One of the most important rooms in any (thrift) shop that sells clothing is the fitting room. A fitting room can actually make or break a sale. If the room is too small, or doesn’t have enough hooks to hang your own clothing as well as the items you’ve brought in with you, or if the inconsiderate-so-and-so customer before you didn’t bother to take all their clothing out of the room and the most-likely-overworked-volunteer hasn’t had time to empty it out yet, then your own experience is affected by this.
I’ve been paying attention to this recently, especially after I visited a very unique retail shop in St. John’s, Newfoundland called Johnny Ruth & Living Planet . This unique shop features locally sourced and ethically based clothing and accessories. They’re pricey (I paid $30 for a t- shirt) but it’s excellent quality and one-of-a-kind goods. Also, they have fantastic fitting rooms.
Seriously, this is over-the-top – each fitting room was furnished differently with unique artwork and furniture. And they were huge – lots of room to move around, get undressed, put your clothes/purse/jacket/shoes down and try on the items you’d brought in with you. If you were shopping with kids, there’s be room for you and your stroller. Heck, there’s room for a family of 5 in here! It’s all part of the store ethos, so it really works.
Now, most thrift shops have neither the space nor the budget to do something like this (although, if you’re a thrift shop that also sells furniture, why not do this? Put your furniture in a unique fitting room like this and sell it right out of there? how fun would that be?)
Here’s what I think is essential in every fitting room (in no particular order):
- Space. It doesn’t have to be as enormous as the room above but there should be room to move around. I was recently in a little thrift shop whose fitting rooms are too small to begin with and then they put a chair in there. I couldn’t even stand squarely in front of the mirror because the chair forced me to stand to one side. In this situation, I’d put a short stool or fashion a shallow, wooden bench across the full width of the back wall of the room. This allows a person to sit down if they have to take off their shoes (or wrestle with an ill-fitting item, ahem) but doesn’t take up as much depth as a chair does.
- Privacy. I’ve been in fitting rooms that are made up of strategically hung curtains. This is actually a good idea if you’re working with a low budget or if you’re just starting out and are not sure if this exact spot is where the fitting rooms should go. What is bad is if the fabric isn’t wide enough or if it curls, creating gaps where people outside can peek in and see you, perhaps wrestling with the aforementioned ill-fitting item.
- Hooks. There should be at least 3 hooks in each fitting room: one for your own jacket and clothing, one for the stuff you’ve brought in to try on, and one to hang the things that you’ve already tried on. Four would be even better because then you can hang the “yes” items on one and the “return to floor” items on the other.
- A full-length mirror. I was in a teeny, tiny thrift shop in Ontario that used its bathroom as its fitting room – the bathroom being a tiny room with toilet and sink. The only mirror in the room was the tiny one above the sink. Picture me standing on the toilet and trying to see enough of my body in the little mirror to see if the ill-fitting item was worth buying or not. I understand the limitations of space but a full length mirror on the back of the door would have done the trick.
- A place to sit. After my experience with the tiny fitting room with the too-big chair in my point about “Space”, I wondered why one needed a chair at all. That was until I went to a second thrift shop on the same day and wanted to try a pair of pants on without taking my shoes off. A chair made this much, much easier. The last thing you want to do is fall out of a curtain-walled fitting room with your shoe-covered foot stuck half way in your pants. No one needs to see this. So, seating is a good idea, it just has to be proportionate to the space. Small room? Small chair.
Cleanliness. Nobody wants to go into a fitting room that has a bunch of clothes in it from the customer before (I tend to clean this stuff out before I go in, a hangover from being a volunteer myself). You also don’t want the floor to be dirty, in case you drop your own clothing onto it. I realize that this is a tax on the most-likely-overworked volunteer so as a shopper, I remember to give grace, especially when it looks like it’s been a very busy day.Bonus point: Affirmation. One of the things I really did appreciate about the too-small fitting room with the un-needed chair mentioned earlier was the positive messages that had been stenciled to the walls. “You’re your own kind of beautiful” and “Let your inner beauty shine.” Who doesn’t need a little bit of positive reinforcement – especially after an ill-fitting-item fiasco?
What’s the coolest fitting room you’ve even been in?