June 18, 2010

From fitting room to real life: the plague of the distorting mirror

I've noticed a few times now that my fitting room photographs, reliant upon the mirror to reflect an image, offer a somewhat misleading portrait. And that portrait often depicts something more traditionally "flattering" in that: my body looks thinner than it is. Now this is not a place where I am compliment-grubbing but rather objectively trying to wrap my mind around this unethical and common sales strategy.

Note the above. Granted, I was wearing different undergarments that could have skewed the appearance slightly, but on the whole this is my body with only about 48 hours between when I tried on the dress in the store and wore it in real life. Does anyone else notice the significant difference in how the dress looks? What do you do when you get home and notice a garment lost its fitting room luster? Over at Fashionable Academics, La Historiadora de Moda ran into this issue after purchasing an outfit for her dissertation defense (Congratulations again!) at Macys. Where else have you run into this problem?


Candice said...

I call them skinny mirrors! It's terrible. They make you feel good about yourself even though you know it's not truly how you look. The only thing that weighs less when you get home is your wallet.

roxyturtle said...

Oh yeah, this is always a fun one. I have no problem returning an item once the fitting room goggles are gone.

For what it's worth, I think the dress looks quite nice on you. :)

Academic Writer (a.k.a. A-Dubs) said...

It's difficult to say for sure if there's a difference as your poses differ here. Is there any chance you could re-post and replicate the fitting room pose?

Also, I'd never considered until right now that I may not always be the problem. Until now, I've assumed that I just missed something in the dressing room. Hmmm.

And finally, perhaps this "unethical and common sales strategy" is the basis of D-Med's much-mocked (in our group of friends) shopping bulimia!

Jesspgh of Consume or Consumed said...

Candace, that is reminiscent of the Seinfeld episode! haha

Roxy, yeah I had already worn and cut the tags off so no returning here. Just realizing that perhaps Cher of CLueless's method of photographing the person and not the mirror would be useful here.

A-dubs, it might look different if I was posed the same but the issue is, I don't live that way. So I guess it is just the dressing room mentality of me posing for an iphone photo vs. how I would stand without being encumbered with the camera. Anyway, I long decided for the sake of body acceptance that it is the clothing and not my body.

Tien said...

It's all about angles! Well, and mirrors, too. I think photographing outfits are difficult, and something to keep in mind, is how the outfit looks as you move. No one stands still in real life for hours at a time. We're always moving, gesturing, whatever. I've been a victim of that mirror trick so many times, and unless I'm absolutely in love, I'll move around, sit, bend, etc., to make sure a garment is mostly flattering at lots of different angles.

And also, I think that dress looks really good on you.

Jessica Miranda said...

There have been times that I've tried something on in-store and purchased it later online (because of online sales, discounts, etc) - and it does NOT fit the same at all. The same happened to my fiance - he had 2 pairs of pants we purchased in Old Navy, and bought a 3rd pair online SAME SIZE did not fit him! Insane!

Persephone said...

I agree that the angle of the photo will drastically alter a body's appearance, and it seems that your angle is different here, but - consider this: two photos taken from the same distance away where one was taken in a mirror are going to look drastically different because in the picture taken in the mirror, you are twice as far away. This is pretty interesting reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/science/22angi.html

Here's the relevant excerpt: "When we look in the mirror, our relative beauty is not the only thing we misjudge. In a series of studies, Dr. Bertamini and his colleagues have interviewed scores of people about what they think the mirror shows them. They have asked questions like, Imagine you are standing in front of a bathroom mirror; how big do you think the image of your face is on the surface? And what would happen to the size of that image if you were to step steadily backward, away from the glass?

People overwhelmingly give the same answers. To the first question they say, well, the outline of my face on the mirror would be pretty much the size of my face. As for the second question, that’s obvious: if I move away from the mirror, the size of my image will shrink with each step.

Both answers, it turns out, are wrong. Outline your face on a mirror, and you will find it to be exactly half the size of your real face. Step back as much as you please, and the size of that outlined oval will not change: it will remain half the size of your face (or half the size of whatever part of your body you are looking at), even as the background scene reflected in the mirror steadily changes. Importantly, this half-size rule does not apply to the image of someone else moving about the room. If you sit still by the mirror, and a friend approaches or moves away, the size of the person’s image in the mirror will grow or shrink as our innate sense says it should.

What is it about our reflected self that it plays by such counterintuitive rules? The important point is that no matter how close or far we are from the looking glass, the mirror is always halfway between our physical selves and our projected selves in the virtual world inside the mirror, and so the captured image in the mirror is half our true size."

Unknown said...

I tend to think lots of retailers' dressing room mirrors play the same trick. I for one have noticed a less flattering fit with the same dress/top that I remember looking a lot more flattering in Anthro's fitting room. Some say it's the lighting, whatever, but it's a sneaking suspicion on the back of my mind whenever I try stuff on in the store. Thanks for highlighting this phenom!

Ady Grafovna said...

There have been many things that I have loved when I am standing in front of my mirror straight up before I go, but dislike by the end of the day.

I still think you look terrific though.

Brianna said...

I really love the dress FWIW, but agree there is a difference, not a huge one, but your body looks more hourglassey (is that even a word? lol) in the dressing room. My eye is drawn to the waist and bust in the dressing room pic, and more to the neckline in the home picture, which could also be the lighting. It is a really cute dress and still looks good at home so I am glad you are keeping it =)

SunnyDay said...

I have never noticed dressing room mirror tricks with body shape. I have noticed dressing room lighting causing unnatural and unattractive skin tones, veins where they never appeared before, pallor and overall death on a cracker appearance. I avoid dressing rooms like the plague for this reason. I cannot remember ever feeling like I looked good in a dressing room. I'm sure that's why I do the bulk of my shopping on the internet.

I loved the dress in the previous post and I love it now.

Jesspgh of Consume or Consumed said...

So many people have similar experiences so I guess this is a widespread mirror tactic.

Tien, more movement is good advice! I will try to remember that next time.

Jessica, I hate when sizing in the same store for the same product is still somehow totally unpredictable! That has happened to me at the Gap too.

Persephone, thank you for your thoughtful comment! I am going to read that article you linked because I very much enjoy the excerpt. I never thought about how a mirrored photograph is twice as distant! You are such a smartie!

JJC, I too have noticed this at Anthro.

Ady, thanks so much! I have had that experience too.

Brianna, thank you! I think the issue in part was that my hands tucked into the pockets draw the dress downward so it can't snugly fit my waist the way it would without the gravity of my tugging.

Desert Flower, The lighting in dressing rooms can be so unforgiving! I can't avoid them though because I hate backtracking for returns.


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