Design Guides |

The Fitting Room Blues

Retail designers and their clients put forth a great deal of thought into the ambiance of the shop and the display of the clothing so that it looks nothing less than perfect on the hanger. However, they often forget that another important step in completing the sale is allowing the clothes to look and feel just as good on the consumer.

I’m sure many of us have experienced it. The perfect outfit catches your eye and everything in the store – from the lighting to the colors to the display areas – has been specially designed to highlight all of that outfit’s best features. You’re reeling with excitement, anxious to try out your potential new duds. That excitement soon wavers, however, when you step into the shop’s not-so-cleverly-designed fitting room.

This is a common but understandable mistake. At the end of the day, a bad experience in the fitting room can be a real mood killer to the shopper and can result in the loss of the sale. Never fear, we’re here to help – the following are examples of the most common fitting room design mistakes.

The Fun House

Mirrors in this fitting room are slightly warped, which can either add pounds or subtract them. Whatever the case may be, it certainly is not accurate and can lead to disappointment not only in the fitting room, but also once the clothes have been purchased and tried on at home.

Tip: I know this seems quite simple, but designers and shop owners need to ensure that the mirrors they specify are of good quality and are secured soundly enough not to bow.

The Airplane Restroom

This fitting room makes trying on clothes a physical challenge. Patrons who have a large amount of clothing to try on will find this fitting room especially difficult. Turning space is limited and arms and hands will inadvertently hit the walls (ouch!). The mirror is so close that it is nearly impossible to get a feel for the whole look. It becomes a very frustrating experience which will make shoppers less likely to even bother coming back in the future.

Tip: Allocate more space for fitting rooms in the programming phase of design. Typically, clothing stores and designers allot about 20% of available square footage to fitting rooms. Try to keep this as a minimum allowance and strive for more. Current design trends are even moving toward making the fitting room big enough to accommodate more than one person. Envision, for instance, the dressing room at a bridal shop where moms, brides-to-be, and friends can talk and offer guidance with dress selection.

When small dressing rooms are unavoidable, it is common to allow for a communal space with a full length mirror to ensure that customers can get a better feel for their appearance. Privacy is often overlooked in these situations, so try to create a division from the general public to ward off prying eyes.

The Exam Room

Most of us don’t like to be under the bright, fluorescent lights of an exam room, and the last place we want to experience that uneasiness is while shopping! Poor lighting is the most common complaint about fitting rooms as it can distort the perception of colors and can be very unflattering. This often draws a shopper’s attention away from their potential clothing purchase to thoughts of uneasiness about their appearance.

Tip: Traditionally, fluorescent overhead lighting has been used in fitting rooms. This lighting is not ideal because it makes the room feel even smaller, creates horribly unflattering shadows and makes the clothing appear much different than it would in natural light. The ideal approach is to use softer, frontal lighting to mimic the gentle glow of daylight.

In summary, it is important to embrace fitting rooms as part of the whole shopping experience as opposed to an added space planning burden. They are often the final step in the completion of a sale.

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