Magic Mirrors: Are You Being Conned In High-Street Changing Rooms?
Turns out those mirrors may be manipulating the way you look.
Have you ever tried something on in the changing room, absolutely loved it, and then thought it doesn’t look anywhere near as good on you once you’ve brought it home?
Well, according to a recent experiment by Vice journalist Alba Carreres, it’s not just your mind playing tricks on you; some changing rooms mirrors really are manipulating your appearance.
Alba visited a selection of high-street stores, wearing the same outfit to each one: a plain white tank top and a pair of dark blue skinny jeans.
Alba noted how in each store her appearance seemed slightly modified. Speaking of her experience in one well-known store she writes, “The spotlight on my cleavage created shadows above my belly, which made my waist seem smaller. My legs seemed more slender, my head bigger. Which on paper would make me seem like a Disney princess, but that wasn’t the reality of the changing room.”
In another store, Alba notes that “my jeans seemed to suit me much better than they actually do. The gentle light coming from above highlighted my forehead and cheekbones. Light colours were highlighted and stood out against the cold colours, which appeared darker.”
While Alba carried out her experiment in Spain, we spoke to one high-street sales advisor who told us that similar practices are happening here in Ireland.
She explained that the mirrors made you look a bit slimmer and kind of airbrushed, but that we weren’t to share that with the customers.
“I remember my first day working in a very well-known high-street store. My supervisor openly told me that the shop had, what she called, ‘magic mirrors’ in the fitting room. When I asked her what exactly she meant, she explained that the mirrors made you look a bit slimmer and kind of airbrushed, but that we weren’t to share that with the customers. I’ve since worked in other shops where the changing rooms are set up in a similar way, to make you look better than you actually do.”
But just how legal is it? Sure every store wants their merchandise to look as good as possible, but when does that cross the line into false advertising?
Irish Times Consumer Affairs Correspondent Conor Pope explains that unfortunately the practice is entirely legal.
Retailers want to create the impression that you look good and you feel good in your own head.
“What retailers want to tap into isn’t the functionality of the clothes, it’s something on a much deeper and emotional level. They want to create the impression that you look good and you feel good in your own head,” he explains.
“If a retailer creates ambient lighting that works well in a changing room or makes sure that the walls are pale colours to ensure the person who’s in the changing room looks healthier, then they’re winning.
“The problem is when retailers create mirrors that are specifically designed to make you appear slimmer because that’s deliberately misleading and that would lead people to buy clothes that they think they look good when they’re in the changing room, but don’t look as good anymore when they get home.”
Whats more, there’s no legal protection for consumers who feel they’ve been duped by the changing room mirror.
“Consumers have absolutely no legal comeback if they buy a pair of jeans and they look good in them in the changing room and they don’t look quite as good when they find themselves in Copper Face Jack’s at 2 o’clock in the morning,” Conor explains.
So how can you ensure you’re not caught out on your next shopping spree?
“The only advice you can give someone in that scenario is just to have a bit of common sense and a bit of cop on,” advises Conor. “Be aware that retailers spend a lot of money working out ways to make us part with ours.”
Have your say