We need to change more than clothes in the dressing room

Brace yourselves, everyone. I’m about to make a huge confession.

I’m about to astound and confuse millions upon millions of people. I’m about to dispute the core of beliefs of department store marketers and romantic comedy writers.

I’m a 22-year-old, warm-blooded American woman who does not enjoy shopping for clothes.

Shocking, right? I’m a young woman, a product of our consumer culture, and a member of the prime demographic for clothing marketers. And I would sometimes rather visit the dentist than step inside a fitting room. I do not bond with female friends in clothing stores or feel a rush of adrenaline whenever I select a blouse to try on.

Now, I’m being a little dramatic, as is typically my style. I know there are other women out there who do not enjoy shopping for clothes. I also know there are women out there who genuinely do, and there is nothing wrong with that. We all have different activities we enjoy and different ways that we like to express ourselves (i.e. through fashion, writing, playing music, painting, etc.).

I do, however, often encounter a certain expectation that I should like to shop because I’m a woman. I see this expectation reinforced by the media every day. Take the movies and sitcoms where women storm through department stores and boutiques with their friends, determined to find the best item on sale.

Let’s not forget the classic romantic comedy shopping montage that began with Julia Roberts’ character’s makeover scene in Pretty Woman.  In this type of scene, a woman goes shopping with a friend or love interest. A woman tries on many outfits to the beat of the scene’s upbeat background music until she finds the perfect outfit that magically transforms her into a new person who can effortlessly attract her love interest.

According to this logic, we women should all love to shop. The dressing room is where all our dreams can come true, right?

Not exactly. Although the media encourages us to embrace shopping, it also sends some damaging messages to women that can make it an emotionally loaded activity. We live in a culture that tells us that our bodies should fit a certain ideal and into specific clothing sizes.

Step into any dressing room in a women’s clothing store and you might find a woman’s friend reassuring her that she doesn’t look “fat” in that outfit, as if our outfits should all make us look as small as possible.

We’ve fallen into a pattern of harshly critiquing ourselves and our bodies when we’re in those dressing rooms. As someone who is still working toward accepting her body and fighting against our body-snarking culture, it’s difficult for me to find enjoyment in this activity. Maybe this will change one day when I’m farther along in my journey toward body acceptance, but right now, this isn’t the case.

In a world where almost every woman I know has some type of body-image issue, I highly doubt I’m the only one who feels this way about shopping for clothes. The dressing room is a place where we need to sort through so many damaging societal pressures.

If you do share my feelings about shopping, make sure to take care of yourself the next time you are in that dressing room. Remember that your self-worth is not tied to what size your dress is. And if you don’t succeed in blocking out those negative feelings, try again next time. There will be another occasion when you’ll need to buy an outfit — another opportunity to work toward making peace with your body.

Haley Bierman is a recent college graduate working in theatre administration. She is extremely passionate about the arts, pop culture, and feminism. She enjoys Netflix, playing her ukulele, and hearing others’ viewpoints about the world we live in.


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