I’ve been working out a lot lately, and I lost a few sizes. When I pulled out my fall clothes, none of my nice ones fit anymore. This afternoon, I needed a break from my work, so I hit a discount store to shop for dresses. I tried on a grey belted sheath dress that looked really cute on the hanger, but less so on me. The lining of the dress was unreasonably thick and hot, and the air in the dressing room was unreasonably thick and hot. I was so uncomfortable that I felt like I couldn’t get out of that dress fast enough. Then the zipper got stuck.
I tried to pull the dress up without unzipping it, but had to stop short when I realized I was painfully close to getting stranded in a dressing room with a dress stuck over my head. I yanked it back down, and went back to work on the zipper.
I tugged at the zipper pull and it inched down a little, but it wouldn’t go far. I pulled up trying to free it from whatever it was stuck on, but it only managed to get stuck up higher. That’s when the sweating started. It was easily 80 degrees in the dressing room, and I started to feel a little panicky, because, no matter what I did, I could not get the dress off. Of course, the sweatier I got, the less I wanted to step out of the dressing room to ask for help, so, I spent a good 15-20 minutes trying to get myself unzipped from that damn dress.
When, I finally accepted the fact that I wasn’t getting out of that dress myself, I ran out to the dressing room attendant and explained the situation. She gave the zipper a quick tug before she gruffly told me she couldn’t help me and walked away. I stood there, stunned. I had no idea what to do with myself. Did she expect me to just pay for the dress and wear it the rest of my life?
I was thinking about asking a stranger, or calling J at work to see if he could meet me at the store to help, when I realized that the dressing room attendant was asking another woman to come help me. The other woman was in the middle of hanging clothes on a rack, so we had to wait for her to finish. And, of course, all this time, I was standing in the doorway to the dressing room in a dress and black socks, purse on my shoulder, making lame attempts to work the zipper with my arm over my head, while everyone who passed by stared at me.
When the other woman finished hanging clothes she came and tugged at the zipper pull. “I can’t pull it down. I’m going to try to pull it up,” she said.
“No no no no no!” I said. “Please don’t pull it up it’ll–“
“Uh oh, now it’s stuck up higher,” she said. “I can’t get it. I’ll have to call the manager.”
“Is she even here?” the attendant asked, like we were all out of options and I was just going to have to live in the dressing room in a sweaty sheath dress from here on in.
“Well, you have to try,” the other woman said, shaking her head.
So they paged the manager. And I stood there, sweating bullets and feeling like the walls were closing in on me. I leaned against the wall and watched wistfully as people exited the dressing room in their own clothes.
“I am totally stuck in this dress,” I confessed a woman who looked my way.
“You must be kind of panicky,” she said, smiling as she breezed out of the dressing room, hanging clothes with non-defective zippers on the rack as she left.
That’s when I really started to panic. It was like she’d given me permission to. I’d skipped lunch. I hadn’t had enough water. I was so very hot. I needed to sit down, but the only seat was occupied by a man who was waiting for his wife. I stared at him, willing him to move. He stared at my legs in a not so PG way.
The attendant was gone, and I worried that if I went back to my dressing stall to sit down, when the manager came she’d think the problem was solved and leave.
I saw the attendant from across the room. She didn’t look at me. Maybe the manager wasn’t in the store. Maybe they’d forgotten. Maybe she’d go on break and I’d have to explain it all over again to the next person, who would end up pulling the zipper up even higher. I wanted to call out to the attendant, but I couldn’t bring myself to. What would I yell? “Hey, over here? Remember me? Stuck in a dress?”
I started getting lightheaded. I took a step toward the man on the bench. I didn’t want to, but I was desperate. I wasn’t sure if I was going to ask him to give up his seat or help me with the zipper, when suddenly, the manager appeared.
“Would you like to go back in the dressing room, so you don’t have an audience,” she said, smiling.
When we got around the corner and out of view, she pulled at the zipper. It didn’t budge. “What if I pull it up?” she said.
“No no no no-“
“Huh. Now it’s stuck higher up.”
“Uh huh.” I realized I sounded kind of crabby. There is no need to get crabby with anyone in a position to help you when you’re stuck in a dress that is starting to feel like it’s made of hot lead. So, I smiled and said, “I’m so embarrassed.”
“Don’t worry about it!” she said. “I’m so relieved. Usually when I get called for a stuck zipper, it’s because someone tried to squeeze into a pair of pants that were waaaay too small. I was happy for a dress that fits with zipper at the back.”
After a few minutes of tugging, she realized that the zipper was actually sewn in wrong and the only way to get me out of the dress was to perform dress surgery.
She grabbed a pair of scissors and after a few snips I was free. I thanked her, sprinted to the dressing stall, pulled the dress off at lightning speed, and vowed to myself that I will never again try something on without testing out the zipper first.
In case you’re wondering, I bought a sweater dress. It’s super cute, and it doesn’t have any zippers.