It’s Friday 2pm, party season. My husband has just phoned to inform me that his work Xmas party is on tonight! Yes he’s known about it for months. No he didn’t have time to inform me earlier.
As I frantically attack my wardrobe, pulling items off the hangers and tossing them onto the bed, I can’t help but notice the disturbingly large number of items that still have tags on them. When did I buy that? Did I really buy that? I pause.
The items all come from my favourite store, which makes me wonder why I consider it my favourite store. Well, because I’m a larger woman, and it’s one of the few stores that cater for such apparently rare creatures. To judge by the other stores at my local shopping centre, large woman don’t really exist, and if they do, well the camping and leisure store on level 2A should serve them well enough to get by… But I digress.
Why has this shop yielded so many un-worn pieces? It’s not the clothes themselves, they are beautiful and well made. It’s not me. I buy Marie Claire. I know what’s in fashion. Gingerly, as if it might bite me, I touch one of the tops. It’s a chocolate brown Grecian number. I loved it in the store and I love it now, but still I’ve never worn it. Why? Because it makes my breasts look like large coconuts and my stomach look like I’m in the middle of my third trimester. It simply doesn’t suit my shape. When I bought it, I was so oblivious to these facts that I actually bought two, in different colours. Damn!!
It’s now 2.45pm. If I ignore all the road rules, I can pick up the kids and get to the store before it closes. As I drive, I ponder the mystery of my un-worn wardrobe, and I realise that I know the cause. It’s the fitting rooms. Those tiny cubicles of illusion and ultimately despair. If Satan exists, then he surely had a hand in their creation.
The cubicles themselves are designed with one purpose, to get you changed and out into the common area between them as quick as inhumanly possible. Each cubicle is smaller than a mini bar fridge and just as cold, and where once, it might have shielded me from embarrassment, with its sturdy latched door, there are now, impressively heavy, yet deceptively breezy curtains that are, for some reason, just a few inches narrower than the doorway they enclose. Such that if I pull them across to guard against exposing my minimiser-bra-enclosed breasts from one side, I find my control-brief covered bottom, exposed to the world on the other.
As intended, I enter the cubicle, get the dress on, and then stumble out into the significantly more spacious but also more populated common space. I call this the ante-cubicle, and it seems to have devilishly insinuated its way into modern-day fitting room design, even alas, in my favourite store.
The ante-cubicle is a sight to behold. Lush and elegant, there are no plastic chairs for arthritic mothers here. Instead it is populated by brightly patterned ottomans, lights (lots of lights), and of course, an enormous mirror that covers every inch of available wall. Gone are the days where fitting rooms were simple, functional and private. Where the assistant could discreetly see your fitting and give you advice. Instead, the ante-cubicle encourages group participation and I find complete strangers giving me fashion tips and testing out their sales skills.
The first thing I see as I exit cautiously into the ante-cubicle is … myself, reflected gloriously back at me in the endless mirror and, surprisingly, the new dress looks well…fantastic. I look slim! Is it the dress or the fact that there are two miles of mirror on either side of me? Let’s face it; a hippo would look petite in a space the size of ten football fields.
“Wow!” The shop assistant arrives on cue and adds her voice to my already distorted impression. “That dress makes you look soooo slim,” she says with a predatory smile (she smells an easy kill), and two random shoppers nod their heads. Right there – I’m hooked. How can I not be? The mirror and assistant have hit me with my all-time favourite word combination – you, look and slim. Their exuberance suppresses the questions I should ask, “Doesn’t it make my calves look fat? Does the fabric cling too much?” Instead a smile spreads across my face. “That was easy,” I think.
Then in my post-selection glow (almost the same as post-coital glow but more satisfying) the assistant, having ascertained that the dress is for a party that begins in three hours, brightly tells me that I will need a jacket and possibly one of their gorgeous new belts, which by a happy coincidence arrived only this morning, and I gratefully pull out my credit card.
It never enters my mind that when I try the same dress at home, my human sized mirror and husband will both point out, in the smaller confines of my bedroom, that my calves do look fat and the fabric shows every ripple of cellulite on my thighs, which by the way, I couldn’t see in the bright glare of the ante-cubicle lights.
While I climb dejectedly back into last year’s outfit, I give myself some stern advice for my next shopping trip: 1) take an honest friend along with me. Someone who isn’t afraid to say, “That doesn’t suit you,” 2) find the largest bulldog clips I can and clip the sides of the curtain to the walls, and then stay in the cubicle for as long as possible (and just ignore the assistant’s threats to call security) and 3) never ever buy anything on the day of an important function.
I love this piece and wanted to share it with all the curvy ladies who can relate!
Love your shape!