An Open Letter To Dressing Rooms

Dear Dressing Rooms,


Listen, I know you have a job to do and, technically speaking, you do it. You provide a place of moderate privacy in which to put some new clothes on that we are potentially going to buy, and provide maybe a chair if we’re lucky on which to store our current outfit/purse/etc. I will concede that you complete this basic service, even if you’re one of those awful rooms with the curtain that doesn’t quite close all the way so you spend the entire time kind of peeking out like “Who can see me right now? Why didn’t I wear cuter underwear today?” The problem lies not in your inability to shield us from the rest of the store, for the most part.

And I have cleaned dressing rooms. I know how people abuse you — how they assume that, because you are “private,” you are somehow their personal flophouse in which they can throw around their unwanted clothes like some kind of human tornado, with no regard for the fact that someone is going to have to come in after them and make everything once again presentable for the next customer. (And we’re not even talking about the people who get makeup and/or sweat all over the clothes. Those people deserve the death penalty, and nothing less.) Just know that I know your struggle.

I just don’t understand why you don’t make it easier on us. Why, for example, do you insist on having fluorescent, overhead lighting? Who in the world designed you, thinking, “If only we could make our customers see every unfortunate nook and cranny in their skin, and be all-too-aware when the undersized jeans they are fighting to get on cause their stomach to muffin out unflatteringly over their waistband.”? Almost without fail, I go into a dressing room and am greeted by lighting that — even if the rest of the store is more flattering than an Oprah interview camera lens smeared with Vaseline — makes me look like some kind of bridge troll who has snuck into the mall to try clothes on with the normals. This cannot be good for business. Could you at least get some vanity lighting around the mirrors, or something?

Aside from the simple head-on unfortunateness of greenish fluorescent lighting that makes us look vaguely nauseas at all times, there is also the problem of the mirrors. When you have two, and they are angled towards each other to give us an unprecedented view of our backsides from any and all perspectives (no matter how unprepared we might be), the police-investigation brightness only serves to make us look like a paparazzi photo of a celebrity who’s let themselves go. Not to mention the heat. Oh, God, the heat. Why is it always so hot in you, dressing rooms? Why is it at least 10 degrees warmer than it was out in the store, making the process of trying on jeans similar to that of a crab shedding its shell for molting season? Why do we have to emerge in a wholly unfortunate layer of shame-sweat?

It’s just that, when one does stumble upon a dressing room that is flattering, reasonably cool, and spacious enough so that you don’t risk tumbling out of the two-by-two box all wrapped up in curtain — it’s like some kind of gift from the Self-Esteem Gods. We suddenly look fabulous in everything, and beyond that, want to buy the shit out of everything we try on. This is a good thing, dressing rooms! It’s good for you, it’s good for us, and it’s certainly good for the stores you’re located in. Why make yourselves a funhouse of unflattering angles and floodlights? Just set the mood a little bit, and we will buy/feel awesome in everything! We promise.

Just don’t be one of those dressing rooms that makes you walk outside into the common area to actually see a mirror. Not even Hitler deserves that fate.

Society TC mark


image – Shutterstock

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


More From Thought Catalog

  • raymondthimmes

    I had sex in a dressing room once. It was less than pleasurable.

    • LexiB

      Why? Sounds pretty hot to me : )

  • Only L<3Ve @

    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • Bronny (@FatAus)

    You are definitely right about the heat (why?!) but I can’t believe you left out the ones with those stupid swinging doors that only go from about shoulder to knee height so anyone walking past can see you struggling to pull extra-skinny leg jeans over your calves.

  • A.

    Old Navy has the worst dressing rooms I’ve given up on trying anything on and I just buy it straight from the rack because I know once I go to try it on I will not buy anything.

    • Liz (@cheezliz)

      I was thinking of Old Navy while reading this, too. They’re awful!

  • s

    EVERY TIME I go into a dressing room, I have this thought monologue go through my head. And a couple times, when it’s been really bad, I’ve pointed it out to the manager. Do they not understand that the tiniest changes would make customers want to buy everything?

  • N

    There are a few stores in my local mall that don’t even have mirrors in the dressing rooms. The mirrors are located on the OUTSIDE of the doors as well as one giant, communal mirror. Whose genius idea was this? I have no idea how unflattering this dress is, yet I am forced to open the door in order to find out, putting it on display to the rest of the store.

  • Anny

    When I worked at Victoria’s Secret, I was a fitting room bra specialist and was involved in opening a new store that was meant to be modeled after the Michigan Avenue store. You wouldn’t believe how much special attention was paid to construction of the fitting room and getting every light placed at just the right angle and with just the right intensity. But it worked, seeing as I had multiple women tell me they wanted to know the secret behind the mirrors since they felt like they looked so great in them! All in all, I think companies are starting to pick up on the fact that fitting room design can really help sell a product.

  • Amy

    I’ve noticed that some fitting rooms have started to use mirrors that make the occupants look thinner/narrower (a new Target I went to a few weeks ago did this). While I’m sure this helps them sell more clothes, I hate it! It makes me think that I like the way something looks on me but then I go home and try it on in front of my own mirror and it looks bad enough that I never would’ve bought it had I known how it really looked on me. So frustrating!

  • S.Jones

    I worked at american apparel and found a used pad at the end of the day whilst cleaning it out

    Why why why why

  • Sophia

    AMEN TO THIS! I’ve been wondering about the dressing room lights for years. What a bad business choice.

  • When You Shop Online For Plus-Sized Swimsuits, It’s Easy To Stay In Style | The Beautiful Struggler

    […] Not everyone can find what they’re looking for in a department store. First, there’s the awkwardness of wondering if the store carries a specific size. Then there are the limited options for anyone over a size six. It can be embarrassing to seek out a clerk and ask for the biggest size they carry. To make matters worse, it can totally ruin a person’s day when they find out they don’t even cater to their demographic. Have you ever gonesearchingthrough an entire mall only to find one or two stores that carry extended sizes for everyone? When it comes to swimwear, retail stores tend to have limited options that are designed to cover and disguise big and beautiful figures. If you don’t want to wear what looks like a giant garbage bag, you’re out of luck. Not to mention those awful dressing rooms with unflattering lighting. […]

blog comments powered by Disqus