I have a theory. I believe that Haagen-Dazs ice cream have a secret department that specializes in creating terrifying dressing rooms for clothing stores. The type of dressing rooms that makes medieval torture chambers look like a McDonald’s playground. The goal? To make you end up at the ice-cream counter, dribbling emo tears into your overpriced cup of fat and sugar.
I should know better by now. I should just learn how to sew. But it’s the start of the Festive Season and I’ve discovered that my collection of so-called party dresses is decidedly sparse. And then I pitched up at a wedding with a dress that suddenly felt like an iron band around my chest, of all places. (I was hoping my boobs had got bigger, but I think it’s just my ribs expanding. Or something.) And I realised I had to get something new to wear.
Cue horror theme music and nails scratching down blackboards and a long, dark teatime of the soul. I’m naming and shaming.
Edgars. Usually a lot of dresses, not too expensive. The dressing rooms actually have mirrors positioned so you can check yourself out from all angles. The light is okay as well. But it’s the one place where you never actually get to the dressing room. The queues are so long and slow-moving that you give up halfway, dump your haul and hit the road. Not an auspicious start.
Foschini. Depending on exactly where in the dressing room you stand, you can manipulate the light. If you stand stock-still, head slightly tilted up, hands on hips and arms pulled back, boobs thrust out… You don’t look like a pasty-pale Dracula with batwings and dark, bruised-looking bags under your eyes. But don’t move. Don’t breathe. Because if you do, the illusion is screwed. Downlighting. Uh-huh.
Truworths. Somehow, the electric light manages to etch every little wrinkle and crease on your body into sharp relief. But you don’t care too much about that… You’re too busy trying to keep the raggedy curtain, often missing a few loops, from exposing your increasingly shellshocked-looking face (and other wobbly bits and pieces) to the other miserable shoppers in the cubicles around you. And in my case, the curtain also got pulled back by an over-eager shop assistant who wanted to check if I was fine. No, I’m not fine. I’m half-naked. And vulnerable. Close the curtain. Bitch!
Forever New. Pure bliss and eye candy if you’re just walking in the shop, browsing the merchandise… But I was in for a rude awakening when I stepped into their fair-sized dressing rooms. The lighting. The horror! Since when do I have cellulite on my neck?! Never mind my arms, belly, thighs, calves, feet? Do I really look so tired and haggard? So pinched? And then, to top it all off: at Forever New, suddenly I’m a dress/shirt/skirt size bigger. I haven’t picked up weight, oh no. But suddenly, I can’t get that zip up. Heck, I can’t get it down once it’s halfway up. By now, I’m half sobbing. I’m feeling like shit. I stumble out with an armful of assorted bits of silk and just dump it, running out of the shop.
And then, the last stop. YDE. Why I even bother, I don’t know. First off, I have a butt. An actual butt that follows me around and loves a pair of well-fitting jeans. It’s not an anorexic butt, people. In YDE, my butt goes into shock and tries to creep down the back of my legs and hide behind my knees. What the hell is with the sizing? In YDE, I’m a large. A large fits over my waist and hips. But it’s a bag around my chest. In YDE, I get stuck in dresses in the dressing room, trying to take them off after forcing myself into their choked waists. Because bloody hell, a medium should fit me! At YDE, I look at my frazzled, pale, floppy, batwinged, cellulity, knobbly kneed, baggy eyed, wrinkled, scraggly haired, miserable self in the mirror, and I know people are ogling my pale, stubbly (it was a non-shave day, okay), legs underneath the too high doors and wondering what those whining noises are… I’m squeezed into a high-waisted dress that’s too short and too tight and is probably stuck. And I’m going to have to call the dressing room attendant to get it off.
So I give up. And I walk straight to Haagen-Dazs and buy their overpriced ice-cream and then I buy Pringles just to top it off and I munch all the way home. I’m wearing a garbage bag to the next function. ‘Cos according to those dressing rooms, that’s all I can pull off!