Jumpsuit Joy In Changing Room Chaos, All Thanks To My Fairy Godmother
What’s the perfect way to spend a rainy Sunday? Clothes Shopping? Not on my niggly Nelly. You see I’ve never understood the whole girly shopping thing and probably never will. However, a chance encounter with my Fairy Godmother of fashion showed me there may be light at the end of the clothes rail after all.
I’VE never liked my body very much. There, I said it. I’ve been everything from a size 10 (briefly — who would have thought the one positive thing about grief would be to see weight fall off without any concerted effort) to a size 20.
I’ve been on so many diet and weight loss plans over the years I’ve lost count.
I’m sure one of the main reasons why I never learnt to swim properly has very little to do with my ‘fear of water’, but more to do with my fear of donning a swimming costume. If you want proof, just ask any of the lovely ladies who have had the ‘privilege’ of spending some pool time with me. Getting me to discard my layers and don a tankini (fighting the urge to say emphasis on tank!) and then get into the shallow end of a pool is always an interesting experience.
I may hide behind my water ‘fear’, but I know it gets me out of examining why I don’t like getting in the water. And that is my body hang-up. A size 14–16 now, depending on what I’m wearing, I still have the same insecurities I had when I was 14, with a few add-ons that come with age.
So, I suppose it’s no surprise that I’ve never, ever, ever enjoyed clothes shopping.
Yes, I’m weird, so sue me.
I see clothes shopping as a necessary evil at those times when I need to get an outfit for some sort of event.
It’s even worse when it means shoe shopping too! Horror of horrors.
I have wide feet to go with my wide body (yes, I know it’s self-deprecating and I need to stop it, but it gets a laugh, doesn’t it and I can do laughs!).
Cue stress monkeys doing a fandango in my head and pushing me ever closer to that giant slice of coffee cake.
You see, when I catch sight of those smiling, giggling gaggles of girls, women of all ages enjoying a day out shopping, interspersing clothes purchases with cappuccino and even a spot of Prosecco, I’ve looked on in absolute bemusement. I just don’t get it. Why, just why?
No Eye Contact
I look, I wonder, as I see women made up and dressed up to the nines (my interpretation, at least) tottering (again, my perception) on heels I’d need a ladder to get to as they go about their clothes hunting with military precision.
Even worse, the thought of wandering through those beauty departments in the big stores. Wherever possible, I try to jog (well, walk a bit quicker at least) through those, trying not to make eye contact with those perfectly made up ‘goddesses’ in case they take pity on me and call me over.
At this point, if you’re thinking ‘weirdo’, GOOD!
I am in the minority. I’m sure of that. But this is me (as somebody once sang — I love that song!).
So, if you see a rather red-faced, frowning woman, almost certainly in jeans and a t-shirt (my uniform), wandering around ever so slightly dazed in the aisles of your favourite store, there’s a good chance she answers to Asha.
But don’t expect eye contact. It’s rare and, if it does happen, it’s far more likely to be a rabbit in headlights expression on my mug. If there’s a smile, it will either be one of relief as I’m at the end of the clothes hunting experience, or wind… probably brought on by far too many coffee and cake stops along the way.
So, the reason I’m rambling on about all this?
Quietening Those Meddlesome Mind Monkeys
Yesterday I went clothes shopping. I’m off to a dear friend’s wedding and, although I know she’d be fine if I turned up in jeans, I decided it was time to step out of that comfort zone. What happened next was an experience and a revelation all rolled into one.
Picture the scene: Outlet shopping centre. Busy Sunday afternoon. Oh no, it’s a rainy day. The mind monkeys make their mark: “That means more people and you know how much you love lots of people when you’re trying on clothes. There’ll be a cue for the changing room and you’ll hold everyone up.”
I take a deep breath and ignore them. Three coffee houses are welcome beacons of hope and, more importantly, escape routes. I head for one and grasp at the distractions.
It’s amazing how long you can take to sip a mug of tea and eat a vegan-friendly wrap when you’re in full delay tactics mode. The worry monkeys settle down and start up a conversation in my head as I nibble at my falafel and consider whether I can make room for a pudding.
You really could have made an effort before you came out today. You know what shop assistants are like in those kinds of stores. Bet they’ll have a good laugh when you leave, especially when you turn into a sweat palace trying to fit into an outfit too small for your big arse.
Worry monkey 1: “You know you get poorly when you overheat. What if you faint in the changing room and staff have to drag you out in your underwear in full view of shoppers? How embarrassing!”
Worry monkey 2: “Yeah, that’ll be funny, and you haven’t even got your matching undies on today. What a joke *snigger* You’ll never be able to set foot outside your house again. The shame.”
Worry monkey 3 butts in: “And just look at you. You really could have made an effort before you came out today. You know what shop assistants are like in those kinds of stores. Bet they’ll have a good laugh when you leave, especially when you turn into a sweat palace trying to fit into an outfit too small for your big arse.”
I shudder. All three scenarios are now playing out in my head.
I tell the monkeys to shut the f**k up, take another deep breath and begin my foray into the world of womens’ clothing. Wish me luck, I’m going in.
Cubicles and Dreadlocks
Shop 1. After a quick tour of the store, I leave. One solitary jacket could be my saviour but, at this very early stage, I’m not sure. I exit stage left, going over the top in my explanation to the sales assistant. A weak smile crosses her lips. She’s confused. I don’t blame her.
Shop 2. I take the plunge and head for a cubicle. Trying all kinds of tops on, I get hotter and hotter. Each top appearing tighter and more difficult to extricate myself from than the last.
