It is a truth universally acknowledged that store dressing rooms are every woman’s worst nightmare. Too hot—I’ll take my sauna without a side of does-this-make-my-butt-look-good, please. Too cramped—how can I get a 360° view when I’m trapped in a 2×2 box? And too communal—as Cheryl Wischhover of Racked.com recently opined.
The number one complaint voiced by women and men everywhere is that the lighting is harsh, glaring and reminiscent of the dentist’s chair or perhaps a police interrogation room (“No, officer, I did not realize that pairing Converse with Versace was a crime against fashion”).
So what is it about dressing room lighting that’s just godawful?
Lucky for us, Buzzfeed writer Kristin Chirico did a highly illuminating rundown of fitting room lighting, visiting 20 different stores to get the lowdown on the good, bad, and ugly (Of lighting. Not you. You look great). Although she doesn’t include any pictures of the lighting fixtures themselves, it’s easy to read between the lines for the lighting principles at work. A close reading of Chirico’s post reveals the following facts:
Fact #1 – Overhead lighting is the worst
Apparently, many stores throw up a few ceiling mounted or pendant fixtures and call it a day. Bad idea. Very bad. Ceiling mounted lighting inevitably creates unflattering shadows on the face and body, highlighting your worst flaws.
Fact #2 – Fluorescent lighting is the worst
You look green around the gills. Perhaps you’ve contracted dengue fever? Never mind, it’s the lighting in this dressing room. It’s flickering and making your face look green.
Fact #3 – Harsh overhead fluorescent lighting is the absolute worst
This combination would make Angelina Jolie look terrible. Too bad it’s so common in a retail setting.
Fact #4 – Think true-to-color with a hint of warmth
From Chirico’s post, I surmise that the best dressing room lighting is a lot like Goldilocks’ taste in porridge: Not too cool, not too warm, but just right—not as blue as daylight, but not too home-and-hearth either. Offenders have the obvious, low CRI fluorescent or halogen lighting. The fitting room lighting that looks the closest to daylight is not necessarily the most flattering. Conclusion: make sure the lighting has a high CRI and the color temperature is not too blue, not too yellow. It should have a 90+ CRI and be warm with a pinkish hue.
Fact #5 – Linear LED fixtures mounted to either side of the mirror are like a magical elixir for your face.
This makes so much sense now: shine some high CRI LED strip fixtures directly from the sides of the dressing room mirror. This will fill in any unflattering shadows and offer soft, even lighting, making you look like the You who gets 8 hours of sleep a day and listens to NPR on the regular.
So there it is. Hopefully, clothing retail stores (*cough*, Forever 21, *cough*) will take the hint and switch to high quality, mirror-mounted LED lighting. In the meantime, happy shopping, and don’t let the Other get you down.
Writing about lighting was not the plan—but sometimes the best things in life arise from indiscriminately applying to jobs on Craigslist. Maylin lives in Los Angeles. She prefers parentheticals, precision, paperbacks and popping tags. She does not prefer parallel parking, pens with no caps, punctuation with no conceivable purpose, and don't even get her started on Title 24. Questions? Complaints? Insider tips about the whereabouts of Clive Owen? You can reach her at [email protected]
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