I recently promised my daughter that in a few more weeks, I'd take her back-to-school shopping at a huge clothing warehouse store just outside Boston -- a place I remember from when I was a teenager.

So I went online to find the store's website and take a look at the driving directions. There was a section for comments and reviews from shoppers, so -- curious -- I clicked on it to see if others felt that shopping there was a worthwhile experience.

There were plenty of comments about the store, of course, but the main topic of conversation?

The communal dressing room.

Ah, yes. That large, mirror-walled open room -- without dividers -- where women strip down, try on, lament, criticize, curse and make fun of their bodies. It's an experience like no other.

But it's also an opportunity for a body image education. Here's what I've learned from my time spent in communal dressing rooms:

  • No body is "perfect."
  • Every body is beautiful in its own way.
  • It's all about attitude. Some women are perfectly comfortable with themselves in the center of the room, while others try to hide in the corner, hoping no one will see. The most interesting thing is that their bodies may be similar -- it's the attitude that's entirely different.

The comments ranged from those who loved the energy and camaraderie of the communal dressing room to those who refused to shop there again because they were so freaked out at the thought of disrobing in front of other women.

It is a trying situation for those with body image issues. It's not just about stripping down to your underwear, it's also about being on display as you try to work your way into clothing and evaluate its fit. It's about letting others see the emotions that sneak across your face as you judge your own body.

In the end, a communal dressing can be a body image equalizer in that offers a front-row seat to the display of other women's body image issues. It lets us see that we're not the only ones who struggle with our bodies and how they look. It also lets us see that even women who have bodies we might wish we had have their own issues. And, ultimately, it lets us see that since none of us is perfect, all of our bodies are worthy of love and respect.

I mentioned the communal dressing room to my daughter and asked if she thought she'd mind.

Her response?



About the Author

Dara Chadwick

Dara Chadwick is the author of You'd Be So Pretty If… :Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don't Love Our Own.

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