- Try to eat a balanced, healthy meal about two hours before fitting room time. This will give you energy and lift your mood, and if you experience any bloating from your meal, it should calm down by then.
- Do something fun before you leave the house. Watch an Aziz Ansari standup special or take a thousand photos of your cat. Whatever makes you smile, do it!
- Wear something comfortable that’s easy to get in and out of. The less you have to struggle, the less stressed (and sweaty) you’ll be.
- If you’re shopping with a friend, choose someone with a positive body image who puts you in a good mood. Shopping with someone who complains about her own body or criticizes yours is like the fitting room equivalent of covering yourself in raw beef and running headfirst into a crowd of zombies. So yeah — don’t do that.
- If you tend to get sweaty when trying on clothes, try applying Secret Clinical Dry antiperspirant — not just under your arms, but under your boobs too. Wait ten minutes, then wipe the areas with a damp washcloth to get rid of any residue. This stuff is magical — trust me.
- Meditate, pray, practice some mindfulness or just stare at a shirtless photo of Jared Padalecki for ten minutes. Do whatever makes you feel calm and centered.
- If you can, plan to shop during regular work hours. Stores are less busy, so you’ll feel a lot less rushed and stressed.
The Heat of Battle
Okay, you did it. You made it to the store and you’re ready to get down to business. Here are some things that you can do to make your fitting room experience a success:
- Know the cuts of clothing that fit you best. If your entire wardrobe is full of pencil skirts, try on at least one pencil skirt. There’s a reason why you always buy them and even if you don’t need one, it won’t kill you to try on something that you’ll look awesome in.
- Always choose at least two sizes for every item you try on — one in the size you think will fit you, and one in a size larger. When trying on your clothes, always try on the larger size of each item first.
- Don’t get attached to numbers. The sizes of clothing brands vary like CRAZY, so choose the size that looks like it’ll fit you, even if it’s one or two sizes larger (or smaller) than what you usually buy.
- Pick out one item that you would never normally wear. Sometimes, you can be surprised at how awesome you look in something new. And if it sucks? Well, you’d never wear something like that anyway, right?
- Give yourself a five and ten second rule. If you try something on and you immediately hate it or it physically won’t button or zip, only allow yourself to look at it for five seconds. There’s no use picking yourself apart in a pair of leather pants you know you won’t buy anyway. If you try something on and you love it, only give yourself ten seconds to look at yourself in it. Stare too long and you’ll start to pick out flaws, even if your first reaction was, “I look like a diamond-crusted Beyonce. Bow down mortals, BOW DOWN.”
- If you try on something and it makes you look like a walrus in heat, make ugly faces in the mirror or do a super unsexy dance. It’ll force you to laugh at yourself in your horrifying outfit and make you realize shit just isn’t that serious.
- If you try something on and you look super cute, strike a few super cute poses. Cuteness amplified! I like to pretend I’m a Japanese pop idol. What? No one’s there but me — I do what I want! Chu!
- Pretty much just avoid looking at yourself in your underwear. That’s not what you’re here for, right?
- Give yourself permission to take a break if you get anxious or upset. Sit down and look at some photos of red pandas or text a friend. If there’s a long line, be courteous and leave the fitting room and come back after a few minutes.
- If you desperately need clothes and aren’t falling in love with anything, try creating a full outfit that hides the flaws of certain pieces. Find a pair of work pants that fit perfectly everywhere but the waist? Try them on with a flowy chiffon blouse that camouflages the tight waistband. Also consider having items tailored, especially if your issue it simple like your pants are just a bit too long.
- Fight back against negative thoughts. When your brain says, “Ugh, you look like a bunch of eggs shoved into a sausage casing.” Say something in your head that’s positive. I like to say things that are silly because it makes me smile. “Damn, I didn’t know Shakira shopped at TJ Maxx!” I will tell my booty in a bodycon dress. “They should probably stop making this dress since no one will look as hot in it as you do. GOD DAMN!” Hey, my negative thoughts are super intense, so my positive ones have to be equally intense to counteract them.
After you emerge from the fitting room, head to a different section of the store and check out shoes or purses — anything you like to shop for but don’t have to try on. It’ll help you wind down from the experience and put you in a better mood - especially if you find something perfect to complete your outfit!
I hope these strategies can make it a bit easier for you to face your fitting room fears. Try them out for yourself, and use them again and again — this stuff takes practice and undoing years of negative thinking won’t happen overnight. And when the girl next door to you steps out of her fitting room to check out her dress in the three-way mirror tell her exactly how awesome she looks. Because we’re all in this together, right?