Not everyone loves shopping. Not everyone who loves clothes loves shopping. For a start, it requires the not insignificant financial privilege of having enough disposable income to spend on non- essential items. But even for those who can afford to shop just as a pastime or hobby, the experience is not always easy.
Think of all the necessities that a trip to the shopping centre requires.
You have to be able to get there, physically able to navigate the transport systems and move around the stores without too much difficulty. Whilst there’s always options, for those who are less physically able this becomes much more difficult. It can be hard enough to squeeze into a fitting room anyway, without a wheelchair for example. Campaign group Trailblazers reported earlier this year that three quarters of individuals with a disability shop online as direct result of their store experiences. Buses often only have room for a single wheelchair or pushchair, so if you’re not the chosen one on that occasion, you might have to miss out on retail therapy today.
Individuals who are conscious about their bodies may not mind being in the stores, but changing rooms are a whole different battleground of inner critics and shaming voices. Who hasn’t felt embarrassed and judged, convinced that the eyes of the whole world are upon us as we wriggle out of a pair of jeans that looked perfect on the plastic model? Marianne Clark, a doctoral student in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, undertook a study on the experiences of women in gym and shop changing rooms, and found the psychological impact to be not insignificant.
Time is a key factor. For people with children, care roles, demanding jobs or something else that requires them to be at home or another location, an afternoon at the shops just isn’t an option. Even when you think you know what you want, inevitably something else will catch your eye, the size won’t be in stock, the traffic will be a nightmare, your card won’t work, or something else will happen that means that the brief trip is far from it.
Some people who suffer with anxiety find shopping trips particularly triggering. Busy, intense, stuffy and pressurising spaces and experiences; far from the fun day out that some revel in. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want beautiful clothes in which they look great.
New website Your Fitting Room helps with some of these stresses. Showcasing clothes from independent designers including Luck Be A Lady, Bodyfrock, Moka London and more (so let’s be honest about both the economic and body size privileges this entails) they allow you to pick items you’d like to try on from the curated store, before delivering them to you to try on at home and pick up anything you don’t want afterwards.
It’s a great way to see what things really look like in normal light, with your own shoes or other items of clothing, and without the sweat and stresses of the shopping centre. I had quite a good time parading around the bedroom in different dresses and tops I would not have ordinarily picked out, and ended up with a new dress for summer. I could try things on and think about what I liked or disliked, with no regard for other women in the changing room.
Technology may be one way to address some of the issues with shopping and trying clothes on, and a number of virtual reality apps and offerings are being developed. Gap launched DressingRoom app in January 2017, and Ralph Lauren piloted smartmirrors in 2015.
A lot of the products are very high end and so it’s a bit inaccessible for everyday shopping. And practically, given the fact that they need to pay drivers and travel, I can’t see the economic model working for high street stores. If you can afford to splash out and stretch the budget for a special occasion, it’s worth considering, especially if some of the barriers above make shopping more of a pain than pleasure for you.
Words: Francesca Baker