Elf Lyons Says: How to survive a changing room mental breakdown
Like most people, I suffer from body insecurities. For as confident as I am in 80% of my life, the other 20% is left for me to wrinkle in the mirror at my reflection. From the age of eleven to now as a young woman of 23 the subject of my body has always been the topic of endless internal conflict.
Just like many who may read this, my body and I have a love-hate relationship. Sure, it’s great. All my bits work. My legs can get me anywhere in the space of an hour due to their ridiculous length, my arms let me gesticulate wildly like a ‘daddy-long-legs-on-crack’ when I’m on stage, my feet are super useful for moon-walking and sliding across marble floors, my elbows are great for pushing to the front of a mosh-pit, my belly is a comforting cushion to hold onto when I’m scared, and my boobs make me laugh.
However, as much as I would love to possess the assertive and inspirational body confidence that Lena Dunham radiates, despite faking it in public, it is far harder to hold that self-confident air when it is just yourself, your reflection, and a new bra in the Topshop changing room.
I faced this doubt about my shape recently when on the task of getting my Being Barbarella costume. Having recently gained 12lbs since returning from the Ed Fringe due to forming a relationship with Dominioes pizza, my respect towards my shape was not at its highest.
My anxiety reached its peak in American Apparel. From skinny models, skinny clothes, beautiful staff, and glaring lighting, it felt like the dementer of shops, sucking any confidence you had about your unique shape into the vaccuum that is their isolating changing rooms. Typically, as it was American Apparel, the combination of clothes I was trying on were a mixture of the damn inappropriate, highly sexual, see through, and TIGHT.
It was terrible.
I started crying.
After aggressively and snottily peeling off the silver leggings that were throttling my thighs like a cobra (WHY IS EVERYTHING IN THEIR FUCKING SHOP MADE OF LYCRA??) and rushing out of the shop, I had to go, sit down and have a think.
I had to channel my inner goddess again. I can’t be a wimp. I won’t let Lycra defeat me! I am, after all, a TALL POWERFUL INDEPENDENT WOMAN. Thus, I wrote my mini guide to surviving this attack on my body. My own ‘etiquette manual’ and a love letter to my body as it were. Hopefully for any of you reading this, this may resonate and be of use.
ELF’S GUIDE TO REMEMBERING YOU ARE A BABE IN A DRESSING ROOM
A photo posted by Elf Lyons (@elfylyons) on Nov 11, 2014 at 9:04am PST
STEP #1 - WAKE UP
This is crucial. If you don’t do this step, the other parts are pretty much impossible. I recommend performing this step either in a bed, a large DFS Sofa or in the arms of a 6ft 5 bear-like carpenter named 'Mighty Alexander' (*or any man/woman of your choice).
STEP #2 - WASH
This may seem like a non sequitur. But trust me. Having a long bath or shower before the carnage of shopping is the most tender thing you can do to your body before the onslaught of fabric bashing that is about to ensue. Also, no one likes smelly clothes. Bathe yourself in everything you’ve got. Imagine you are going on a date. But with yourself. And lycra. That heartbreaker lycra.
STEP #3 - JUST SING IT OUT
Post shower, drop your towel and put an empowering song on and dance like you are Patrick Swayze (*the early years). Nothing helps battle stress like the rush of endorphins and Katy Perry telling you how much of a firework you are.
STEP #4 - RECITE: 'YOUR BODY IS NOT A JIGSAW PUZZLE OF 'GOOD BITS' AND 'BAD BITS'
Stay naked, stand in front of the mirror and list out loud all the intricate and eccentric parts of it you like - yes, even if it is the fact that one of your birth marks resembles Ireland and some of your freckles resemble actual constellations. Psychologically prepare yourself. Remember, there are a lot of people in the world who would pay A LOT of money to watch you put your clothes on and off - (I’m gonna make an assumption and say mainly in Japan).