I open the cubicle curtain and peek out, looking for my wife, but she’s in full clothes collection mode, a winning tactic to keep me in the changing room for as long as possible and reduce the chances of me doing a runner (in my own clothes, of course).
Instead of my missus, I am greeted by the bemused face of a man in full dreadlocks sitting a couple of feet away. I smile nervously and shut the curtain quick, a bead of sweat creating a little curl on my increasingly frizzy fringe. A hot flush now? Really?!? My peri-menopausal universe is having a a great big laugh.
Why is it that changing room curtains never seem to go right across the changing room? They always leave you with the worry that a quick bend to pick up a discarded garment could be fatal for your modesty.
Here’s a question: Why is it that changing room curtains never seem to go right across the changing room? They always leave you with the worry that a quick bend to pick up a discarded garment could be fatal for your modesty.
I try more tops, more trousers, but still no luck.
With the cubicle now resembling a scene from Twister I check my heartrate on my fitbit. Over 100? I don’t get that when I’m ‘playing’ badminton. How on earth can anyone ever turn this into a fun day out? It’s beyond me.
The final, sweat-inducing moment comes when one of the shop assistants asks me if I am using the cubicle.
Well, d’oh, I’m here, aren’t I?
Cue evil, sarcastic Asha, who loves to make a dramatic entrance at moments like this. In my head, and thankfully not aloud, this twisted element of my psyche replies: ‘No, I’m just waiting for someone to come and use it. It’s a hobby, you know. Like train spotting, only I make a note of the females who come into the cubicle in my little black, or should it be pink, notebook. I’m here every Tuesday from 12 to 4’.
In an ever so slightly stressed huff, I pull on my jeans and t-shirt uniform and leave — hot and bothered, and still empty handed.
Fighting every ounce of my being, I walk past the coffee house and go for store 3. The fire in my belly starts to rumble. Is it going home time yet? In my slightly grumpy, stompy toddler way, I make for the aisles.
Wife On A Mission
More rows and rows and rows of clothes. I sigh and take another one of those deep breaths. Wifey is now truly on a mission. It’s a sight to see. My missus, who once loved shopping for hour upon endless hour, has now - most likely influenced by me — grown tired of the whole shopping experience and likes to get things done as quickly as possible.
I gaze at her as, eyes focused, she whizzes from one clothes rail to another. I’m there with the Bionic Woman theme tune in my head or, in my more lascivious mood, picturing her in slow-mo, as she turns herself into a moving mobile coat hanger, garments stretched out across her muscly arms (sorry dear reader, I’m in one of those moods. Let’s blame it on a hormone surge, shall we? I still have them occasionally).
She’s smiley and she’s about my height, not 5ft 8 inch or above (not that I’m heightest you understand, it’s just that shopping today for someone of my stature (almost 5ft 3ins on a good day) I can feel like a hobbit among a sea of lean giants, not jolly green ones).
I head for my next changing room, but this time I’m met with a lovely smiley lady. Yes, really. She’s smiley and she’s about my height, not 5ft 8inch or above (not that I’m heightest you understand, it’s just that shopping today for someone of my stature (almost 5ft 3ins on a good day) can make me feel like a hobbit among a sea of lean giants, not jolly green ones.
I feel my blood pressure settle. I smile. I think I can work with this lady. With her on my team, and my wife sucking up clothing from the aisles faster than the speed of light, suddenly there may be light at the end of the tunnel or, at least, at the end of the clothes rail.
I smile again and visualise me skipping (perfectly acceptable to skip when I’m visualising), yes, skipping out of the store with bags of wonderful clothes ready for me to step effortlessly into. No sign of perspiration, just a perfect ethereal glow. The clothes fit like a glove, a very slim, sexy, glove, of course.
As I bathe luxuriously in my imaginings, guess, what happens next? Success! Not only success in terms of getting an outfit for said wedding but, also, for stepping out of my comfort zone and trying on more clothes in an hour than I probably have in my 50 and a bit years on this planet so far.
The secret? A wonderfully supportive shopping assistant and her very tall and very helpful colleague who spent ages gently encouraging me to try on things.
No judgement, no sniggering, just group laughter among all of us as I fought my way in and out of outfit after outfit. Hell, I even tried on a jumpsuit. Yes, really! Even with my short frame and legs that I often refer to as Gary Lineker’s rejects. No, the gusset didn’t end up at knee level. I tried heels too! Wowsers! Still couldn’t walk in them though. Think Farmer Giles in stiggies.
If it hadn’t been for my big boobs (cheers Mum) hell even the jumpsuit might have come home with me. Might have had to have come home, given the challenges of getting in and out of it. These things must have been designed by a man. Seriously, why on earth would you put a zipper at the back when one at the side would be so much easier? Jumpsuit wear should come with a government health warning and an instruction to only wear said item if you have a strong nerve and pelvic floor. Seriously? When a woman’s gotta go...
Anyway, I digress. Still, happy with my purchases, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Thank you wonderfully warm, funny shop assistant Jane for your help, support and height. You are one in a million and I will be back.
The lesson in all of this? Well, I may not ever truly understand the strange workings of my fellow oestrogen warriors and their love affair for clothes shopping but, you know what? Thanks to my Fairy Godmother of fashion and footwear, Cinderella, you can and will go to the ball, or at least, to a castle for a friend’s wedding!
Asha Clearwater is an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualified journalist who’s been a news reporter, features editor and arts editor, as well as editor of several national business magazines.
Today, through her business Turquoise Tiger, she coaches SMEs on the art of great storytelling to promote their products and services.
Asha occasionally freelances as a writer for national magazines and is even behind some of the information boards you’ll find strolling through Woodland Trust Forests.