What to do when you are stuck in the dressing room stuck in a dress : It's So You!

What to do when you are stuck in the dressing room stuck in a dress

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 05/16/11

I knew I shouldn't have done it. I only went in there for a vintage clutch bag and I should have stuck with my in-and-out-in-no-more-than-five-minutes instinct.

But this was Rethreads on Humboldt and I love the place.

It took me exactly four minutes to find this sweet off-white embroidered clutch with bow tie clasp and chain strap. It seemed reasonable to look around for a few minutes longer. After all, shouldn't one ride upon the coat tails of success? (Or is it "leave on a high note?”)

And then there it was: A really fabulous silk multi-hued-print shift that began at Banana Republic for probably around $160 and ended here for a mere twenty-one. It was size SP. Well, I was an S last summer (or was that another summer?) and since it had long sleeves, I theorized that the P would come in handy for short arms like mine.

So, with heart rate slightly raised, I went into the dressing room, pulled off all my winter apparel (sweater, scarf, thermals, and winter coat - yes May 16 in Milwaukee) and pulled the dress over my head. I had to sort of stretch my neck and collapse my shoulders to get it over me, so I mused (a bit smugly, I might add) that Yoga has helped me in yet another unexpected way.

I did get it around my body. Eventually.

It was so pretty. Okay, tight through the shoulders - but pretty. But wait: A side zipper? Perhaps that obligatory-decoration-zipper-thing that you see on the sides of bags?  I zipped, or attempted to zip, and strained and sighed (without exhaling) as my dream of a bargain dress receded into my mental vault of “what could have been.”

It was time to slip the thing back over my head and onto the rack of rejects.

This is when things went seriously wrong. I could see my in-and-out-in-five-minutes errand turning into an “I’ll be lucky if I make it out of here in fifteen.” I yanked it from several points along the hem. I pulled the cuffs. I inched and ached my way into an embarrassingly vulnerable posture.

Now remember: I do this for a living. No, not trying on ill-fitting dresses, but helping others to try on ill-fitting dresses - er, fitting dresses. As I preach all the time: “It’s not your size that’s wrong; It’s the size of the dress.”

But I panicked. “Holy taco! I better lose some weight!” followed by the recurring “What if there were a fire at this very minute?” I thought about that in Macy’s just the other day. I pictured what it might be like to run from the dressing room half clothed. I imagined the laughter and the pointing from the upstanding shoppers of Mayfair Mall as they paused from running for their lives.

At least here on Humboldt, no one would probably notice. This is Riverwest, and Riverwest is very open-minded about what it means to be clothed. I could see myself running out in the street with a dress halfway up my face, arms flaying vertically, bare legged, and without my new clutch bag.  Someone might say to me, “Nice look; but you need a clutch bag or perhaps a pair of stilettos.”

That thought calmed me down. Actually, it made me laugh. I did and pulled a muscle in my neck. This was getting serious so I had to come up with a plan.

Should I just pull and rip and pay the twenty-one dollars? Maybe I could mend it, do more Yoga, lose some weight, and wear it to my brother’s wedding at the end of June.

No, I’m really bad at getting things mended.

So, I pulled the dress back down into position and checked myself in the mirror. That’s when the next plan took form. I could walk up to the cashier and explain that I love the dress so much that I just have to wear it out of the store. Let me pay and go.

But I didn’t have the right shoes for the dress. And what would I do with the thermals?

Finally, I decided to come clean with the dressing room attendant. I walked out, told her I was stuck and needed help, and lead her back to my stall.

She didn’t bat an eyelash. She exclaimed, “That happens to me all the time!” She began by positioning my head forward, arms extended, and shoulders squeezed.

“I might hurt you,” she warned, and so I made a joke about Yoga.

It did hurt, but she was effective; a real pro. She slid it off after about 90 seconds of stretching muscles I didn’t know I had, and she again assured me that this sort of thing happens all the time.

I wish I knew her name. I feel like I should know it since she saw so much of me. Whoever she is, she was such a great salesperson, she almost convinced me to buy it anyway.

“Even still, it is so cute on you! And it’s a bargain!” she insisted. "You should just get it anyway."

“Well,” I answered, “I guess the whole incident is my fault. I shouldn’t have tried on such a small size. I suppose I need to lose some weight.”

“No,” she countered. “You are not the problem.”

I loved her for those words. I guess I needed to hear them, and I can consider her my dressing room guardian angel.

So, my advice for those who are stuck in a dressing room stuck in a dress: I hope you’re at Rethreads.


Above: A clutch kind of like the one I found at Rethreads. Only mine is cuter.

Comments (3)

1. Ann said on 5/17/11 - 07:42AM
Thanks for the chuckle! I've felt the panic but never had to actually get the help. Sounds like you handled it with as much dignity as possible. :)
2. Molly said on 5/18/11 - 07:29AM
Very hilarious situation you got yourself into! I feel like at vintage stores, it's really hard to find your size, and even if it is your usual size, things are much smaller than they appear. Thanks for the advice in case I find myself in the same dour situation:)
3. Kalynne said on 2/21/13 - 04:42PM
This is laugh-out-loud funny! And it makes me want to hire you to take me to Rethreads (or anywhere in Riverwest, which was rundown and scary when I was at Marquette in the 80s) while I am in MKE next weekend.

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ISYFashion no longer accepts clients for personal wardrobe design services. For information on what Mary's been up to, visit www.marysheehanwarren.com