Image by Lukasz Wierzbowski.
I hate clothes shopping. I would rather fish out the wet food that doesn’t quite make its way down the kitchen sink, or pop the lid off a jar of sauerkraut first thing in the morning, or participate in market research about my bowel movements every day for the rest of my life than go clothes shopping. I’ve even fantasised about inheriting a small fortune from the elderly, childless widow across the road, just so I’d have enough money to employ a stylist to miraculously deliver clothing to my doorstep. Sadly, that option seems unlikely, and therefore, I must shop.
Professional athletes psychologically prepare before a big race, and I do the same before I enter the world of retail. While they manifest crossing the finish line in record time, I visualise a world where I can find the perfect outfit in under 10 minutes. Where they plough through interval training, I time how long it will take to change in and out of pants (my personal best is 32 seconds with an elasticated waist). An athlete will ready themselves nervously on their starting block, and I enter each shop with the same trepidation, because no matter how much I prepare, the outcome is always unknown.
Once I’m in a store, I’m lulled into a false sense of security (similar to the CCTV camera that hasn’t been repaired since 2006, but maintains its authoritative presence). The retail assistant warmly greets me and asks if I need help or I’m happy browsing. I obviously need help, but how much is actually on offer? Is it simply carrying my selected garments into the change room, or will a SWAT team of fashionistas bust out with a hand-held camera, ready to restore my belief in shopping for a Netflix original? I assume it’s the first offer, so lie and say I’m happy browsing.
I look at the rack of neatly hung clothing with hope: maybe today is the day. People spend a lifetime looking for their soulmate, but when I find the perfect linen palazzo pant for my petite five-foot-two frame, I’ll know true love exists. I wade through the coat hangers diligently, and soon enough I’ve amassed a carefully selected pile of clothing, draped across my forearm. I enter the change room.
Once inside, I fling off my shoes and try on some wide-leg pants. I stare in the mirror. I stand on my tiptoes. I suck in my stomach. I look at myself in side profile. Not right. Then I try on the same outfit in a different colour. I think I like these pants, but need validation. I text my sister an unflattering change room selfie and hope to God the photo doesn’t one day wind up exposed on the Cloud or Reddit for everyone to see.
I wait for my sister to text back to confirm or deny entry of the outfit into my everyday life, but she’s taking forever. So I just stand idle and inspect my pores in the privacy of the change room mirror, knowing the retail assistant is probably starting to grow suspicious about why I’m taking so long. Finally, my sister texts back with a resounding, “NO.”
I text another outfit, but as it sends my phone goes out of service, which means the worst thing in the world: I will have to make an independent decision.
So, I leave with nothing.
I vow to never put myself through this ordeal again; to instead become one of those Forbes millionaire women who claims the secret to their success is wearing the same outfit every day. This pledge lasts a minute, until I see a seven-foot mannequin standing in a window with her arm outstretched, wearing the perfect palazzo pant. I enter this shop with the optimism of a goldfish with short-term memory loss and do it all again.