*I once heard a woman shout “I HATE HAVING MASSIVE BOOBS. I WISH I COULD JUST CUT THEM OFF” in the changing room of La Senza. It was both heartbreaking and frightening.
STEP #5 - WEAR LOOSE CLOTHING
For fucks sake, today is NOT THE DAY to wear a corset, lace up shoes, intricate jump suits or a ski jacket. You want clothes that you can whizz on & off again. I like to call them ‘commit-ma-clothes’ *gettit??*
STEP #6 - REMEMBER, YOU DO NOT CONTROL THE LIGHTING
Once in the changing room, REMEMBER it is not your fault that H&M chooses to light their changing rooms like a Hammer Horror film, with what can effectively be described as boob-distorting footlights in the corners of the room. Nor is it your fault that they choose to angle the mirrors as if you were in a Funny House of Mirrors. Nor is it your fault that, despite their kindness to the earth, eco-friendly light bulbs light your skin so it is the pallor of a malnourished vegan with cholera (*in other words: Edward Cullen in Twilight).
STEP #7 - BE REALISTIC WITH WHAT YOU ARE BUYING
T-shirts can only do so much. These clothes are not going to turn you into another person when you put them on. Our favourite clothes are often clothes we’ve built up a relationship and trust with over time - for example, my staple polar-neck, waistcoat and red hat. Trying on clothes is very much like speed-dating, it will take a few twirls to work out if something suits.
STEP #8 - NEVER GO SHOPPING IN A RUSH OR ON YOUR LUNCH BREAK. A MENTAL BREAK DOWN WILL ENSUE.
There is nothing more stressful than rushing to get something in 45 minutes for the work Christmas party, whilst you are still digesting your rushed M&S sandwich (*if you need evidence of this, visit M&S in Moorgate on a Friday lunchtime) and trying to send an email off of your iPhone.
*This level of stress, fast breathing and multi-tasking will only result in you shouting “Fuck” a lot, crying, possibly ripping your knickers and bra in a rush to make it back to the office, punching a shop assistant who asks the question “Oh.... need a bigger size do we?”, all the while making rash statements to no one in particular such as “you know what, fuck it, I’ve always hated bras. Fuck you Zara this is NOT a size 12! You know what, I hate Gavin from HR anyway, I AM NOT GOING TO THE CHRISTMAS PARTY” before then sobbing and buying a croissant from Prett.
STEP #9 - NO, THE CURTAINS ARE NEVER BIG ENOUGH
No one knows why there is that 2 inch gap on either side to perv on someones side boob. I recommend bringing your own. I carry a bed-sheet to use as a sensual drape (*it freaks the shop assistants out). Also, no one knows why that woman has brought her boyfriend into the changing rooms, or why he keeps on trying to sneak a peak into yours. These are unfortunately the weird parts of changing rooms that I cannot answer or solve without encouraging aggression and physical combat.
STEP #10 - IT'S ALWAYS THE CLOTHES FAULT
Never blame yourself. The judgement of returning items after you’ve tried them on is weirdly one of the worst bits of shopping for me. I always feel the need to apologise to the shop assistant - “sorry...” I whisper as I shamefully hand the hangers back. FUCK THAT SHIT. You are a GODDESS. Clothes should be begging to be worn by you, so if those leggings (yes, I am still bitter about American Apparel) don’t fit, don’t blame you. BLAME THE CLOTHES. Hold your head up high and when the lady asks “any good?” just smile and say “I am sorry but these items were not good enough for my amazing shape and phenomonal personality” and then sashay off like the Diva you are.
Finally, if you are really panicking, just get drunk. Booze always aids clothes buying. You would have NEVER bought that neon-faux-fur gillet otherwise. (*DO NOT DO THIS RULE IF YOU ARE SHOPPING ON YOUR LUNCH HOUR AT WORK - especially if you are a surgeon or work with large pieces of machinery).
Or, if all of this is still too much for you. Just buy a cape. WINTER WARDROBE SORTED.
Then bring on the Dominoes.