Archive for August 2010

Why doesn’t Macy’s want me to feel pretty?

August 2, 2010

I went shopping for clothes the other day.  I’ve been running my existing wardrobe into the ground, and in the interest of not looking like I wear the same clothes every day, I’ve been trying to shop more.

(For the record, I have plenty of underwear.  I am always wearing clean underwear.)

(When I wear underwear, that is)

Now, I have body image issues.  Pretty much everyone does, but I feel like I have them more than most, although maybe everyone feels like that too.  I’ve got funny body proportions that make shopping tricky — it’s hard for me to find clothes that fit one part of me without being loose and flappy (or worse, pinchy and vice-like) elsewhere.  Add to that to how finicky I am about clothes (I routinely spend an afternoon at the mall with nothing to show for it), and shopping can be a bit of a struggle.

(My tailor loves me.  Half of the things I buy have to go through him before I can wear them without looking funny.)

(Yes, I have a tailor.  More people should.)

(No, I’m not gay.)

At any rate, I actually quite like shopping, so it’s not like I’m hating the time.  But, I feel like it’s more effort for me than for some.  Again, though, I bet everyone feels that way, like how most people consider themselves smarter than average.

So, anyway, on this last shopping trip, I once again was confronted by the familiar question: why is everything about change rooms designed to make me look ugly in these clothes?  This question is hardly new, and the inadequate change room experience has been an ongoing joke in fashion circles for a long time.

(I almost said “for ages,” but that’s probably needless exaggeration.  Also, I feel like the issue would have been resolved during the Italian renaissance if the problem had existed then.)

I’m not exactly a bronzed beach Adonis, but I do have what in more naïve times might have been called a healthy tan.  So, why do the lights in change rooms make me look the same shade as the Pilsbury dough boy?

And, while we’re on the topic of doughy mascots, why do those same lights manage to make me feel flabby and unfit?  One of my issues is that I’m too skinny, and yet somehow a department-store change room can make me consider going on a diet.  Usually, when I look at someone suffering from Anorexia, I wonder, “How could you possibly think you need to lose weight?”; but, I bet all it took was five minutes in a change room at Macy’s.

Now, in my apartment there’s a spot in my bathroom where the lights hit me just right and my muscles are exaggerated by the shadows.  When I stand there, I look fit.

(I spend an awful lot of time standing there.)

My theory is that the “before” and “after” shots you see in muscle magazines are created through a similar approach.  It’s definitely possible to improve the appearance of a physique just through clever lighting.

So if my bathroom lights at home can flatter my body and the clothes I’m wearing, why on earth can’t the ceiling light in a shopping mall change room do the same thing?  That would make me buy clothes.

It’s the higher-end clothing stores that confuse me the most about this.  I can absolutely understand if Hot Topic’s cramped little ad hoc change room wedged behind the rack of Badtz Maru belt buckles isn’t as well-designed as it could be.  But, higher-end boutiques and big stores like Macy’s or Selfridges will spend a fortune on displays designed to make clothes look wonderful off the rack, and then they have you try it on in a change room with decor reminiscent of an office cubicle.  I get that office managers need to keep the drones disillusioned and hopeless, by why would a major clothing store do the same to its customers?

The silver lining is that buying clothes often puts me in the position of being aggressively comfortable with my body.  In a concerted effort not to be reduced to a puddle of whimpering self-loathing, I’m forced by those mirrors to accept who I am at least long enough to try on a shirt.  That is, arguably, good practice for surviving self-consciousness in the real world, something that just about everyone can benefit from.  They say that we’re our own worst critics.  So, if we can handle our worst critic, looking as bad as we’re going to look, then maybe we can handle a bunch of random other people who probably aren’t looking too closely to begin with.

(and who are often ugly, anyway; people in glass houses…)

Not that I think, for even a moment, that such a result was even remotely the intention of the people who designed those pallid little rooms.  But, I suppose if I’m going to look pale and doughy while trying on expensive clothes, I might as well at least be toughening up while I do it.

Actually, a better idea is probably just to buy only from stores with a solid return policy, and try all my clothes for the first time in my favourite corner of the bathroom.