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October 17, 2012 at 12:52 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

EXPERTS AGREE: Try Clothing on At Home

By Jeany Miller More Blogs by This Author

According to a 2012 study from Daily Mail, women try on more than 21,000 clothing items in a lifetime but, alternatively, purchase only half that amount. In this same vein, the average woman frequents clothing stores about four times per month and selects approximately 10 items consisting of jeans, shirts, dresses or shoes to try on during each trip. That adds up to about 40 different items tried on per month, or 480 per year, with less than 20 of those pieces actually purchased!

I stumbled across these statistics after a personal shopping experience at my local Gap. While there, I tried on three different dresses, but didn’t purchase even one. Each of these articles looked adorable in the store, and before going into the dressing room, I was worried about how to pay for all three (assuming I’d love them on myself as much as I had on their hangers). Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about any money that day, because I walked out of the store empty-handed.

But not before having an interesting conversation with one of the sales associates.

Blissful Ignorance?

Before I reached the exit after my uncomfortable experience in the dressing room, the clerk who had assisted me asked how I’d liked my dresses. I explained to her how awful they looked on me, accentuating my fat rolls rather than concealing them. Her surprising response left me thinking about that shopping trip long after it had ended.

“You know,” she said thoughtfully, “I actually try to discourage women from trying on clothes in dressing rooms.”

“You do?” I asked in wonder, trying to guess the punch line of this dialogue.

Self-Objectification

What I learned that day, however, was much more valuable than a joke. It turns out that dressing rooms make many women uncomfortable, especially those who are full-figured. Researchers at Flinders University in Australia discovered in 2012 that women are likely to feel worse about perceived figure flaws while trying on swimsuits alone in dressing rooms than if walking past others on a public beach at midday.

Similarly, regardless of whether she’s clad in a revealing swimsuit or covered up by jeans and a sweater, a woman is more likely to feel ashamed of her body if she feels she’s being watched by others, such as when stepping out of a dressing room amid the glances of nearby shoppers. This phenomenon is known as self-objectification, in which women monitor their appearances to see how they measure up against the virtually unattainable beauty ideal of being thin. In turn, such self-scrutiny subjects ladies of all sizes to body shame and anxiety.

A New Shopping Experience

At my local Gap, the woman I spoke with said she suggests that women take home new garments and briefly wear them around the house, where they feel comfortable and at-ease without the pressure of fitting rooms. This eliminates much of the negative self-talk many of us hear when we try clothes on in the store.

As if to support this idea, researchers are now telling merchants they should find ways to mitigate the stress their customers, especially overweight women, experience while trying on clothes in harshly lit, mirrored dressing rooms. This means avoiding comments on sizes and providing positive feedback when shoppers seek opinions. It also means helping a customer decide when a dress is worthy of going home for a second chance and when that garment should be forgotten because it’s simply a bad choice.

As an overweight woman, I agree that fitting rooms are nothing more than tiny cubicles of sorrow. The mirrors seem to enlarge each fat roll, increase the roundness of my cheeks and add several sizes to my hips. Meanwhile the overhead lights give my skin a sallow tinge, show the unflattering hue of my roots and keep me from buying any clothing color except black, because it’s the only slimming shade available.

So, the next time I feel compelled to shop, I’m going to follow the Gap sales clerk’s advice: purchase the cute little shirt, take it home and try it on in the privacy of my bedroom. If I still don’t like the garment, I’ll exchange it for something else (or just get my money back).

Photo Credit: Calotype46

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