Affirmation in the Dressing Room

“That’s beautiful! It looks lovely on you!” The words were said with such honest admiration that I turned around in disbelief. A complete stranger in the Macy’s dressing room at Downtown Crossing had stopped to remark as I stepped gingerly into the open space from my tiny dressing room trying to get a better feel for the outfit. This particular Macy’s is in a chaotic part of the city. Usually the line to the dressing rooms is long and once inside a large sign warns you that you are being “video-monitored” by someone of the same-sex. You forget about it for a while, but as you’re contorting yourself in odd positions to see how your bottom looks in the bathing suit that promised to take 15 pounds off your total weight, you suddenly remember and look around aghast that some unknown person just saw what you did.

I was “mother-in-law” wedding dress shopping. Any female who has reached the age of being able to go to the dressing room alone knows the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” that are part of the shopping experience. As a female lead on one television show recently commented it’s “depressing and soul-killing”. Too often we women drag along men, expecting them to  make a potentially self-esteem damaging experience easier. It rarely happens and I can’t count how many couples I have watched in the same scenario.  It goes something like this:

She: You don’t like it. (in flat tones) He: I didn’t say I didn’t like it. (in defensive tones) She: But I can tell – you didn’t say anything. If you had liked it you would have said something. He: It’s not whether I like it, it’s whether you like it. She: But I need an opinion. He: Look, I don’t know women’s clothing. I guess I like it. Maybe you need something that doesn’t have stripes. She: I knew you thought I looked fat(in an accusing and hurt tone, eyes welling up). He: I did not say that. She: Let’s just go.

It’s a set-up for failure of both parties. We are desperately looking for words of  affirmation and have a completely unrealistic expectation of what those will sound like. What a contrast to the unsolicited and sincere opinion of a stranger who is a woman. It’s not the first time I have had honest opinions from strangers. I’ve found that the boundaries surrounding us are removed in the dressing room. Women are willing to stop and help you figure out if the red or the green, black or grey, flounced or straight looks better. There is nothing to lose. You won’t go home silent or have a fight with your husband, mother or daughter. Strangers, often feared in other spheres of life, are a gift in the dressing room.

Bathing Dress circa 1858 – Please come back in style!

Back to my dressing room experience: “You really think so?” I said with big question marks in my voice. Stranger in the jeans and over-sized sweater: “Yes – it’s so flattering”. “Thank you so much! It’s for my son’s wedding”.  And so the conversation went. Affirmation complete, I retreated back to the dressing room, smiled at the invisible video monitor, and switched back into my regular clothes.  It had been a mere half hour of shopping and I was ready to go, dress in hand. My hope is that when I go to try on bathing suits there will be an equally beneficent stranger or that the “Bathing Dress of 1858” will come back in style!

Bloggers Note: Thanks to all who participated in the 6-word story challenge! It’s not too late to enter as the winner will be announced tomorrow and will receive an on-line Amazon gift certificate hopefully useful in many parts of the globe! If you win and you don’t live in an area where it can be used, we’ll talk! 

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5 thoughts on “Affirmation in the Dressing Room

  1. What a lovely article! I didn’t know you were behind this wonderful blog. I can’t think of a single woman who can’t relate to this topic, although my husband believes in a one-way radical honesty approach (“That sweater makes you look mumsy,” or “You look like a flasher in that trench coat”). It’s one-way because he does NOT like it when I’m radically honest with him. If only he were vague and non-committal.

    Looking forward to catching up on your writing and seeing what you publish next.


  2. Oh, Marilyn, I love this! I am one of these women who tell complete strangers how beautiful I think they look!

    And I am feeling particularly special as my wonderful est grandson, at present in Oz, has booked tickets for me and a few others to see CHICAGO in London on 4th June.


    1. Always remember you are doing people a wonderful service Wilma! I think I would have tried on thirty more dresses had she not been there!The musical Chicago in London?! How wonderful is that?! What a great present.


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