Mirror, mirror in the store
You made me look like a size four
But in my home what did I see?
A plus-size looking back at me!

Please forgive my corny rhyme, but I’m pretty sure this is the question that the Wicked Queen would be posing to her magic mirror if she and Snow White had a girls’ day out at the local shopping mall before she fed her the poison apple.

And I’m reasonably certain that, whether you’re a reluctant shopper who enters a store only when your 20-year-old pair of bell-bottoms have finally worn out, or a regular practitioner of retail therapy,  you have been a victim of a faulty reflection.

Here’s what happens.  You try on a pair of jeans in the fitting room of your favorite store.  As you preen in front of the mirror, checking yourself out from every possible angle, you are convinced you look as good as a leggy Rockette.  You happily pay the exorbitant price for a piece of denim.  But when you get home and try them on again in front of your own mirror, you discover that your thighs, in fact, look like a pair of sausages!

I have personally experienced this phenomenon twice recently, the latest experience involving not jeans, but a smart, casual summer dress that seemed to fit perfectly at the time.  As a sophisticated shopper, I knew better than to rely solely on the dressing room mirror, so I pranced around the store, and gazed at my many reflections everywhere a looking glass was situated, and was pretty convinced that this dress and I were quite compatible.

This perfect dress euphoria lasted all the way home, right up to the minute when I tried it on again and stood before my bedroom mirror, only to see one of the dancing hippos from Fantasia gazing back at me.   Clearly, I couldn’t get the deceitful rag back to the store fast enough.

And no refund, just a store credit, which means to get my money’s worth, I have to shop in this unprincipled establishment once again.  Or bequeath my credit to an heir.  Or try to sell it on e-Bay. Caveat emptor!

Honestly, I’m normally not a paranoid person.  But I’m beginning to suspect there’s a cabal afoot — a deep state retail conspiracy engaged in the practice of tampering with mirrors.  Amusement parks have been doing it for generations.  But unlike fun house mirrors, whose images are grossly distorted, store mirrors, I’m convinced, are subtly flattering.

I decided to investigate this matter a bit further, and through my research discovered that my dark suspicions were not unfounded.  Many stores do engage in mirror manipulation.

Ever hear of a “skinny mirror”? A lot of stores actually use them.  They’re designed to make you look long and lean.  A slightly curved mirror can also provide a misleading representation.

And beware the tilted mirror! A mirror tilted even slightly backwards will convince you that you’re 2 inches taller and at least 5 pounds thinner.

Lying mirrors are not the only retail trick.  Lighting is another effective way to convince you that the dress you’re trying on not only hides your tummy, but improves your cleavage, shrinks your love handles, and gives you flawless skin.

So what’s the solution to the great retail racket? One answer might be to shop with another person you regard as a friend.  There’s no truer test of loyalty than someone who’s not afraid to say flat out, “Take that off immediately.  You look like The Incredible Hulk on a bad day!”

So next time you shop for clothing, whether motivated by need or recreation, be aware that when you try on those pants, what you see in the mirror does not always reflect reality.  I guess they don’t call it a “changing room” for nothing!

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