Dressing Room Etiquette: The Do's and Don'ts of Trying on Clothes

Fitting Room
Photo: Getty Images

When faced with a long line, other equally impatient patrons, and a hostile attendant, trying on clothes can be one of the most dreaded aspects of shopping. But reverse the situation, and it's retail sales associates who are tasked with having to deal with, well, us. And let's just say, there's no shortage of horror stories, like finding icky surprises left behind (dirty tampons included) and stained clothing (think: bodily fluids). For the sake of common decency, we spoke with sales teams at a host of stores and rounded up a list of what counts as appropriate dressing room behavior.

1. Treat a dressing room as though it's your own bedroom. In other words, treat it with respect. "Don't leave the room trashed; we're not housekeepers," says Allison Huba, an H&M sale advisor, who has found empty cups, food, and glasses left behind. Melanie Gomez, Bloomingdale's lingerie department sales manager, says the grossest, by far, has been stumbling upon a used tampon.

2. The same goes for clothing—treat the clothes like they're your own. "Ask yourself, what would I do with something delicate or something expensive or something beautiful that I own," says stylist Stefany Wohebban who works at the local N.Y.C. boutique Warm. "You don’t throw it on the floor, you don’t leave it off the hanger, or leave it inside out. Bring it back the way it was given to you."

3. Always hang up the clothes you've tried on. "As long as the clothes are back on the hanger, then it's all good," says Bloomingdale's sales associate Shania Banton. "It doesn't matter if they leave it in the fitting room or bring it back out. It doesn't even matter if it's not hung properly, just as long as it is hung." A giant heap of clothes can slow down the process of getting a fitting room ready for the next person, especially for an incredibly busy retailer like H&M that sees a high volume of people and clothing.

4. Limit lengthy phone conversations and mini photo shoots. "If you’re taking a long time because you’re in there taking selfies with no intention of buying anything, then you're wasting everyone’s time," says Andria Bush, the store manager at Warm. If you're not planning to make a purchase, then limit time spent in the dressing room to five minutes, she advises.

5. Make sure your personal hygiene is up to par. "We’ve had people come in after the gym and then try things on," Banton says. "Good hygiene is important. You have to understand if you’re not going to buy it then the next person will. It’s about consideration and having courtesy for the next person who’s going to try it on."

6. Leave your significant other outside. "Don't bring boys in there—it's awkward," says Wohebban. "Even if there's enough room for two doesn't mean it's for two." The rule is stricter when it comes to lingerie dressing rooms: "We're fitting bras, we're opening their doors, girls are coming out in their underwear," Gomez says. "It's not appropriate to have men in that area."

7. Don't try on clothes at the last minute. "If you're coming in at 7:55 p.m. when the store closes at 8 p.m., it's not nice," says Bush.

8. Don't treat a fitting room as a restroom. It might seem like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, these accidents happen way more than they should. "We've had people go to the bathroom in the fitting room," Huba says. "We think they do it on purpose when we tell them we don't have a bathroom."

9. Respond to the sales associates when they ask you a question. "I like to ask how people are doing, but then there's nothing," Wohebban says. "I hate that awkward silence."

10. Ask for help when you need a different size. If there's no one around to help, it's fine to quickly hop out wearing the outfit you were trying on, Wohebban says. (At a larger retailer, ask the attendant before you leave the fitting room area.) Just don't walk out in your underwear. "We've had people come out in their bras and start searching," Banton says. "It gives us a bad look."

11. If you accidentally rip the clothes or get makeup on it, own up to it. "Let us know so we can fix it," Wohebban says. "It happens, and then we can take the garment to the dry cleaners."

12. At chain stores, count how many articles of clothing you're planning to try on. "Only seven garments are allowed in a dressing room (it's a security measure), but most of the time, people bring a bag full that they switch out, which is fine," Huba says of H&M's fitting room policy. "But it's annoying when people don't know exactly how many they're trying on, and they expect you to count for them...It slows everything down. Be prepared."

13. Wear underwear when you try on underwear. Always. The same goes for trying on swimsuits. "We've found dirty underwear, and it's disgusting," Gomez says. "We damage it and throw it out."

Related Articles