Niamh Greene: Changing room cubicles are made to mortify, so be sure to wear your best undies
A NEW survey has confirmed what women everywhere have always known -- high street changing rooms are part of the third circle of hell.
According to the study by fashion site StyleCard, 64pc of the women surveyed reported that they preferred to buy extra sizes and then return them later, rather than go through the living nightmare of having to actually try things on in the shop.
So what is it about changing rooms that we hate so much?
Well, you generally have to queue for an inordinately long time to get into one, for a start. That alone can make you lose the will to live.
When you eventually gain access, you feel claustrophobic -- most dressing rooms are so tiny that you couldn't swing a cat inside, let alone try on anything in relative comfort.
The heat can be overpowering too.
Every time I'm in one I immediately break out into a very unattractive sweat.
There's something about being in such a confined space, with the curtain hanging half-open, ready to expose me in all my dimpled glory, that makes me feel extremely hot and bothered.
Then there's the mirror. Just like hairdressers' mirrors, there are two types. The sneaky ones are so dimly lit that you mistakenly think you pass muster and only realise that you look like the back of a bus when you get home.
The cruel ones are so brightly illuminated that every spare inch of flesh is highlighted, making you vow never to bother stepping outside the door again.
Both types usually give you the pleasure of seeing your body in all its 360 degree glory.
Who among us wants to see their back fat? Not me. I'd much prefer to live in ignorant bliss, thank you very much.
The only thing that makes the experience halfway bearable is the knowledge that all around you other women are also having panic attacks with the stress of it.
We're all in it together, gritting our teeth and sucking in our bellies as we go. A sisterhood of the changing rooms, if you will. That's unless you have the misfortune to have a cubicle buddy who's a six-foot babe, of course, as seems to happen to me on a regular basis.
Just like I always sit behind the tallest person in the cinema, or beside the individual with a streaming cold on an aeroplane, I always end up beside a supermodel in a changing room, usually one who wants to ask my opinion about the teeny, tiny skirt she's thinking about buying. Cue massive inferiority complex.
But none of this amounts to the most humiliating experience in a dressing room. That came on the day I got stuck in a too-small dress.
I'll never forget the sheer panic I felt as I tried to wriggle my way out of it, almost dislocating my shoulder in the process. After much huffing and puffing it eventually got wedged inside out, somewhere between my armpits and my forehead.
Unable to see and feeling dizzy with the effort of trying to extricate myself from a straitjacket of my own making, I had to weakly call for help.
To cut a long story short, not one, but two shop assistants had to manoeuvre the dress off me as I stood, hoping the ground would open up and swallow me whole, my baggy grey knickers on display for the whole world to see.
The experience was just like one of those terrible nightmares in which you dream you're walking around naked in public. Except this time it was happening for real.
I bought that dress, mainly because it ripped as they yanked it off me. Never worn, it still hangs in my wardrobe, a stark reminder of two things: if you do venture into a dressing room, never try on a dress that's clearly too small for you. And always wear your best undies when you go shopping, just in case.