Trying things on at the Mall of America.

Carlos Gonzalez, Dml - Star Tribune

Withering Glance: Changing rooms, for the worse

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK
  • Star Tribune
  • May 26, 2012 - 8:15 PM

RN: And people say I'm a slob.

 CP: Yes...?

RN: No, I just spent a few minutes inside the dressing room at a major American retailer, and it was such a pigsty that it made my work cubicle and its post-tornadic appearance look like a your average Walker Art Center gallery.

CP: And here I imagine you making most of your purchases within the hushed, clubby confines of a gent's dressing room at Brooks Bros. "Will sir need a repp tie or a pocket square with his sports jacket?"

RN: If only. No, we're talking major department store. There was more merch strewn about this cramped, shabby dressing room than there was out on the sales floor. No wonder I couldn't find my size. It was probably rolled up in a ball on the floor of an adjacent dressing room.

CP: Oh, I am not above picking through a pile of castoffs in those changing rooms. The search for a nice bargain heeds not the boundaries of taste or decorum.

RN: Speak for yourself. The last place I tried something on, the dressing area had a vague backroom/potential-sexual-assault vibe. Hardly the ideal environment for stripping down to one's bra and panties, so to speak.

CP: I remember when Macy's was Dayton's and I was buying the occasional suit-of-clothes. I loved the whole ritual of trying on, taking a look in the threefold mirror, and having the tailor make adjustments with that little Bordeaux cookie of chalk. It was a ritual and a rite of passage. Things have fallen off a bit since then, right?

RN: You think? Although the flip side is a place like J. Crew, where a perky "How is everything going in there?" comes wafting through the door, like clockwork, every 45 seconds or so. Just fine, thanks, although what I truly would appreciate is having someone level with me and say that no man my age and with my Casper-like complexion should kid themselves into thinking they can get away with madras patchwork shorts.

CP: Or how about that trendy hot spot at the mall, where the lighting is on a spectrum that makes discerning a garment's actual color impossible? Step out of the dressing room for two secs to regard yourself in the hallway mirror, and the self-locking door swings shut. And me in a size too small. Thus humiliated, I am in no buying mood.

RN: I probably shouldn't complain, as my fitting room is also my bedroom. But still, you'd think that retailers would want to staunch the flow of customers fleeing to the Web with, I don't know, services.

CP: Right. The phrase "may I show you to a dressing room?" should not result in being thrown into a space that resembles the tiny closet of a raging teenager.

RN: None of the entitled under-20 shoppers I've observed at the mall would put up with it. Which raises the question: Why do we?


Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

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