I do believe that the silver lining to my recent Kindle fiasco was that it allowed me to connect with the fabulous Amy Guth. (Who, I’m tickled to report, purchased my book for Kindle. Woot!) Amy is a novelist, radio host, and social media manager at a little newspaper I like to call The Chicago Tribune. So, ya know, she rocks. I could tell right away that she was a total kindred spirit, and within two e-mail exchanges I was begging her to share this anecdote/philosophy with you folks. I won’t spoil it by rambling on. Read for yourselves!
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If a dressing room is a source of stress or dread, try this: Slip on clothes with your back to the mirror. Dressed, take a moment and decide whether or not the item feels comfortable and well-made, and determine if it fits within your existing wardrobe. If it passes the comfort and quality test, then turn around to see how it looks.
The idea of trying on clothes and assessing comfort before facing the mirror causes a subtle but important shift: It puts the dressing room emphasis on whether or not the item of clothing is worthy of you and not the other way around. This practice helps send a mental cue-to-self that the clothing is to be vetted first and foremost, an exercise in “this is not right for me” and not in “I am not right for this.”
Subtle, yes, but doing this helps keep perspective: Realizing in advance that a skirt feels uncomfortable in the waist or hip trains our crosshairs on the skirt (not, say, our own bodies), and allows us to sail past negative self talk (“My hips are too big!” or “My muffin top is gross!”) when facing the mirror. It also provides an opportunity to switch out an ill-fitting garment for a more suitable size before succumbing to the self-doubt that dressing room mirrors often inspire. By the same token, taking time to realize that an article of tried-on clothing does feel comfortable can set you up for positive self-talk once you turn to face the mirror. (“I look great in this blouse! It really flatters my figure and makes me look great! Score!”)
I’d be wrong to take credit for the seeds of this idea. I stumbled across it accidentally a few years ago when I was in a dressing room myself trying on clothes, and overheard a group of women laughing and berating themselves in a row of adjacent rooms. Yep, laughing and berating.
Their conversation was a series of competitive expressions of self-loathing, hurled at each of their respective mirrors so boldly that I recall thinking, “If someone else said that to her, we’d call it abuse. Or at the very least, she who said it would be squarely and appropriately pegged as positively awful.”
Two things I overheard brought the message into focus most clearly:
First, the voice of one woman rose above the chorus for a moment as I heard her insulting the mirror for not “letting” her have the item she’d just tried on. Really, as literally as, “You %$#@*&% mirror, why won’t you let me…?” as if ruled by the dang thing. (Gentle reminder, my friends: Mirrors don’t have opinions and most certainly are not the boss’a you. Extra bonus of this dressing room practice? You moon the mirror and set the tone right off the bat. Boom.)
Secondly, another woman – speaking to a third woman and apparently letting her peek inside her dressing room after having gone a few rounds in the “you look great”/”no, I’m hideous” game – hating on their own hips. The woman explained to her friend that she planned to buy an item that felt very comfortable, then added, “Wait, I didn’t even see how it looks.” followed by, “Oh, that actually looks pretty good.” Then she complemented her own hips.
Ka-boom! The woman found something comfortable and then checked the mirror as an afterthought.
After that, her dressing room comments were far more positive than those of her friends.
I wasn’t embroiled in a dressing room battle that day myself. (Well, not unless, “What the hell am I going to wear to that wedding next weekend?” counts.) But I decided to try out the comfort-first idea anyway. It was life-changing, particularly when swimsuit season rolled around. Immediately, I started making smarter, more conscious choices about wardrobe pieces (translation: far fewer, “What was I thinking when I bought that?” moments of buyers’ remorse), and felt the stress of shopping start to shift into a much more pleasant activity.
Dressing our bodies seems to have become a chore of “get what fits passably,” and the subtle message is that we, my sisters dear, have to fit ourselves into fashion’s offerings. In fact, we are all worthy of taking a breath, deciding if our clothes are worthy of our bodies (and this is a point for which we all just adore Sally’s messaging, I think most of us can agree), and then taking on the visual and styling in the second beat.
Hokey at first? Maybe. But we’re pressured to play the competitive self-insult game out of conditioning or habit. And we’re also pressured/reminded by advertisements for yogurt, flavored water, diet systems, and all sorts of other crap that we’re “supposed” to dread the simple act of deciding if a piece of clothing is worthy of space in our closets. This is one simple gesture that can restore order and set us up for positive thinking. (And that will stick it to those eat-our-yogurt-to-shrink-your-whatever-sized-self commercials anyday.)
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Image courtesy Dwellement.