I have done a bit (ok a lot. Ok quite a lot. Ok, waaay too much. I confess! I confess! Stop hounding me!) of shopping recently. And during my summer spree I have, naturally, spent a fair amount of time (ok hours, possibly days of my life) in those cute little cages of misery and broken dreams (I may be overstating here) – changing rooms. Ok, so changing rooms themselves aren’t actually that bad anymore. Now that doors have replaced curtains a foot too narrow as the modesty protector of choice in most shops, the early noughties flirtation with communal changing rooms has mercifully abated and retailers have cottoned on to the fact that consumers like things to be pretty and spacious, most changing rooms are actually quite nice. They have their little chairs, and their hooks and their (optional thank goodness) booty mirrors and I quite like them. They are, in theory, a little oasis of calm in the shopping rush. And that is why when women (and I can really only speak for women here. My experience of men’s changing rooms is, alas, limited. Boo) come in and defy the unspoken rules of changing room etiquette, it bothers me. So, I am hereby turning these unspoken rules into spoken ones.


Changing rooms: The Etiquette

– Please don’t change nappies! I know this is going to sound unjust. I am not a mother and so I have never known the particular horror of rushing around Oxford Street with a stinky, yelling baby and nowhere to clean it up. I know that a lot of cafes and places with bathroom facilities require you to buy something in order to use them. (Which FYI, I think is mega-douchey, bathrooms are a basic human right!) But please, think of the people around you. The people who haven’t chosen to live their lives in an intoxicating cloud of poo vapour. The mothers who left the kids at home to escape it. The women standing barefoot in the cubicles around you gaping in horror as they wonder if a pooey baby once rolled around on the floor beneath them. It is just not right. Find a department store or somewhere and do it there. I am a nice person and my nostrils and I do not deserve this.

– Speaking of kids, I love kids. I am not one of those people who objects to people bringing their children places or the noise/disruption kids make. But please, do not get so distracted looking at your reflection that you don’t notice that your child is going through the changing room sticking his or her head under every door and drawing every curtain. Yes, they’re cute, yes, it’s harmless but it’s still not appropriate. And we’re not allowed to tell your children off. Only you are. Please do.

– Ok, the dreaded How Do I Look?: You’re shopping with a friend. She is trying on something that can only be described as ill-advised. She looks bad. Bad enough that, as her friend, you’re not going to let her buy it. However, changing rooms can be stressful. They can make even the most confident woman feel a bit vulnerable. Pointing out her back rollies or lack of breasts in that top might not be the wisest move. Shopping is, after all, meant to be fun. So, I have found that my go-to phrases (tweaked, of course, depending on the outfit, you have to be a bit honest or they’ll know) are:

 “You do have something similar already, and I think the one you have is nicer.”

 “It’s almost too sexy. You run the risk of looking a bit slutty.” (Of course, if that is the aim, then insert whatever adjective they don’t want to be.)

 “It’s too expensive for what it is.”

 “It just doesn’t do you justice. Your figure is much nicer than that dress is letting on.”

 “I think we should keep looking as I reckon there might be something better in the next shop.”

 You get the gist. Lead them away from the offending article but without massively offending them and you should be ok.

-Some people like to tell strangers their opinion. This can be nice if the stranger is shopping alone and looking indecisive. However, you don’t know this person, and they did not ask for your advice so I would generally only comment if they look great. Telling randomers they look bad is seldom a good idea. However you can always offer to help them with a zip, or point out if something is see-through and/or broken.

 Side note: Where do people stand on the issue of telling someone on the street if their dress/leggings/whatever is see-through? I mean, I would point out a hole or undone flies etc (obviously, otherwise I’d be going straight to hell) but I’m undecided on whether I should say anything about see-through-ness when it’s entirely possible that they are just channelling a look. I generally don’t (feels a bit like telling them off/minor slut-shaming) but is that mean? I think I would want to know. Thoughts?

-Try not to take too long. Standing in a changing room queue while your fingers turn blue from the weight of all your hangers is bad enough without seeing the person already in there twirling and chatting and reapplying lipstick for half an hour.

 Annex to the rule: Try not to have a nervous breakdown. I have a friend (ok, me) who went jeans shopping once (what was I thinking?) and ended up spending an hour and a half sitting on the floor of the Levi’s changing room breathing into a bag while my sister tried to talk some (any) sense into me. (In my defence, I was a teenager at the time and my hips were still new.)

-Try not to leave make-up stains all over everything. And please don’t use this as an opportunity to remove the wad of hair from your hairbrush and leave it on the floor. First of all, it’s gross and second of all, some random nice lady who shall remain nameless might think it’s a giant hairy bug and scream so loudly that everyone comes running just in time to see her fall out of the changing room in her pants.


Thank you!


Happy shopping!


The Etiquetterie